With another offseason coming to a close, the advent of the 2022-23 NHL season creeps ever closer, with preseason scheduled to kick off later this month. Following the predictions I made prior to last season, I’m ready to serve up a fresh batch of prognostications ahead of the Seattle Kraken’s sophomore campaign. After a disappointing opening salvo to their NHL reincarnation, the league’s youngest franchise looks to improve in their second season after a summer retool. Ranging from the mild to the downright salacious, let’s dive into my preseason predictions for the Kraken in 2022-23.
Beniers Wins the Calder Trophy as NHL’s Rookie of the Year
Yes, this first prediction isn’t exactly bold, given Matty Beniers’ performance in his first glimpse of NHL action (nine points in 10 games) and prestigious draft pedigree (second overall in 2021). Still, the 19-year-old pivot headed one of the weakest draft classes of the past decade and has a strong contingent of rookies to contend with in his first full season.
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The towering Owen Power looks to reinvigorate the stagnant Buffalo Sabres, and Beniers is joined by the 2022 fourth-overall selection in Shane Wright on the Kraken roster. Elsewhere, the Anaheim Ducks’ Mason McTavish (17 points in 7 games at the 2022 World Junior Championships) and the Minnesota Wild’s Marco Rossi (52 points in 63 American Hockey League games) are likely to be handed starring roles in the near future.
Working in Beniers’ favor is his tenacious two-way game that is mature for a player under 20 years old, and the fact he has the inside track for a top-six role for the much-improved Kraken. Combine defensive responsibilities, special teams deployment, a healthy dose of offensive opportunities, and a potential playoff berth, and you have all the ingredients for a Calder Trophy-winning campaign.
Kraken Clinch Their First-Ever Playoff Berth
Despite the Kraken’s 30th-overall finish last season, they remain well-positioned to clinch the first postseason berth in franchise history. Looking at their competition in the Pacific Division, few teams got significantly better.
The Golden Knights should return to form with a fully healthy season from their key contributors. All of Alec Martinez (56 games), Mark Stone (45), Max Pacioretty (39), and Reilly Smith (26) missed significant time through injury, not to mention the prolonged Jack Eichel saga. All in all, they should remain the favorite for the division crown despite a season-ending injury to goalie Robin Lehner.
The Calgary Flames, at best, maintained their level by swapping Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk for Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar, and Nazem Kadri. They were an elite defensive outfit last year, but there should be some scoring drop-off due to the caliber of the outgoing talent.
Related: Seattle Kraken’s Bjorkstrand Trade A Win For The Franchise
The Edmonton Oilers merely changed goalies from Mike Smith to Jack Campbell, although their play in the crease was not necessarily an issue. Their .905 team save percentage ranked 13th in the NHL, and they made no other noteworthy additions elsewhere. Having Evander Kane for the entire season should help, though, keeping them in the mix for the division title.
The Los Angeles Kings could be their main threat to an automatic playoff spot, with their young talent taking a step forward and adding 85-point winger Kevin Fiala to the mix. They finished with 99 points but have long been hailed as a future league superpower. They are still several seasons away from fulfilling that prophecy, but consecutive playoff appearances should be attainable for the club from California.
Now, I’m not suggesting the Kraken will romp their way atop the division, but there is enough uncertainty within the Western Conference’s middle class that they can make some noise. A total of 98 points was enough to make the playoffs in the West last season, and although a 38-point improvement is a lot of ground to makeup, it’s not impossible.
Dunn Makes First All-Star Game Appearance
After some slightly room-temperature takes, it’s time to turn up the temperature. This prediction goes hand in hand with my recent Vince Dunn breakout article and isn’t entirely out of the realm of possibility.
Current All-Star Game rules dictate that every franchise must be represented at the midseason festivities, and the Kraken are short on worthy candidates. Center Jared McCann led the team in goals (27) and points (50) last season, with the latter tally being the lowest team-leading total in the league. Given his name recognition, winger Jordan Eberle was chosen as the Kraken’s inaugural representative, but only scored 44 points last season. Further, Alex Pietrangelo of the Golden Knights was the lone defenseman named to the Pacific Division roster, which gives Dunn potential if the NHL is looking for greater positional balance.
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Dunn finished fifth on the Kraken in scoring (35 points in 73 games), only 15 points behind McCann. Considering the departure of Mark Giordano, who assumed primary duties on the power play for most of the year, the 25-year-old rearguard should see more playing time with the top unit as well as the team’s top forwards, potentially increasing his scoring totals.
Still, the same benefits will be afforded to the likes of McCann, Yanni Gourde, Bjorkstrand, and Beniers, so Dunn is still in tough to wrangle an All-Star nod. Even so, a true breakout campaign (think a 50-point pace or greater) should give him enough momentum to earn Seattle’s nomination, especially if the pool of prospective blue line candidates remains shallow.
Grubauer Finishes Top-Five in Vezina Trophy Voting
Although this prediction is easily the most outrageous given Grubauer’s performance last season (last in goals saved above expected), there is some reasoning behind the sentiment. In spite of their poor goals-against record (24th in goals against per game), the Kraken ranked highly in almost every defensive metric at the team level. When putting their numbers in context, it’s clear that goaltending (last in team save percentage) let them down last season.
|Metric (Per-60-Minutes)||Kraken (At 5v5)||NHL Rank (2021-22)|
|Expected Goals Against||2.31||4th|
|Scoring Chances Against||25.4||5th|
|High-Danger Chances Against||10.3||8th|
With no significant departures from their blue line and adding the likes of Oliver Bjorkstrand, there’s no reason the Kraken can’t once again post top-five defensive results. Goaltending is famously voodoo and predicting any one goalie’s performance from year to year is a foolish endeavor.
Still, it’s hard to believe that a netminder who finished as a Vezina Trophy finalist the year before joining the Kraken suddenly fell down such a deep well of misfortune. Behind a sturdy team defensive system and better offensive pieces, Grubauer should face less pressure in 2022-23.
Kraken Eye Greater Success In 2022-23
Although no one expected the Kraken to be Stanley Cup contenders from the outset, their performance in 2021-22 was a disappointment nonetheless. Yet, it isn’t difficult to envision the team taking a major step forward, even if they see improvement in one or two areas. Regardless of if a postseason appearance is in the cards, the 2022-23 season should be a much more positive affair than their first foray into NHL waters. Check back in at the midseason mark to see how just how misguided my optimistic predictions are faring halfway through the season.
Data courtesy of Hockey Reference, Natural Stat Trick, and the NHL.