In his latest column, ESPN Insider Pierre LeBrun takes a look at the Los Angeles Kings roster and suggest strategies for the upcoming expansion draft. LeBrun boils the issue down to two names: Brayden McNabb and Dustin Brown. If the team wishes to protect McNabb, they’ll have to go the “eight skaters” option, since Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin and Alec Martinez will undoubtedly need protection. If they do, they put at risk some of their big names up front, including former captain Dustin Brown. While Brown is coming off the worst year of his career, he’s turned it around a bit this season and may be an interesting option for the Vegas team to bring in a veteran forward who could immediately become their first captain.
On the other hand, if they choose to leave McNabb exposed he may not necessarily be the selection since he only has one year remaining before becoming a highly sought after free agent in 2018. At 27, the shutdown defender would have teams lining up to bring him into the fold, and he’ll be looking for a substantial raise from the $1.8MM he’ll make next season. For the Kings, just like every other team, the expansion draft will be a game of chicken with George McPhee and the Vegas front office.
- In Toronto, a nickname has surfaced for the veteran third pairing of Matt Hunwick and Roman Polak; “Hunlack”, as many fans refer to the duo has been chided incessantly by the analytics community for their constant struggle with possession metrics. While the two rank terribly in terms of Corsi and Fenwick, head coach Mike Babcock dismisses the notion that they’re unplayable. When asked by Chris Johnston of Sportsnet what makes up a good game for them, Babcock replied “There’s a bunch of ways to look at the game. So Corsi’s one, maybe. But who turns the video on and rewinds to see if those shots actually hit the net or not? Because our math and theirs don’t add up. So what I do is I say: ’Did the puck go in or did they get scoring chances against?'” While the metrics available to the public don’t necessarily share Babcock’s assesment of the pairing, he does seem to imply that the Maple Leafs’ internal numbers don’t match up exactly. Perhaps even though ’Hunlack’ doesn’t generate shots like Toronto’s other pairings, they can be effective in other ways – or maybe it’s just talking them up for the trade deadline.
- For Buffalo, their season-long struggle with injuries is starting to see an end. After Jack Eichel has rejoined the team and shown why he shouldn’t be forgotten as last season’s second-overall pick, the team got more good news today. Zach Bogosian, out since the beginning of November with a knee injury, took full part in today’s practice and should be back before long. Now they just have to figure out a way to motivate Zemgus Girgensons and Evander Kane, both of whom will skate on the fourth line tonight against the Los Angeles Kings.