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Who should the Mooseheads protect in the expansion draft?

General manager Cam Russell needs to submit a 16-man protected list for the QMJHL expansion draft by May 17. No one is exempt from the list, although the Mooseheads can lose no more than two players, including a maximum of one goaltender, when the Sherbrooke Phoenix make their selections on June 6.

Russell isn’t saying much about who he’s going to protect, but here’s an educated guess:

Forwards (9) — Darcy Ashley, Brent Andrews, Martin Frk, Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin, Ryan Falkenham, Andrew Ryan, Luca Ciampini, Matthew Boudreau

Defencemen (6) —Sawyer Hannay, Steve Gillard, Trey Lewis, Brendan Duke, Austyn Hardie, MacKenzie Weegar

Goaltender (1) — Zach Fucale

Exposed — Brad Cuzner, Alexandre Cote, Brandon Pye, Mitchell Shewfelt, Josh Desmond, Alexandre Sills, Brian Lovell, Marc-Olivier Daigle, Anthony Terenzio

Most of the protected names are no-brainers, but there are additional considerations.

It’s not entirely clear what the Vancouver Canucks’ plans are for Hannay. They have to either sign him by June 1 or relinquish his rights. But even if signed — which seems likely, given his progress — it would make sense for them to return him to the Mooseheads for his over-age season.

Weegar, meanwhile, is the only player on the proposed protected list who didn’t play in the QMJHL this season. But after averaging close to a point per game at the Ontario junior A level this season, he’s a big part of the Mooseheads’ plans with Konrad Abeltshauser expected to play professionally.

“He’s going to bring an element of the game that we need,” Russell said. “Losing Konrad is going to be something we’re going to have to replace, we’re going to need an offensive defenceman, and we’re hoping Weegar can come in and do that. He’s 18 years old and we’re looking forward to adding him to the mix.”

Cuzner, meanwhile, could be the Mooseheads’ third over-ager along with Hannay and Gillard. It was telling that the Mooseheads promoted him to the second line for their final playoff game with Cameron Critchlow suspended. That said, it’s unlikely Russell would leave a younger, higher scoring player such as Ciampini, Ryan or Boudreau exposed to protect him.

Shewfelt, turning 18, and Desmond, turning 19, proved to be capable QMJHL defencemen this season and could be good pick-ups for Sherbrooke, but 17-year-olds Sills and Lovell will be enticing.

Both had good training camps with the Mooseheads in August. Sills, a fifth-rounder (79th overall) last year, played midget AAA in Amos, Que., and is a forward who had 16 goals and 15 assists for 31 points in 41 games. Lovell, a third-rounder (49th overall) last year, played at the Ontario Hockey Academy in Cornwall, Ont., and is a defenceman who had eight goals and 21 assists for 29 points in 28 games.

Who do you think the Mooseheads should leave exposed? Let us know below.

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