Our Seattle Kraken 2021-22 Preview is a part of our 2021-22 NHL Team Preview Series. Starting September 9th, we have covered one team per day in the leadup to the 2021-22 season. After a crazy busy offseason with a ton of player movement we need something to help summarize what happened and give an outlook of the impact on each team. Make sure to check back each day for the next team in the list!
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Welcome to the inaugural Seattle Kraken Season Preview! This is their first appearance in our preview series as they make their franchise debut against the Vegas Golden Knights on opening night, October 12th.
There was a ton of controversy around this team’s selections in the expansion draft as they left a crazy amount of value and star power on the table. Carey Price, Gabriel Landeskog (without a contract), Vladimir Tarasenko, Jakub Voracek, James van Riemsdyk, and Max Domi were some of the bigger names that were left available for Seattle to take. But, they selected none of these players.
Even some of the more average but serviceable players left unprotected were passed over in favour of others like Morgan Geekie (Jake Bean was available from Carolina), John Quenneville (Calvin de Haan or Nikita Zadorov available in Chicago), Gavin Bayreuther (who immediately signed back in Columbus anyways), Kurtis MacDermid (Kale Clague, Olli Maata, Andreas Athanasiou, Blake Lizotte and MacDermid didn’t sign in Seattle), and Carsen Twarynski (Voracek and van Riemsdyk) are some of the main questionable and, in my opinion, inexplicable picks Seattle made.
That isn’t to say that the whole draft was a failure, as they did make some good selections. Bringing players like Colin Blackwell, Brandon Tanev, Jared McCann, Mark Giordano, and being able to sign Jamie Oleksiak and Adam Larsson are all worthwhile picks that have helped give this team a strong, physical core that could be a sign of how the Kraken will approach the game.
Overall, the selections in the expansion draft were panned as a miss. The team did make up for it in free agency by being able to sign Philipp Grubauer, Jaden Schwartz, and Alexander Wennberg as those 3 immediately made major improvements on paper for the team.
The roster the Seattle Kraken have ended up with is not one that will blow other teams away with star power or strong depth. But what it appears this team should be able to do is outwork and physically overpower the opposition. Most of the forwards, aside from maybe Jordan Eberle, Alexander Wennberg, and Joonas Donskoi, are generally energy players with a high event, high hit style of play. On defense, a clear focus was building a big, physically overwhelming group of players such as Adam Larsson and Jamie Oleksiak to block shots and wear down the opponents.
We might see a similar situation as to what happened with Vegas in their first season where a bunch of players like what Seattle has got bigger roles, bigger opportunities, and blossomed into great players. Having two great goaltenders will help with this approach as it might cover some holes and deficiencies in the roster while the skaters find their grooves.
Seattle Kraken Roster Additions
Seattle Kraken Roster Subtractions
Seattle Kraken Roster Overview
Seattle will definitely be a team with a frequently running line blender that produces by committee. Their leading scorer from last season was Yanni Gourde with 36 points, though Jared McCann had 32 points in fewer games. Yanni Gourde, however, will miss the start of the season recovering from shoulder surgery.
Gourde is probably the top centre when he is back, but in the meantime that role will probably fall to Alexander Wennberg. After being bought out by Columbus after some disappointing seasons, Wennberg picked it up a little bit last season with 29 points in 56 games for the Panthers. This isn’t ideal but high end centre is not a position of strength for this team.
On the wings here is most definitely Jordan Eberle and I would like to see Jared McCann on this top line as well, though Jaden Schwartz is the more likely fit. McCann was reliably productive in his time in Pittsburgh, usually putting up over 0.5 points per game (maxing out at 0.74 last season) and this pace puts him as the team’s leading scorer. Is his pace sustainable in a different organization as Pittsburgh has a tendency to get a lot out of players like McCann? Who knows but he should get a chance to prove he can be a top line forward.
Calle Jarnkrok slots in second in this team’s centre depth for now. He is very consistently a 30 point player and will likely slide down once Gourde returns. Joonas Donskoi and Jaden Schwartz are the next best wingers. Schwartz has had a very up-and-down last few seasons so it’s hard to project what the Kraken will get out of Jaden. They signed him to a long term deal so it will be important for him to bounce back again. If he does, the opportunity to slide up to the first line, swapping with McCann, is there.
Brandon Tanev and Mason Appleton are the consensus picks for third line wingers so this is going to be a crazy line to watch with these two. Tanev is a solid all around player who hits a lot and creates momentum on and off the ice. Appleton had a breakout season last year and put himself in people’s minds with 25 points, but his energy and versatility throughout the Jets’ lineup is what really stood out.
The Kraken have a ton of options for their third line centre. Marcus Johansson could be an interesting one if he can stay healthy and find some of the offense that had him as a 40-50 point player in years past. I am very high on Colin Blackwell to be a breakout favourite for the Kraken and he does play a bit of centre, but he also would be a great fit with Tanev and Appleton in terms of playstyles. They will also have Morgan Geekie, a prospect, looking to become an NHL regular. And, likely, Calle Jarnkrok will be on this line once Gourde comes back.
Nathan Bastian is probably going to centre this fourth line. He had a solid rookie season with the Devils last year and emerged as an engaged, physical presence. Whoever of Johansson, Blackwell, and Geekie that don’t make the third line will be shoe-ins down here. Extra forwards Ryan Donato and Riley Sheahan will make these spots competitive.
It’s going to be weird to see Mark Giordano in a non-Flames jersey but it will be even more weird to see him partnered up with former Oiler Adam Larsson on Seattle’s top pairing but that seems to be the most likely outcome here. Despite clear regression, Giordano is still an effective defender for the time being and will be a huge on and off ice presence for the Kraken’s locker room. Larsson, typically used in a second pairing and penalty killing role with Edmonton, will now be a top pairing player and #2 defender. He was one of the better shutdown defenders in the league last season so let’s wait and see if he can follow it up with living up to his new role.
Jamie Oleksiak and Vince Dunn are the next best defenders and these two provide a solid complimentary duo for Seattle. Oleksiak is another big, physical, defensive defender while Dunn is a solid middle pairing guy with an offensive flair. The Kraken hope he can provide a positive offensive impact here.
Carson Soucy, Jeremy Lauzon, and Haydn Fleury will battle for the bottom pairing spot. Soucy seems likely to be a top option here with a bit more offense than Fleury and Lauzon but all three should be solid options.
The Kraken, in a series of events that even surprised them, were able to sign Philipp Grubauer in free agency. This is huge to get a legit #1 goalie who is still in his best years on a long-term deal at a reasonable price. Grubauer was a Vezina finalist last season so having him backstopping the team for 50-60 games will help immensely.
He probably wanted to sign in Seattle to give him a chance to fully get out of Sergei Bobrovsky’s shadow in Florida but now Chris Driedger is stuck in Grubauer’s shadow anyways. Driedger put up fantastic numbers and did briefly take over the starter’s role for the Panthers so the Kraken can at least be comfortable knowing that they have someone as capable as Driedger backing up incase of injury or slump.
Seattle Kraken 2021-22 Prediction
4th-5th Pacific Division
Seattle is a bit lucky they get to start off in the Pacific division that has 3 rebuilding/retooling teams in California and the Canucks that are somewhere in the middle. It will help them put up a respectable season and remain competitive. After the consensus predictions for Vegas’ first season had them projected as awful and they ended up making the Cup Finals, I’m going to give Seattle the benefit of the doubt here and assume they’ll be a solid team right from day 1.
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