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Seattle Kraken expansion draft: Salk’s dream team from available players

It’s hard to believe that the years of anticipation, excitement, and preparation will finally lead us to the first major step in the construction of the actual Seattle Kraken team that we will root for. The Kraken will be formed from clay beginning with the expansion draft Wednesday night, and the rules are definitely in their favor.

ESPN’s Emily Kaplan on key players Kraken could take to build around

On Sunday, we learned which players are available. At 5 p.m. Wednesday, the Kraken announce their picks (and we’ll have live coverage on 710 ESPN Seattle with me, Bob Stelton and NHL Network’s Jon Morosi).

Here is a list of a few players that I’d be psyched to hear announced as members of the initial team.

Mark Giordano, D, Calgary Flames

Giordano has a few things going for him. He’s a natural captain, which is of great importance to a new franchise. Coach Dave Hakstol will need someone to lead the room and he has that experience. He’s also a physical defensive presence (my top need for any new team), plus his salary expires after this year if you want to move him for future help. This is an obvious choice.

Vladimir Tarasenko, F, St. Louis Blues

This is a huge risk as Tarasenko has had some major shoulder injuries, but he has the highest scoring upside available and is among the most creative players in the league. We’ve heard rumors he could be selected and traded, but I’d love to see his upside here. No other available player could ignite and excite a rookie crowd like he could.

Jordan Eberle, F, New York Islanders

Eberle is a personal favorite of mine. He is a solid winger who scores 20 goals per season and has playoff experience. Some mocks believe he is too expensive but I would spend it on a guy like this because of his dependability. The Islanders have some other players I like including Josh Bailey and free agents Kyle Palmieri and Casey Cizikas.

James van Riemsdyk, F, Phildelphia Flyers

Just can’t pass up the veteran goal scoring. JVR is a top line scorer who should be familiar to fans. It may feel like he has been around forever after entering the league at just 20 years old, but he is just 31.

Chris Driedger, G, Florida Panthers

There’s obvious risk here as Driedger has not played too many games, but the upside is huge while the cost is not. There are plenty of reasons to select prized Canadiens goalie Carey Price, but he is way too expensive for too much injury risk. Taking on $10 million a year for a former MVP with a hip injury could set up for the future or completely destroy the first few years of the franchise. I’m too risk averse, especially with quality goalies available.

Kaapo Kähkönen, G, Minnesota Wild

Young, cheap, decent goaltending is at a premium and Kähkönen is another high-upside, low-risk play.

Yanni Gourde, C, Tampa Bay Lightning

The knock on Gourde is that he’s overpaid for a third-line center, but any good team needs solid, two-way play from the center position and Gourde can offer that. He can score (two seasons of 20-plus goals), play in all three zones, and has recent Stanley Cup experience. This one is close to a no-brainer.

Nikita Zadorov, D, Chicago Blackhawks

Zadorov is 6 foot 6 and 236 pounds. That is a mammoth beast. I watched what Zdeno Chara did for the Bruins when he arrived in Boston in 2006. While he isn’t 6-9, Zadarov may Chara-lite.

Nathan Bastian, F, New Jersey Devils or Andreas Johnsson, F, New Jersey Devils

I like the “big and bruising” description for Bastian, and with Johnsson I love the word “tenacious” and term “breakout potential,” plus he has been described as someone who plays both ways.

Brenden Dillon, D, Washington Capitols

Physical presence in front of the net.

Dylan Gambrell, C, San Jose Sharks

Local product (Bonney Lake) but another two-way center who can kill penalties. Need guys like that.

A few others to watch: Jake Bean, D, Carolina Hurricanes; Kale Clague, D, Los Angeles Kings (prospect); Braden Holtby, G, Vancouver Canucks; Chris Tierney, C, Ottawa Senators.

Follow Mike Salk on Twitter.

More on the Seattle Kraken expansion draft

Former MVP Carey Price among top players left unprotected
• ESPN ‘s Greg Wyshynski: How Kraken will approach expansion draft
John Forslund, voice of Kraken, says get a goalie, map out a long-term plan

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