3 Seattle Kraken Players That Could Have Replaced Injured All-Star Beniers

With the NHL recently passing the halfway mark of the 2022-23 season, the league is collectively gearing up for the 2023 All-Star Game set to take place on February 4th.

The Seattle Kraken arrive at this season’s all-star weekend in a much better state than they did at last year’s iteration. With a record of 29-15-5, the Kraken lead the Pacific Division by both raw points (63) and points percentage (.643) while holding at least one game in hand on their closest divisional challengers.

For his efforts in Seattle’s unexpected reversal in fortunes, rookie center Matty Beniers was earmarked to make the first All-Star Game appearance of his career. After suffering an injury last week while playing against the Vancouver Canucks, the NHL opted against naming a Kraken teammate as his replacement. 

Instead, the league picked Vegas Golden Knights’ forward Chandler Stephenson to step in, leaving the Kraken without a single representative at the 2023 All-Star Game.

This isn’t meant as a criticism against Stephenson, whose 33 assists and 44 points in 51 games both lead the Knights this season. The consternation stems from the fact that a division leader is getting no representation, despite having several worthy candidates in its ranks. 

After all, the NHL has made significant efforts in recent seasons to ensure that every team is represented at the midseason showcase. The current 3-on-3 format does limit the number of players required to fill out the squads, but the decision remains confusing regardless of that context.

If the NHL can’t name an alternate representative for the Kraken, I will. Let’s dive into the three members of the Kraken whose play this season warranted discussion for an all-star nod.

Vince Dunn, Defenseman

Regular readers here at OSN will be familiar with my admiration for Kraken blueliner Vince Dunn, and he’s repaid me for my faith with a breakout 2022-23 campaign.

The 26-year-old Dunn sits 19th in the NHL in average ice time (23:58) and has been one of the most productive defenders this season, posting nine goals (11th), 27 assists (15th), and 36 points (11th) in 49 games.

Dunn has taken a leading role in orchestrating the Kraken’s transition game from the defensive zone, pacing the team in zone exit attempts and completion rate. He’s also completed the highest rate of high-danger passes among Kraken rearguards by far and has effectively pushed the pace in creating offense.

Related: Seattle Kraken 2023 Top Trade Deadline Targets

Dunn has been one of the most disruptive defenders on the team when it comes to stopping the opposition from entering their zone. He boasts one of the highest entry denial percentages in the league (stopping over 17% of entry attempts) and allows one of the lowest rates of scoring chances off of entries. Dunn also ranks 14th among defenders in all-situations takeaways (34), showing sound defensive awareness and anticipation.

Dunn’s transformation and evolution go beyond the offense, and he’s finally becoming a significant two-way force at a top-pair level. If there’s one player who should be recognized for the leaps and bounds his game has taken this season, it’s Dunn.

Jared McCann, Forward

The hardest thing to do in the NHL is to score goals, and Jared McCann did that in spades in 2022-23. After leading the Kraken in goals (27) and points (50) in the franchise’s inaugural campaign, McCann is once again pacing the team with 23 goals in 46 games this season, with his scoring outburst being a big reason for the Kraken’s surprising success this season.

McCann is admittedly benefiting from a hot run of finishing by scoring on 23.7% of his shots, the fourth-highest clip among skaters to have taken at least 40 shots on net. Still, he should be rewarded for his goalscoring, even if it’s not necessarily sustainable in the long run.

Related: Seattle Kraken Have 3 Big Needs At The 2023 NHL Trade Deadline

More impressive is that most of his goals have come away from the powerplay, with McCann’s 20 even-strength tallies ranking 10th in the NHL.

Beyond the raw totals, McCann’s efficiency alone should have garnered greater All-Star buzz. According to Natural Stat Trick, McCann leads all qualified forwards (minimum 300 minutes at 5-on-5) in goals per 60 minutes (2.39) and ranks 10th in points per 60 (2.85).

The NHL should be leaning on its top offensive players in the All-Star Game, and few have been as productive as McCann.

Andre Burakovksy, Forward

Besides the first two Kraken on this list, winger Andre Burakovsky was a ready-made replacement for Beniers.

Beyond sitting third on the Kraken with 26 assists and leading the team in points (39), the 27-year-old was one of the team’s most significant offseason additions.

Burakovksy’s playmaking and puck-carrying through the neutral zone have been noticeable and offered a new dimension to a previously stagnant Kraken attack. His per-60-minute rate stats at 5-on-5 don’t pop off the page as much as McCann’s, but his raw numbers provide a simple but effective rationale for his selection. 

Related: Is The Seattle Kraken’s Offensive Success In 2022-2023 For Real?

From a marketing standpoint, Burakovksy’s presence on two recent Stanley Cup winners in the Washington Capitals (2018) and the Colorado Avalanche (2022) makes him a familiar face for even more casual fans. 

Burakovksy ranks fifth among Kraken forwards in average time on ice this season, so he’s not the leading man of this group. Still, his scoring totals and aesthetically pleasing style would fit right in with the All-Star contingent.

Kraken Poised to Benefit from NHL’s Decision

Personally, I don’t believe that every team should be represented at the All-Star Game, especially if they don’t have players who could reasonably be considered as having played at an all-star level. Performance should win out over popularity or market relevance, but I understand that’s not what serves the NHL’s bottom line.

Of the NHL’s division leaders, the Kraken are the one team without elite-level offensive talent. They’ve found success through balanced scoring from their forward group and a collectively determined effort in defense, but boast a number of players deserving of greater recognition.

It may ultimately be an insignificant honor in the grand scheme of things. Still, it’s puzzling that the Pacific Division-leading Kraken will not have a single representative at the midseason showcase. 

For now, they’ll have to settle for an extended break ahead of trying to cement the franchise’s first-ever playoff berth. Not a bad compromise, all things considered.

Data courtesy of AllThreeZonesHockey ReferenceNatural Stat Trick, and the NHL.

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About Marko Zlomislic 82 Articles
Marko is an aspiring sportswriter with a passion for crafting stories while using a combination of the eye-test and (shudder) analytics, which is complemented by an academic background in criminology and political science. When not covering the Seattle Kraken for Oregon Sports News, Marko can also be found pouring countless hours into various sports video games franchises, indulging in science fiction novels, and taking long runs around his neighbourhood. You can yell at him by following him on Twitter or via email at mzlomislic97@gmail.com. He also regularly produces content for The Hockey Writers.