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Trevor van Riemsdyk or Marcus Kruger goes to Vegas in ESPN’s 1st expansion mock draft

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We’re starting to get a better idea of who the Blackhawks might lose to the Golden Knights.

Chicago Blackhawks v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

We’re still months from the Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft, but that didn’t stop ESPN from rolling out its first projection of the big event Tuesday. According to the four mocks presented by ESPN, the Chicago Blackhawks should plan to lose center Marcus Kruger or defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk to the NHL’s newest team.

For a quick summary of how the expansion draft works, each of the 30 current teams will protect up to 11 players (depending on positions) from Vegas. This excludes all players with two or less years of NHL/AHL experience. Once protected lists are made official, Vegas is given several days to decide which 30 players it will select, one from each team.

Given that the NHL active roster limit is only 23 players, it’s fair to assume that Vegas will get creative at some point here. They may try to select some younger players who can spend time in the AHL, or they could hammer out deals with other teams to get assets instead of older players.

For example, if the Blackhawks really wanted to keep van Riemsdyk, they could negotiate with the Golden Knights to send picks and/or prospects to Vegas in lieu of TVR as their expansion draft selection. That would remove the Hawks from the process, as Vegas would be giving up its Chicago pick in exchange for the assets it acquire in the deal.

But the Blackhawks won’t necessarily do that, and if the predictions from ESPN’s four writers are accurate, that means Kruger or TVR could be a goner. Scott Burnside was the one to project TVR as the pick, while Craig Custance, Joe McDonald, and Pierre LeBrun all go with Kruger.

However, it’s important to note that the Blackhawks’ protection plan may not leave those two available. It’s become more or less a lock that, in addition to their eight no-movement clause players, the Blackhawks will protect two more forwards in order to retain Ryan Hartman and the RFA rights to Richard Panik.

That leaves a spot for another forward, and if the Hawks decide to try to keep Kruger, he’d fill the last spot. Now, that might be unlikely after Tanner Kero signed a cheap extension last week as a potential replacement going forward, but it’s not a lock that both Kruger and TVR will be options for Vegas.

It is a guarantee that at least one of them will be available, though, because the Blackhawks’ only choices beyond its eight NMCs are to protect one more defenseman or three more forwards. So they could protect TVR, but it’d leave Hartman in particular available, and that’s a non-starter, which more or less guarantees TVR as an option for Vegas barring some interesting deal hammered out by the two teams.

We’ll have to see how it plays out, but these exercises are still interesting to get an idea of who the Blackhawks might lose in the offseason. If it comes down to TVR, a solid depth defenseman, or Kruger, a good but expensive fourth line center, the team will probably take the lumps and move on.