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Who Are the Top 5 Expansion Draft Selections Of All Time?

A countdown of the most valuable players ever selected in an Expansion Draft

by Dan Marrazza @GoldenKnights / VegasGoldenKnights.com

With the NHL Expansion Draft scheduled for this June, many pundits have speculated what level of talent will be available for the Golden Knights.

The dialogue has consistently suggested that the Expansion Draft rules are more favorable for the Golden Knights than past expansion teams.

RELATED: Expansion Draft lists will be made public

But did past expansion teams really have it that bad?

Below is our unofficial countdown of the top five Expansion Draft-related transactions of all-time, dating back to the first Expansion Draft ever held in 1967.

5. Glenn Hall

Taken By: St. Louis Blues (1967)

Taken From: Chicago Black Hawks

 

 

The 1967 Expansion Draft saw a true hodge-podge of players selected.

With the Original 6 able to protect most of their valued assets, most of the players in the Expansion Draft were either young prospects that couldn't break into the lineup with their original clubs or over-the-hill veterans who probably would've retired, if not for the league doubling in size.

But with the Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota North Stars, St. Louis Blues and California Seals joining the Original 6, there were NHL jobs to be had and a lot of moving parts in the Expansion Draft.

RELATED: Expansion Draft Primer: What is exclusive free agency?

The first three players taken, all goaltenders - Terry Sawchuk (Los Angeles), Bernie Parent (Philadelphia) and Glenn Hall (St. Louis) - all have since been elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

But only Hall played an integral role for the club that selected him directly as a result of the Expansion Draft.

With the NHL doubling in size from six teams to 12, all of the new teams were placed in the same division (all Original 6 teams were in another). This guaranteed that four of the six new squads would make the playoffs, that they'd only play each other in the first two rounds (of three total rounds) and that one was guaranteed to play in the Stanley Cup Final.

Glenn Hall, who miraculously once had a streak of more than 500 consecutive games played without a mask, made sure the St. Louis Blues reached the Stanley Cup Final in all three seasons under this arrangement.

Although Hall's Blues were swept by Original 6 foes all three times, his play as an aging 35-year-old was so spectacular that he captured the 1968 Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, despite his team dropping four straight to the Montreal Canadiens.

RELATED: Expansion Draft rules will produce roster competition

Hall makes this list despite giving up one of the most famous goals in hockey history to finish this three-year run in 1970. (See Below)

 

Watch: Youtube Video

 

*Note: The aforementioned Bernie Parent would normally deserve a spot on this list for leading the Flyers to back-to-back Stanley Cups as playoff MVP in 1974 and '75. It must be noted, however, that Parent was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs a few years after the Flyers selected him in the Expansion Draft, and he rejoined Philadelphia at a later date after a stint in the World Hockey Association. This goalie's Stanley Cup success coming as a later acquisition and not an Expansion Draft selection keeps him off this list.

 

4. Scott Mellanby

Taken By: Florida Panthers (1993)

Taken From: Edmonton Oilers

 

 

After a booming start to his career in the 1980s where he and current Golden Knights senior vice president Murray Craven helped lead the Philadelphia Flyers to a pair of Stanley Cup Finals, Scott Mellanby's career was at a crossroads in the early 1990s.

RELATED: What positions must Vegas choose in the Expansion Draft?

A member of the post-dynasty Edmonton Oilers after moving out of Philadelphia as part of one of the largest, and often forgotten mega trades in league history (it also sent Jari Kurri from Edmonton to the LA Kings), Mellanby never seemed at home in Alberta.

So it was hardly unwelcome for the then-27-year-old to be claimed by the Florida Panthers in the 1993 Expansion Draft, where Mellanby built his most lasting NHL legacy.

Besides becoming the Panthers' leading scorer en route to an improbable berth in the 1996 Stanley Cup Final, Mellanby is remembered for…well, he's remembered for RATS!

 

Watch: Youtube Video

 

 

3. John Vanbiesbrouck

Taken By: Florida Panthers (1993)

Taken From: Vancouver Canucks

 

 

As anyone who's done their homework leading up to this year's Expansion Draft could tell you, there are a handful of clubs who have difficult decisions to make with their goaltenders - Expansion Drafts allow teams to protect one goalie, so any team with two good goalies is at an immediate risk of losing the player and getting nothing in return.

RELATED: Who can other teams protect in the Expansion Draft?

Leading into the 1993 Expansion Draft, no team had more of a goaltending conundrum than the New York Rangers, who carried both Mike Richter and John Vanbiesbrouck on their roster.

To avoid losing one of these two All-Stars for nothing, the Rangers shipped Vanbiesbrouck's rights to the Vancouver Canucks, where current Golden Knights GM George McPhee was the Canucks' director of hockey operations.

The expansion Florida Panthers then scooped up Vanbiesbrouck, who led a team of mostly spare part players to within a win of the playoffs in their first season and a Stanley Cup Final in their third as the face of the franchise.

 

2. Kimmo Timonen

Taken By: Nashville Predators (1998)

Taken From: Los Angeles Kings

 

 

Technically, Kimmo Timonen was never selected in an Expansion Draft. He does, however, earn a spot on this list for landing with an expansion team as part of an Expansion Draft-related transaction.

RELATED: All the latest Gerard Gallant news

In 1998, with rules similar to 2017, NHL teams were allowed to make trades with the expansion Nashville Predators to not take certain players.

For example, if Team X can only protect three defensemen, they may trade the Golden Knights a different player in exchange for promising to not take a fourth defenseman. This would be Team X's way of potentially protecting more players on their roster than Expansion Draft rules would ordinarily allow, with the expansion team most often receiving young prospects and Entry Draft picks in these transactions.

The LA Kings utilized this approach in 1998, unable to protect, but wanting to keep veteran defenseman Garry Galley, who they kept from Nashville in exchange for sending the Predators an unproven, longshot prospect.

That longshot prospect was Kimmo Timonen, who'd become the Predators best defenseman in the team's early years, as well as the squad's captain.

Galley, meanwhile, played only two more seasons for the Kings before moving onto the New York Islanders and retiring in 2001.

 

1. Billy Smith

Taken By: New York Islanders (1972)

Taken From: Los Angeles Kings

 

 

The only player to earn a place in the Hockey Hall of Fame for his performance on a team that selected him in the Expansion Draft, goaltender Billy Smith is the unquestioned No. 1 on this list.

Smith was the backbone of the New York Islanders dynasty that won four straight Stanley Cups from 1980-83.

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He won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 1983, was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1993 and was selected as one of the NHL's top 100 players of all-time this past winter.

What's often forgotten, though, is the chain of events that landed Smith with the Islanders, culminating with his selection by New York in the 1972 Expansion Draft.

Basically, Smith's move to Long Island was part of a carousel involving three Hall of Fame goalies.

This carousel started in the spring of 1971, when Ken Dryden joined the Montreal Canadiens from Cornell University.

Dryden, who'd later win six championships in eight seasons before retiring, led an underdog Habs team to the Stanley Cup in '71, starting the playoffs that spring with only six games of NHL experience.

Dryden's unexpected emergence made the Canadiens' established goalie, Rogatien Vachon, expendable.

This led to Vachon's trade to the LA Kings, where he'd transform himself from good NHL goalie into a Hall of Famer, himself.

Vachon's arrival in LA solidified the Kings in goal, which made the young Smith expendable for LA at the Expansion Draft.

This led to Smith becoming the Islanders' goalie for the next 17 seasons, and to become the No. 1 Expansion Draft player of all-time on our list.

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