Darren Dreger is convinced Sami Vatanen is off limits, Pierre McGuire suggests Vegas should look at claiming and signing Matt Hunwick, Episode 32 of the Battle of Ontario, and more in the links.

The Battle of Ontario: The Protection Lists

Callum and Alec return from a long hiatus to discuss the goings on with the expansion draft in Toronto, Ottawa and elsewhere in the league.

Leafs Links

Dreger: Manson, Vatanen likely protected by side deals (TSN1050)
TSN Hockey insider Darren Dreger joined Leafs Lunch to discuss some of the names from the protected lists and who might be on the move, plus his thoughts on some of the side deals that may keep Vegas from picking certain players.

Does anyone actually think Sami Vatanen is going to the Las Vegas Golden Knights? I don’t. I believe that they’ve got a deal cooked and I think that that deal was cooked relatively early to keep the Knights away from Vatanen and Manson.

McGuire: People will be surprised with NHL Expansion Draft outcome (TSN1050)
NBC Hockey analyst Pierre McGuire joined Naylor & Landsberg to discuss the NHL Expansion Draft, how the draft will impact the Maple Leafs, the Canadiens moves over the weekend, and more.

On Sami Vatanen:

He’s a top-four and he’s good. He’s got courage, he’s got speed, he’s got offensive flair, he can play the point on the power play. He’s good. He’s a kid from the same town as Olli Maatta in Finland. It’s called Jyvaskyla. It’s in the middle part of the country. It’s a beautiful place if you like cross-country skiing in the winter and boating in the summer. It really is a spectacular part of the world. But he’s from there, and he’s been a very good player internationally and a very good NHL player. The biggest thing about him is he’s got courage. He’s got a lot of courage.

On who Vegas might take from the Leafs:

There is one player there that I think that does [fit] — and I don’t know how Leafs fans view him — but If I were George McPhee, talking about the character thing, I’d be looking at Matty Hunwick. I’d look at Matty Hunwick because you need mobility in the backend and he has it. He’s a very good leader. He’s a tremendously good person. There are going to be major ups and downs with that franchise. You need kind of a stabilizing factor. He can be that.

I know a lot of people are talking about maybe Kerby Rychel, and that wouldn’t be a bad pick either. If I was Vegas, I would be looking Hunwick. I really would. [He’s a free agent] but you can negotiate with him if you’re George.

Lebrun: We’re all conspiracy theorists until Vegas makes picks known (TSN1040)
Pierre Lebrun suggests Vegas has numerous unknown deals heading into the expansion draft, and wonders if that’s why the Islanders protected five defencemen. Pierre is good with Mike Smith as the Flames starting goalie, assuming Marc-Andre Fleury will go and stay in Vegas.

I think it’s 100% that Josh Manson is staying in Anaheim. I don’t know on Vatanen. You’re hearing a lot of different things that perhaps some people think he’s going to Vegas. Some people believe he’s not. I’m having a hard time nailing down which one it is. There is definitely a deal in the works between Vegas and Anaheim, but what can possibly be that enticing to potentially stay away? Is it a first-round pick in 2018, or is it one of their top prospects? Especially if they’re taking Clayton Stoner, which is the other rumour. There is a lot of play there, but we’ll just have to see on Wednesday.

Examining Colin Miller as a potential trade target for the Maple Leafs (MLHS)
This is where Boston’s Colin Miller, who went unprotected yesterday and looks like the best asset available to Vegas from the Bruins’ list, could pique interest. The 24-year-old played a limited role in Boston this season – 15:48 per game, 13:55 at even strength – but he caught the eye whenever I watched the Bruins play as a highly mobile, right-handed defenceman with a heavy shot. In the AHL in 2014-15 (his sophomore season in the league), Miller put up 19 goals and 55 points to lead all AHL defencemen in goals and earned the call to the AHL All-Star Game. In the skills competition, he won the fastest skater award with a 13.8-second lap and the hardest shot title with a 105.5 mph reading.

Why the Bruins chose to leave Colin Miller unprotected (Boston Globe)
The 24-year-old, acquired from Los Angeles on June 26, 2015, with Martin Jones and a first-round pick (used to draft Jakub Zboril) for Milan Lucic, is an effortless skater. He is good at retrieving the puck and sending it forward, either with an accurate pass or by skating it up the ice. The right-shot defenseman can pound the puck. He didn’t play poorly when asked to play his off side. But sharp thinking under pressure is a requirement for defensemen. This quality may come with time. To this point, it is not something the scattershot Miller has mastered.

Plenty of good choices to ponder for George McPhee (Fan 590)
Vegas Golden Knights insider Gary Lawless provides his thoughts on which names exposed for the expansion draft the team will consider to build the club, and which players would present interesting trade opportunities.

People in Toronto know this better than anyone else. A GM can have the best intentions, but when the guy that signs the cheques — or the board that signs the cheques in Toronto’s case — says, “No, you can’t trade that guy for a draft pick. We could make the playoffs if we keep that guy,” the GM is like, “We’re going to lose in the first round anyways.

“It doesn’t matter, we can get in!”

It’s going to be about Bill Foley. Will Bill Foley be able to understand that this isn’t another business where you can have rapid success if you have the right financing and resources. There is a cap in place. There is a structure in place. There is a limited number of elite players that you can get. The only way to get those players in today’s NHL is the draft. Auston Matthews isn’t going anywhere but the team that selected him. Those players get locked up and they stay in their franchises for a long, long time. The days of scoring big on July 1 are over.

McPhee gets it. It will be a matter of: Do him and his owner have that understanding?

NHL Expansion Draft: Five teams who will be hurt the least (Puck Daddy)
With half of their roster off limits to the Golden Knights, the Leafs were able keep their core in tact without wasting capital in a side deal. Things were so easy for the Leafs they had the bandwidth to use a spot on overpaid fourth-liner Matt Martin and part-time forward Josh Leivo, who played well when called upon for all of 13 games last season. Brendan Leipsic and Kerby Rychel are decent prospects, but the Maple Leafs have plenty of those in the cupboard — especially on the wing. The Leafs probably won’t be so lucky the next time one of these rolls around.

Report: Russian scorer Dadonov likely to play in Vegas next season (PHT)
As the Golden Knights continue to work at the expansion draft, Vegas may also be getting closer to bringing in another KHL scorer. According to KHL reporter Aivis Kalnins, it appears the Golden Knights and Evgeny Dadonov have resumed contract talks, and it is likely the 28-year-old forward will play in Vegas next season. Just over a month ago, reports surfaced that Vegas had interest in Dadonov. That would be quite an addition for the Golden Knights, who have already signed his St. Petersburg SKA teammate Vadim Shipachyov to a two-year, $9 million deal this offseason.

MOCK DRAFT: Leafs tap USA Hockey again with Yamamoto (Hockey Wilderness)
Kailer Yamamoto is labeled as a high scoring skilled winger. So much so that according to he was the highest scoring player in the WHL in the 17-18 year old range. Ranked number 17 by NHL’s Central Scouting Service this kid is electric with the puck. A Future Considerations scout said, “Yamamoto plays with the puck on a string, he’s extremely creative.” The kid has incredible puck skills and is smart to boot. However, Yamamoto isn’t just a one trick pony. The kid is a skilled puck distributor. He has .65 Goal per game, and a .52 primary assist per game mark as well. Meaning, if he’s not finishing he play, he’s making the play that eventually gets finished.

Who are McKenzie’s top five heading into the draft? (TSN)
After surveying a number of NHL scouts, Bob McKenzie has compiled the data and reveals his top five players for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft.

As close as we’ve ever seen it. It’s really unprecedented for it to be this tight. Five of the ten scouts surveyed had Nico Hischier at number one. Four of ten scouts surveyed had Nolan Patrick.

Hischier’s interesting. He’s got a dynamic quality to his game with high-level skill. He’s only 179 pounds but he’s almost 6’2.  They figure he’ll be able to put lots of weight on that frame. He really wasn’t on the radar at the start of the season as an elite pick in this draft but really played well for the Halifax Mooseheads over the course of the season and was a standout. He might’ve been the most dominant individual player at the World Junior Championships. He really earned this number one coming from the back of the pack.