Best players available for 2017 NHL Expansion Draft

Which NHL veterans will help blaze a new ice hockey trail in the scorching heat of Sin City?

The league's 31st and newest franchise, the Las Vegas Golden Knights, have until 10 a.m. ET today to submit their draft choices for the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft. Those selections will be revealed tonight during the annual NHL Awards Show. NBCSN will have live coverage of the event beginning at 8 p.m. ET.

Las Vegas is required to choose 30 players - one from each team - with a minimum of 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies. At least 20 of those players must already be under contract for the upcoming season.

Each of the 30 other NHL franchises submitted two separate lists to the Golden Knights ahead of tonight's draft: a list of protected players and a list of available (i.e., draft-eligible) players. Each team could either protect seven forwards, three defensemen and a goalie or eight skaters and a goalie. Players with a no-movement clause in their current contract had to be kept unless they chose to waive it (more on that later).

Ahead of tonight's big reveal, here's a look at the best available players - highlighted by one defenseman, one goalie, one center and two wingers - in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft.

Which players could the Pittsburgh Penguins lose in the Expansion Draft?

Matt Dumba, Minnesota Wild, Defenseman

Buzz: Las Vegas management would surely like to discard the one player per team rule as Minnesota left oodles of talent unprotected. Dumba, 22, would be a welcome addition to the Golden Knights. He's recorded a combined 21 goals and 60 points over the last two seasons.

Dumba, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, earned valuable playing time on Minnesota's top line while skating alongside alternate captain Ryan Suter. He averaged 20:20 of ice time per night, good for the third highest mark on the team. His young legs are ready to handle the burden that comes with playing big minutes on the top line. This offensive defenseman figures to make his way onto Las Vegas' inaugural roster.

Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins, Goalie

Buzz:When Fleury agreed to waive his no-movement clause, and thus become available to be drafted, he essentially booked his own ticket to Sin City. But that's because "Flower" seems to check quite a few important boxes for the Golden Knights. He would bring name recognition, a championship resume and a current contract to the new franchise. Remember, the Golden Knights have to pick at least 20 players that will already be under contract for the 2017-18 season. Fleury fits the bill as he's scheduled to make $5,750,000 during the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons according to

Fleury, 32, posted a 3.02 goals against average this season, which was his worst mark in that category since the 2005-06 season. But the two-time NHL All-Star and three-time Stanley Cup champion would serve as a valuable bridge to say Malcolm Subban of the Boston Bruins or Linus Ullmark of the Buffalo Sabres should either of those young goaltenders be picked by Las Vegas.

Carl Hagelin, Pittsburgh Penguins, Left Wing

Buzz:Anyone who watched Game 6 of the 2017 Stanley Cup Finals discovered what Hagelin supporters already knew: the 28-year-old Swede can absolutely fly in the open ice. With less than 30 seconds remaining in the game, Hagelin split Nashville's defense, outraced all-star blue liner P.K. Subban to the puck and then buried an empty-net, insurance goal to help seal Pittsburgh's 2-0, Cup-clinching victory.

A two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Penguins, Hagelin registered just 22 points in 61 games during the 2016-17 campaign. He has 20-goal potential, scoring 17 goals in each of his final two seasons with the Rangers. Hagelin has battled injuries in his career, playing the maximum 82-game regular season slate just once in his six NHL seasons. He would be a relatively young, exciting offensive option for the startup franchise and he's under contract for the next two seasons. Hagelin is included here based on skill level but he's not likely to leave Pittsburgh as Fleury looks like a virtual lock to head west.

Jonathan Marchessault, Florida Panthers, Center

Buzz: Here's one name that Las Vegas brass almost assuredly didn't expect to see become available. After totaling 18 points (7 goals, 11 assists) in 45 games while skating for the Tampa Bay Lightning during the 2015-16 season, Marchessault finished with 51 points in 75 games during his first year with the Panthers. That point total included a team-best 30 goals.

What's even more tantalizing than Marchessault's goal output is his 2017-18 cap hit, a smooth $750,000. Thirty-goal scorers matched with that cap hit would be tough to acquire under normal circumstances. Luckily for the Golden Knights, Marchessault is there for the drafting. Whether or not he can build upon his breakout 2016-17 season remains to be seen but he's well worth the risk at that price. Las Vegas would be wise to pick the 26-year-old Canadian and plug him in as its top-line center.

James Neal, Nashville Predators, Right Wing

Buzz:Penguins fans will surely recognize this name. Neal, 29, spent four seasons in Pittsburgh before the Pens traded him to Nashville during the 2014 NHL Draft. One of the players that Pittsburgh received in the Neal deal was winger Patric Hornqvist, who, ironically, scored the game-winning goal in Pittsburgh's 2-0 Game 6 win that netted the Pens their second straight Stanley Cup.

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The reigning Western Conference champions would love to retain Neal as he's been a steady goal scorer during his NHL run. Neal notched 23 goals last season - the third highest mark on the team. He's scored 20-plus goals in all nine of his NHL seasons including a career-high 40 while with Pittsburgh during the 2011-12 season. The two-time NHL All-Star is just two years removed from a 31-goal campaign. Nashville's alternate captain has a $5,000,000 cap hit in 2017-18 before becoming an unrestricted free agent the following year. Neal is another NHL veteran with Pittsburgh ties that appears headed for Vegas.

Five to Spy

Petr Mrazek, Detroit Red Wings, Goalie

Brock Nelson, New York Islanders, Center

Nate Schmidt, Washington Capitals, Defenseman

Eric Staal, Minnesota Wild, Center

Sami Vatanen, Anaheim Ducks, Defenseman

Best of the Rest

Ian Cole, Pittsburgh Penguins, Defenseman

Calvin de Haan, New York Islanders, Defenseman

Cody Eakin, Dallas Stars, Center

Michael Grabner, New York Rangers, Right Wing

Paul Martin, San Jose Sharks, Defenseman

Marc Methot, Ottawa Senators, Defenseman

David Perron, St. Louis Blues, Left Wing

Malcolm Subban, Boston Bruins, Goalie

Linus Ullmark, Buffalo Sabres, Goalie

Trevor van Riemsdyk, Chicago Blackhawks, Defenseman

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