Ex­posed: Plenty who played here are avail­able to Ve­gas

Whether Golden Knights se­lect any of them in Wed­nes­day’s ex­pan­sion draft is another ques­tion

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - SPORTS - BY BREN­DAN MCCARTHY bmcc@thetele­gram.com

There are plenty of for­mer St. John’s Ice­caps and a few New­found­lan­ders avail­able in the Ve­gas Golden Knights ex­pan­sion draft Wed­nes­day, but even though there are over 40 play­ers with some sort of con­nec­tion to this prov­ince who have been left ex­posed by the other Na­tional Hockey League teams, there’s a like­li­hood none will wind up on the Golden Knights’ ros­ter.

The one with the best chance to go might be winger Charles Hudon, who scored 55 goals over the last two sea­sons for the Ice­caps, when they were the Amer­i­can Hockey League farm team of the Mon­treal Cana­di­ens. If Ve­gas de­cides not to add high-priced for­ward To­mas Plekanec or de­fence­men Brandon David­son or Alexei Emelin from the Cana­di­ens’ avail­able list, it may very well be Hudon, re­cently signed to a new and rea­son­able two-year deal by Mon­treal, who could be head­ing to Ne­vada.

Hudon is one 11 play­ers ex­posed to the ex­pan­sion draft by Mon­treal who ended the 2016-17 sea­son on the Ice­caps’ ros­ter. The oth­ers are for­wards Daniel Carr, Bobby Farn­ham, Max Friberg, Ste­fan Mat­teau, Chris Terry and Ja­cob de la Rose and de­fence­men Kee­gan Lowe, Zach Red­mond and Dal­ton Thrower.

Play­ers with one or two years of pro ex­pe­ri­ence are ex­empt from the draft, mean­ing Habs prospects like goalie Char­lie Lind­gren and for­wards Michael Mccar­ron and Nikita Scherbak can’t be drafted by Ve­gas.

De­fence­man Adam Pardy of Bon­av­ista and for­wards Teddy Pur­cell and Colin Green­ing of St. John’s are also listed as avail­able, but all are set to be­come un­re­stricted free agents this sum­mer, mean­ing Ve­gas is un­likely to draft any of the three, who all fin­ished last sea­son in the AHL.

The Golden Knights do have exclusive ne­go­ti­at­ing rights with pend­ing re­stricted and un­re­stricted free agents from now un­til the ex­pan­sion draft, but if Ve­gas does sign a player through this process, that player will count as the ex­pan­sion loss of the NHL team that had him last sea­son.

Each team will lose one player in the ex­pan­sion process.

Of course, Green­ing, Pardy or Pur­cell could be even­tu­ally signed by the Knights when the NHL’S reg­u­lar free-agency pe­riod gets un­der­way July 1.

Pardy, for one, has al­ready ex­pressed hope the ad­di­tional 23 NHL jobs cre­ated in Ve­gas will cre­ate an op­por­tu­nity for some­one like him, ei­ther with the Knights or another NHL team which lost a sim­i­lar player in ex­pan­sion.

The 32-year-old Pardy was signed as a depth de­fence­man by the Nashville Preda­tors last fall and ap­peared in four NHL games with Nashville in De­cem­ber.

How­ever, there will be less over­all job cre­ation than first thought when ex­pan­sion was an­nounced, since the Golden Knights have an­nounced they will share an AHL farm team — the Chicago Wolves — with the St. Louis Blues next sea­son. Oth­er­wise, there would prob­a­bly be another 10 to 15 play­ers signed to NHL con­tracts as the re­sult of the Golden Knights’ birth.

There are 36 play­ers who played for the Ice­caps who can be found on the avail­abil­ity lists, al­though some are only there as a mat­ter of tech­ni­cal­ity. Friberg, for ex­am­ple, has signed to play in his na­tive Swe­den next sea­son, while Carl Kling­berg, another for­mer Ice­cap from Swe­den, shows up on the New York Rangers’ avail­abil­ity list even though he’s played in Europe the last two years.

The same goes for Shawn Thorn­ton, the for­mer mem­ber of the AHL’S St. John’s Maple Leafs who has an­nounced his re­tire­ment as a player and has taken a job in the Florida Pan­thers’ front of­fice. Nev­er­the­less, Thorn­ton’s name is still shown as be­ing made avail­able by Florida, sim­ply be­cause he had an NHL con­tract last sea­son.

When it con­structed rules for the up­com­ing ex­pan­sion draft, the NHL tried to en­sure at least one thing: that the Ve­gas Golden Knights weren’t im­me­di­ately ter­ri­ble.

The list of avail­able play­ers to the Knights sug­gests that might be the case. But in all like­li­hood, Ve­gas will lack stars and scor­ing in the early years of its ex­is­tence.

“I’m re­ally pleased with what’s avail­able,” gen­eral man­ager Ge­orge Mcphee said Sun­day af­ter pro­tec­tion lists and avail­able play­ers were re­leased.

“This has worked out very well for the Ve­gas Golden Knights, and we ex­pect to put a good, en­ter­tain­ing club on the ice.”

Mcphee will be chal­lenged to find ready-made stars to shine on the Ve­gas strip, es­pe­cially up front.

Not one all-star from last sea­son is up for grabs, and only one player from the league’s top-30 scor­ers is avail­able: 32-year-old Eric Staal, who res­ur­rected his ca­reer with 65 points for Minnesota. Staal is one of only six avail­able play­ers who fin­ished among the top-90 in scor­ing and one of only 12 to pot at least 20 goals — a group mostly com­prised of vet­eran sup­port­ing types like James Neal, Pa­trick Eaves, T.J. Oshie, and Michael Grab­ner.

No­body scored more among avail­able play­ers than the 33-year-old Eaves, who cracked the 20-goal plateau for only the sec­ond time with 32 last sea­son.

Of­fen­sive up­side is rel­a­tively lim­ited with first and sec­ond year pros ex­empt from se­lec­tion.

There are some in­trigu­ing tal­ents like 26-year-old Jonathan Marches­sault, a 30-goal-scorer last year, 25-year-old Brock Nel­son, a three-time 20-goal-man, and Charles Hudon, a Cana­di­ens prospect who scored 27 goals in 56 Amer­i­can Hockey League games last sea­son.

With such a lim­ited pool of top-flight of­fen­sive play­ers — es­pe­cially at cen­tre — the Knights will likely have trou­ble scor­ing early just as their three most re­cent ex­pan­sion coun­ter­parts did.

The first edi­tion Minnesota Wild had zero 20-goal-scor­ers and were led in scor­ing by Scott Pel­lerin with 39 points. The Colum­bus Blue Jack­ets de­but squad was fronted by Ge­off San­der­son, who tal­lied just 56 points.

Both clubs had strong goal­tend­ing though — Manny Fernandez for Minnesota and Ron Tugnutt for Colum­bus — and started re­spectably in their first sea­sons — the Wild ranked 25th over­all, the Jack­ets tied for 22nd.

Like­wise, the Knights should be able to come up with a solid sta­ble of net­min­ders and de­fend­ers.

Among the goalies avail­able to Ve­gas: long-time Pen­guin Marc-an­dre Fleury, promis­ing Ger­man Philipp Grubauer and one-time Red Wings stud Petr Mrazek.

It’s widely ex­pected that Fleury will be the first-time Knights starter, but some­one like Grubauer of­fers real po­ten­tial for the long-term. The 25-year-old has a .923 save per­cent­age in his first 66 NHL games with num­bers last sea­son mir­ror­ing Vez­ina tro­phy nom­i­nee Braden Holtby — al­beit as a backup with fewer starts.

Mcphee has made it known he won’t pick pre­ferred avail­able play­ers if op­pos­ing clubs of­fer up valu­able long-term as­sets. That sug­gests an un­der­stand­ing of the Knights’ medi­ocrity in the early go­ing and the need for as many po­ten­tial draft picks and prospects as pos­si­ble.

The club could help it­self fur­ther in that re­gard by se­lect­ing young play­ers with un­tapped up­side as op­posed to vet­er­ans who of­fer im­me­di­ate re­li­a­bil­ity.

The Knights, for ex­am­ple, could look to 30-year-old Adam Mcquaid when se­lect­ing from Bos­ton or in­stead choose goal­tender Mal­colm Sub­ban, a for­mer first round pick com­ing off a de­cent year in the Amer­i­can Hockey League. They could se­lect 27-year-old Marco Scan­della as a vet for the back­end from Minnesota or choose 22-year-old Matt Dumba, a hard-shoot­ing (and hit­ting) de­fender with up­side.

“We think we can ac­com­plish two things,” Mcphee said. “We can put a good team on the ice and ac­cu­mu­late draft picks and be in a sur­plus sit­u­a­tion here in the next cou­ple of years so that we can start with a real good team and then build it with these draft picks to a team that can win a Cup.”

ST. JOHN’S ICE­CAPS FILE PHOTO/COLIN PED­DLE

If the Ve­gas Golden Knights are look­ing for a young, rea­son­ably priced for­ward with of­fen­sive up­side they might make for­mer St. John’s Ice­caps winger Charles Hudon their choice from the Mon­treal Cana­di­ens in Wed­nes­day’s ex­pan­sion draft.

ON­TARIO REIGN PHOTO

Three New­found­lan­ders, in­clud­ing winger Teddy Pur­cell, shown play­ing with the AHL’S On­tario Reign last sea­son, have been made avail­able for the ex­pan­sion draft, but since Pur­cell, Adam Pardy and Colin Green­ing are set to be­come un­re­stricted free agents in less than two weeks, it’s un­likely they will be taken by Ve­gas on Wed­nes­day.

AP PHOTO

Ve­gas Golden Knights gen­eral man­ager Ge­orge Mcphee speaks dur­ing a news con­fer­ence Mon­day in Las Ve­gas.

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