Vladislav Namestnikov, hope you enjoy Vegas.
Well, that is if the nation's hockey fans are right about the upcoming NHL expansion draft June 21. Nearly 80,000 fans participated in mock drafts on CapFriendly.com, giving their best predictions on whom each team will protect, and what player they'd most likely lose to the expansion Vegas Golden Knights. CapFriendly was kind enough to provide the Tampa Bay Times with the results.
And Namestnikov, a versatile Lightning forward, was one of the most selected players in the league, by 30,025 people. He was fourth, behind only Pittsburgh's Matt Murray (32,701), Chicago's Trevor Van Riemsdyk (33,574) and Anaheim's Jakob Silfverberg (43,247).
Now, Murray - who just won his second Stanley Cup with the Penguins - isn't going anywhere; veteran Marc-Andre Fleury agreed to waive his no-move clause for expansion, knowing Murray is the future. And I feel there's a good chance Namestnikov is protected by Tampa Bay; we'll know for sure when each team's lists are made public Sunday at 10 a.m. The lists are due Saturday at 5 p.m.
But the overall results of the CapFriendly mock drafts were interesting, especially that Andrej Sustr was the Lightning's third most protected defenseman.
If you go by these results, here are the players the Lightning is most likely to protect if it goes with the seven forward, three defensemen, one goalie format:
Forwards - Steven Stamkos (73,876), Ryan Callahan (72,682), Nikita Kucherov (69,199), Tyler Johnson (66,982), Ondrej Palat (66,760), Jonathan Drouin (64, 419), Alex Killorn (43,811).
Defensemen - Victor Hedman (77,330) - the most protected player in the league, Anton Stralman (68,326), Andrej Sustr (57,136)
Goalie - Andrei Vasilevskiy (68,326)
After Killorn, the dropoff is big on the next most protected forward, with Namestnikov at 6,395. Similarly, on defense, after Sustr, the next is Jason Garrison (4.793), Slater Koekkoek (3,140), Braydon Coburn (3,114), Jake Dotchin (876).
According to the mock draft results, here are the Lightning players' fans think are most likely to be selected by Vegas.
Namestnikov (30,025), Alex Killorn (9,643), Cedric Paquette (788), J.T. Brown (3,439), Braydon Coburn (3,300), Jason Garrison (1,942), Slater Koekkoek (1,835).
Now, if I were Namestnikov, I wouldn't pack my bags quite yet. There are some good reasons to believe he'll be protected, and Tampa Bay could also work out a side deal with Vegas before the draft.
But the whole idea of an expansion draft has made for a bunch of predictions and polls, from fans and media. And there will be many more to come in in the next seven days, when we'll all know the answers.