Photo Credit: (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

By Court Lalonde (@courtlalonde)

With the recent playoff exit to the Ottawa Senators in the first round of the National Hockey League Playoffs, we have to start thinking about the future. This summer is going to be different than other off-seasons because we will be welcoming an expansion team into the NHL, the Vegas Golden Knights. One of the biggest decisions for GM Don Sweeney will be who to protect in the expansion draft. He can either decide to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender or protect eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goaltender. I feel the obvious choice is the first option and protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goaltender. You have to protect players with no-movement and no-trade, so the decision with the forwards have almost all been made with a few spots open.

At the beginning of the season and the halfway point I had made up my mind on who I thought should get that final spot on the back end and it was Colin Miller. The two no-brainers are Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug, but after that, you can have a debate over the last spot. I’ve even gone as far to ask the Twitter world but ended up not coming to the same conclusion. During the last month and the playoffs, one defenseman stood out to me over all the others.

You can make a case for Colin Miller because he has speed and is a young skilled puck moving defensemen.  He needs a lot of work in the defensive zone and needs to be stronger on the puck and in the corners.  Miller has a cannon of a shot and can generate offense along with a very reasonable contract at one million a year until the 2017-2018 season.  With the emergence of Charlie McAvoy, I feel Colin Miller has been moved down on the depth charts.

Kevan Miller was never drafted by any team in the NHL but was able to sign an amateur tryout with the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League back in 2011 and played six games for them. He never actually made his NHL debut until 2013 when he was called up to play against the St.Louis Blues in November of that year. He was in and out of the lineup for the rest of the year but was able to get a contract extension at the end of the year; at the time I was wondering what Sweeney was thinking, to be honest. Miller has a physical presence and can make a quick first pass and will drop the gloves when needed. During the playoffs this year he got the shot to show his worth because the blueline became decimated with injuries. He was playing top minutes and averaging just over 24 minutes a night, but that includes a couple of overtime games. Intern coach Bruce Cassidy was relying heavily on Miller to soak up the ice time in the absence of the injured players. Miller didn’t let him down and became the second pairing shutdown defensemen in the playoffs this team had been looking for. He was taking the body, blocking shots and shutting down some of the top players on the Ottawa Senators. In the playoffs you get to see what a player is made of, some just can’t handle the pressure and fall flat. He was able to deal with the high typo of playoff hockey and excelled in it.

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The defense pairings for next year would look solid in my opinion and I feel Charlie McAvoy is a lock for a roster spot next year after his performance in the playoffs as well.

Zdeno Chara      Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug         Charlie McAvoy
Kevan Miller      Adam McQuaid

Kevan Miller is not the most flashy defensemen, and you could say he’s not the sexy pick, but he would be my pick if I had a say. He is not going to be the guy you expect to generate offense on the ice, but when he does, it’s a bonus. Miller’s a player that is going to stick up for his teammates and have the no surrender attitude. He showed me at the end of the year that I was wrong about him, and I’m glad he did.