NLL teams have had to make tough decisions with the number of expansion drafts in the past half-decade, and Panther City joins the mix this month when they select their first ever players.
Panther City will select 13 players — one from each team. Teams released their protected rosters on June 15, with some notable absences.
A lot of those surprises can be attributed to free agency, where several players are either unsigned or plan to sign with their clubs after expansion. A franchise tag would make a player ineligible to be moved. Selecting a current unrestricted free agent for Panther City would be a risk, since Panther City would only reserve their rights until the opening of free agency later this summer where any team could sign them if a deal is not reached or if they use their franchise tag on one player.
First, here are protected lists for each of the 13 clubs, or players Panther City cannot select
As they look to compete in their first season, Panther City has some interesting options how to build. They also can participate in free agency and make trades, so it wouldn’t be surprising if they don’t address every need in the initial expansion draft.
Factor in the entry draft this September as well, and while we will meet the first group of players in franchise history, this is far from what their final roster will look like.
But, what does a best case scenario Panther City expansion draft look like? A group that can serve as the initial backbone of the franchise, and address as many needs as possible with room to add.
Here is one player from each team who can be that fit:
Albany – Jean-Luc Chetner, Forward
There’s not a ton of options here given Albany’s UFAs and a solid protected list. After signing Chetner from New York, the FireWolves don’t want to lose him, but he’s unprotected and at least a proven threat. His 33 points a year ago in 11 games built off his 16 points in 11 games from his rookie season with Vancouver.
Buffalo – Dan Lintner, Forward
In a case of “you can’t protect everybody,” Lintner could be a building block kind of piece for Panther City. He only got two games in with Buffalo last season after being traded from Toronto, but has a solid history of putting up points in the NLL with a career-high 37 in 2018-19. Perhaps he could finally break out in Texas.
Calgary – Dan Taylor, Forward
The Roughnecks had some tough decisions to make. Dane Dobbie is unprotected here, but as a UFA he’d be a risk to use a draft pick on. Enter Taylor, a big left-shot forward who was on pace to break out before the pause in 2020. He put up a career-high 46 points in 2019 and was on pace to shatter that with 36 through 10 games.
Colorado – Joey Cupido, Transition
Cupido is one of the most surprising players to be unprotected. He’s not a free agent, so there’s nothing to detract Panther City from taking a flier on him. The right-shot has been a consistent presence moving the ball for the Mammoth since 2011. His best season came in 2014-15 when he posted 31 points and won the Transition Player of the Year award.
Georgia – Zach Miller, Forward
Miller was looking like an offensive contributor to the Swarm when the season paused. In his second NLL season, Miller had posted 17 points in eight games on a stacked Swarm offense. His rookie season consisted of just one contest, where he did notch two assists. He’d be a good player for Panther City to let flourish on their left side offense.
Halifax – Ryan Benesch, Forward
Perhaps there’s something more going on here, but the Thunderbirds left Benesch unprotected and he’s not a free agent. He’s been one of the best offensive players in the game for more than a decade. If he’s truly out there and ready to play elsewhere, it would be wild for Panther City not to try and bring him in
New York – Alex Woodall, Transition
Woodall only has 12 games of NLL experience, but he did a good job on transition for the young Riptide. He picked up 84 loose balls and caused three turnovers while succeeding on 55 percent of his faceoffs. The kind of player worth building that unit around.
Philadelphia – Alex Crepinsek, Defense
The long-time Swarm defenseman has yet to have played a game with the Wings, so they weren’t attached enough to protect him. He’d be a great veteran presence on what will probably be a young Panther City debut squad.
Rochester – Dallas Bridle, Forward
There’s not much from Rochester, but Bridel at least has some experience and can score a bit. He’s 6-foot-2, still just 26 years old, and a right handed shot. He had 12 points in 13 games last season.
San Diego – Casey Jackson, Forward
Jackson being available is a huge opportunity for Panther City. Nick Damude in goal is another option, but with other young goalies available, Jackson could be a cornerstone piece to how they build their offense. Jackson broke onto the scene in 2019 posting 37 goals in the Seals inaugural season.
Saskatchewan – Adam Shute, Goalie
The Rush still have Evan Kirk for now, but that leaves Shute to go become a starter.
The 30-year-old has not seen much time with the Rush over the years, so he’d likely be willing to go somewhere where he could immediately slide in, especially as expansion continues to make more room for goalies.
Toronto – Reid Reinholdt, Forward
Reinholdt put up a couple of solid seasons after coming to Toronto as a free agent. He posted a career-high 44 points in his second year, and before the pause in 2020 had accumulated 18 points in seven games. The 28-year-old left-handed shot could solidify the Panther City offense.
Vancouver – Jordan McBride, Forward
A veteran right-handed shot, McBride has put up points his entire NLL career. He’s likely gone overlooked with younger forwards with the Warriors, but a 53-point season is nothing to sneeze at. He’d also help with a veteran presence along with the ability to put the ball in the net.
Tune in Tuesday, June 29 at 7pm ET for PCLC’s Expansion Draft on the NLL YouTube channel.