When the Washington Capitals list of protected players for the expansion draft was announced Sunday there were no real surprises.

Superstars Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Braden Holtby? All protected. Top defenders Matt Niskanen, John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov? Going nowhere.

But with roster turnover expected, including the departure of long time top four defenseman Karl Alzner, the team is gambling by leaving Nate Schmidt unprotected.

The speedy defender excelled in the postseason when called upon, and at nearly 26 years old would be an exciting piece for Las Vegas Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee to build his blue line around.

If Schmidt stays in Washington, you can pencil him into a top four role, likely with John Carlson. If he's selected by Las Vegas Wednesday night, the Capitals will be looking for another inexperienced player to step up in 2017.

Watch the video below for more about why Nate Schmidt is important for the Capitals to remain Stanley Cup contenders in 2017-18.

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