(Photo Credit: NHL.com)

By: Kevin O’Keefe | Follow me on Twitter @Kevin_OKeefe89

In just 2 weeks, the Seattle Kraken will build their roster, taking 1 player from each of the 30 NHL teams. While the Bruins may not have any big-ticket names for Seattle to choose from, they still have a nice crop of players with the potential to help an NHL line-up. Bruins general manager, Don Sweeney, has some tough decisions to make regarding his protection list before the July 17th deadline. Here, I will be going over the protection list I believe you could see, as well as which players have a chance at being plucked by the new franchise on July 21st. If you aren’t aware of the rules of the draft, or you need a refresher, you can read the rules and regulations here at nhl.com.

The Protection List

Luckily for Sweeney, players who originally would be on this list are protected by their current unrestricted-free-agent status. Assuming the Bruins general manager waits to re-sign these players after the expansion draft has concluded, his list will only have a couple of tough decisions. The list must be made up of 7 forwards, 3 defensemen, and 1 goaltender. The other option is the 8-and-1 approach. This is where you can protect any 8 skaters and 1 goaltender. This format will not be used here, as I don’t see Don Sweeney using this style when submitting his list. For any list submitted, players who have a no-movement clause must be protected unless the player decides to waive it; Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, and Charlie Coyle will be on this list by default due to that rule. 

Who’s Protected?

Skaters- Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Charlie Coyle, Craig Smith, Nick Ritchie, Jake Debrusk

Defensemen- Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Matt Grzelcyk

Goaltender- Daniel Vladar

This list likely seems like the list you’ll see Don Sweeney submit later this month. It’s not set in stone, but it’s a direction I see them taking over any other. Protecting Craig Smith is a no-brainer; he is signed to a team-friendly contract and is an important piece of your top-6 moving forward. Nick Ritchie may not be the fastest guy out there, but the reigning 7th-player- award winner, had a nice bounce-back season in Boston this year. Unless the Bruins decide to move on from Ritchie this off-season, expect him to be protected and re-signed. Jake Debrusk is the interesting one.

On the one hand, the Bruins will have to protect him as he may be one of the best trade pieces you have to improve your roster. Losing Debrusk for nothing would be a major loss and mismanagement of an asset. On the other hand, Sweeney may not be ready to give up on the 2015 first-round pick just yet. Regardless of the reason, if he’s not traded before the expansion draft, you must protect him. If either Ritchie or Debrusk isn’t protected for whatever reason, possible replacements could be Trent Frederic and Curtis Lazar.

When it comes to your protected defensemen, It’s not an awfully hard decision. With Carlo’s injury history, you could argue there is a chance Seattle will pass on him for a safer pick. This would allow you to protect Lauzon in his place. It’s a fun idea but a move you shouldn’t be willing to risk. Matt Grzelcyk and Charlie McAvoy shouldn’t be left out in any scenario.

Sweeney took a chance on re-signing Grzelcyk over Krug this past off-season, and it paid off. Grzelcyk proved to be a valuable defenseman for your top-4 at half the cost. McAvoy, who finished 5th in Norris Trophy voting this year, is the corner-stone defenseman for your blue-line moving into the future. With Jeremy Swayman being exempt from the draft, Daniel Vladar is the obvious choice to protect since Rask is an unrestricted- free- agent. 

Who Could Be Picked?

After the list is submitted, which note-worthy players will Seattle have left to choose from? Without knowing the exact route Sweeney will go with when making his list, we are only left to go off assumptions. If Jake Debrusk or Nick Ritchie is left exposed, there is a chance they could be taken. Instead of going through all the hypotheticals, we will stick with the narrative that they will be on the protection list. This leaves us with some choices to work with. I won’t be going over every player available to be taken, just some of the ones I see them choosing.

Trent Frederic

After inking a new deal with the Bruins, Frederic could be showcasing his talents for the Kraken. The young sparkplug forward has a knack for getting his nose into the gritty side of the game. If Seattle is looking for a guy they can insert into their bottom-6 right now, Frederic could be a good selection for them. Many expect Frederic to make a push for a fourth-line spot with the big club this year, so losing him wouldn’t be ideal. 

Connor Clifton

Being a stable depth-defenseman for the Bruins the past couple of seasons, Clifton has shown plenty of promise along with some growing pains as well. If Seattle wants to take Clifton, they would be getting a player who could slot in as a bottom pairing guy or a seventh defenseman right now. Defensive depth is critical in this league; you can never have too many guys who can step in when the inevitable injury bug hits. This would be a loss for the Bruins since they don’t have many right-shot defensemen who can be relied upon to step into the line-up.

Curtis Lazar

Brought over this past season in the Taylor Hall trade, Curtis Lazar is the breath of fresh air the Bruins needed for their fourth line. With Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner not living up to their past play, Lazar stepped in to provide that spark missing all season. This wouldn’t be a bad pick for Seattle if they decided to go this route; he is a legitimate NHL forward who can be a regular in your bottom-6 moving forward. Since Boston will most- likely move on from Kuraly this off-season, losing the guy you have set to replace him wouldn’t be very ideal. 

Jeremy Lauzon

After getting into his first real NHL season, Lauzon gave many Bruins fans hope for the future. To start the year, Lauzon was paired with Charlie McAvoy; the pairing was looking like a major success for Don Sweeney, who ultimately decided to go for the youth- movement on defense. An untimely injury took Lauzon out of the line-up for an extended period. Once he returned, it seemed as if we weren’t getting the same player we had at the beginning of the season. Lauzon still showed enough to prove that he could be a solid shut-down top-4 defenseman for Boston in the future. Seattle could easily take note of this and snag him from the Bruins at the draft. 

Final Verdict- Jeremy Lauzon

If Lauzon isn’t protected, you can count on him being a Kraken next season. This seems to be the most logical direction for them to take. Lauzon projects to be a top-4 shut-down defenseman. Whether Seattle is trying to build a competitive team for now or the future, this player is one that would be hard to pass on. This would also give Lauzon a home where he can step in as a regular. It’s hard to say if Boston would have him penciled into the lineup this upcoming season as they look to overhaul the defense.

In a best-case scenario, he would be your 7th defenseman this year on the left side. Either way, you look at it, Boston will be losing a valuable piece to the puzzle for this upcoming season. Some are easier replaced than others but creates another hole to fill in what is already an extremely stressful off-season. Will the Bruins make any trades or signings before the big event? Who will be taken? Only time will tell, and we will have all of it covered extensively here at Black N Gold Hockey for you!