Due to many of their young superstars, including Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander, being exempt, the Maple Leafs are in a fantastic spot heading into the expansion draft. They are not slated to lose anyone of significance, and they could even use this opportunity to trade for a top-four defenseman from another team that would have otherwise been exposed.
At forward, Nazem Kadri, James van Riemsdyk, and Connor Brown are locks to be protected. Due to the nature of their roster, Tyler Bozak and Leo Komarov can go on that list as well.
That leaves two spots remaining with Brendan Leipsic, Matt Martin, Kerby Rychel, Josh Leivo, and Seth Griffith to choose from.
Matt Martin is a great role player and mentor to the youth on Toronto’s roster, however it would be wise for the Leafs to leave him exposed.
Furthermore, Josh Leivo and Seth Griffith are solid depth scorers, but they are nothing Toronto should be sweating over.
That leaves the two spots to go to Brendan Leipsic and Kerby Rychel. Both have the potential to become top-nine players on Toronto’s roster in the future.
Martin, Leivo, and Griffith all could wind up in Vegas. The latter two are more likely.
On defense, Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner, and Connor Carrick will most likely be getting the protection spots.
Of the exposed defensemen, Martin Marincin has the highest chance of winding up in Vegas.
In goal, Freddie Andersen is undoubtedly the guy to protect.
In total, the Toronto Maple Leafs could have a protection list that looks like this:
Forwards: Nazem Kadri, James van Riemsdyk, Connor Brown, Tyler Bozak, Leo Komarov, Brendan Leipsic, Kerby Rychel
Defense: Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner, Connor Carrick
Goalie: Freddie Andersen
Next team: Vancouver Canucks