Predicting Protected Lists: Florida Panthers
The Florida Panthers had a disappointing 2016-2017 season, however they possess a number of quality young players and the future looks bright for them. However, that poses an issue for the expansion draft.
Up front, there are a few locks for players to be protected. They are Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck, Aleksander Barkov, and Reilly Smith. All four have been signed to long-term deals past 2020.
Nick Bjugstad and Jonathan Marchessault should also be protected.
Bjugstad struggled last season, but a new coach may help him get back on track. As for Marchessault, he broke out with Florida last year and set a career high in points with 51. He may just be a one-year-wonder, but Florida cannot risk it and leave him exposed. It is equally as likely that he will repeat his success next season.
As for the last spot, it comes down to Jussi Jokinen, Derek MacKenzie, and Colton Sceviour.
Jokinen, 34, is still an NHL player, however he has been on the decline recently. Due to his age and contract, it is unlikely that Vegas would select him if he was left exposed.
Sceviour is younger and is coming off a 24 point season. He is a bottom-six player, but has the potential to put up consistent 30 point seasons in the future.
My personal preference would be to protect Sceviour, but would it be surprising to see Florida protect Derek MacKenzie? He is Florida’s captain and signed through 2019. He definitely does not fit the Golden Knights’ bill, but Florida clearly values him highly. It will be interesting to see.
On defense, Keith Yandle and Aaron Ekblad will absolutely be protected.
The last spot comes down to Jason Demers, Mark Pysyk, and Alex Petrovic. I believe it will be between Demers and Pysyk in the end. Regardless, the two who are left unprotected will be prime candidates to be taken by Vegas.
In goal, Roberto Luongo gets the nod.
The Florida Panthers protection list could wind up looking like this:
Forwards: Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Reilly Smith, Vincent Trocheck, Jonathan Marchessault, Nick Bjugstad, and Colton Sceviour OR Derek MacKenzie
Defense: Keith Yandle, Aaron Ekblad, and ONE OF Demers/Pysyk/Petrovic
Goalie: Roberto Luongo
Next team: Los Angeles Kings