Tampa Bay Lightning expansion draft prediction

Will Jake Dotchin make the Tampa Bay Lightning's expansion draft protection list.
Will Jake Dotchin make the Tampa Bay Lightning's expansion draft protection list. /

With the expansion draft beginning tomorrow, the Tampa Bay Lightning will most likely be parting with one of its unprotected players very soon

The Las Vegas Golden Knights will begin constructing their team in less than 24 hours.  Just like every other NHL team, the Lightning have a list of protected and unprotected players going into the draft.

It’s been rumored that the Lightning have struck a deal with the Golden Knights that would protect some of their players.  If this deal follows suit with other rumored trades, the Bolts would trade a draft pick or two for a guaranteed pick of a player of choice rather than any of their other unprotected players.

However, this hasn’t been confirmed yet.  While the Golden Knights have said that they have made “around a dozen” trades of the sort, no deals have been confirmed nor details released.  Confirmed trades will be released tomorrow during the expansion draft.  Since whether or not a trade has been worked out is yet to be seen, there’s a possibility that none is in place.

If that’s the case, the Lightning may have to part with one of their top unprotected players.

The Lightning’s notable unprotected players include  J.T. BrownCedric Paquette , Andrej SustrJason Garrison, Slater Koekkoek, Jake Dotchin, and Peter Budaj.  Many prospect players from the Lightning’s AHL affiliate the Syracuse Crunch are also available.

The Golden Knights are required to select at least one player from the roster of every team.  While the official list will be revealed tomorrow, it probably won’t be too difficult to imagine who the Lightning will lose.

Spoiler alert: he’s in the title picture.

Jake Dotchin is the most obvious choice to be taken from the Lightning, and there are several reasons why.

For starters, he’s young.  Vegas is looking to build a team to last.  At only 23-years-old, Dotchin hopefully has a decade or more left in his career.  This means plenty of time to grow as a player and develop into what could be a top defensemen for the Golden Knights or any other team he plays for.  Aging defensemen like Jason Garrison won’t be as appetizing because of the limited time left in their careers.

Dotchin has also proven that he can play in the NHL.  Spending the tail end of the season with the Bolts, Dotchin not only held his own, but also rounded out the Lightning’s blue line.  This was invaluable for a team that was (and still is) short on top defensemen.  A combination of young age and experience in the NHL is exactly what Vegas should be looking for.

This isn’t to say that the remainder of the players are untalented.  Many of the names on the unprotected list play very valuable roles for the Bolts and would be sorely missed if selected.  Looking at the available players from other teams, however, Dotchin seams like the most logical choice.

Peter Budaj just agreed to a contract extension.  As the Lightning were only able to protect one goalie, he is eligible to be selected by Las Vegas.  Even though he has proved himself time and time again in the NHL, it isn’t likely that he’ll be selected.  There is a lot of goalie talent available in this expansion draft, including names like Marc-Andre Fleury, Petr Mrazek, and Anti Raanta.  It would be crazy for Vegas to pass up on these players, especially for Budaj.

There is also a good bit of forward talent available.  James Neal, Craig Smith, Bobby Ryan, Troy Brouwer, Matt Calvert and Nial Yakupov headline the unprotected forwards of the draft.  With goalies and forwards in more abundance than defense, it makes sense that the Knights would turn to the Lightning to fill that need.

J.T. Brown and Cedric Paquette highlight the unprotected forwards from the Bolts.  Both are solid players, but they’re also niche players.  They will both most likely spend most of their careers as 4th line grinders.  While there’s nothing wrong with that, and they play valuable roles, there’s more forward talent to be had from other teams.

Next: Analyzing the Tampa Bay Lightning’s protected list ahead of Expansion Draft

If no deal is reached and Vegas selects a player of their choice, signs point to it being Dotchin.  Slater Koekkoek could also fill this position, but as Dotchin has had more recent NHL experience, he’s more likely to go.  Losing Dotchin would be a blow for the Bolts, who are in need of talented defensemen.  Hopefully, a deal will be revealed tomorrow; it would be a shame to see Dotchin go before reaching his prime with the Lightning.