With the flow of trades and signings finally slowing down after the initial cavalcade of moves, we can start to make out the shape of the Kraken roster. Barring a few signings here or there, the roster is largely set in stone.
As such, I will attempt to fashion a rough outlook on how the Kraken could lineup on the ice when the puck drops for their season – no, franchise – opener against the Vegas Golden Knights on October 12th.
|Left Wing||Center||Right Wing|
|Line 1||Jaden Schwartz||Alex Wennberg||Jordan Eberle|
|Line 2||Calle Jarnkrok||Jared McCann||Joonas Donskoi|
|Line 3||Brandon Tanev||Morgan Geekie||Mason Appleton|
|Line 4||Colin Blackwell||Alexander True||Nathan Bastian|
You might as well get the biggest question mark out of the way right off the bat. While the Kraken forward group comprises many responsible, two-way forwards, there is very little by way of scoring talent. Only two forwards on the roster (Schwartz and Eberle) have scored 20 goals or more at the NHL level, although Donskoi and McCann have been on pace for that total in previous years before injuries and COVID-19 cut their seasons short.
The hope for the Kraken is that one of their expansion draft selections can make the most of a greater opportunity higher up in an NHL lineup and break out offensively. I would highlight one of Morgan Geekie (9 points in 36 games) or Mason Appleton (25 points in 56 games), promising last season in limited roles.
Their shallow forward depth will be tested further, with likely top center Yanni Gourde missing the first few months of the season to recover from an offseason surgery. This group will likely make it difficult for their opponents to enter the zone and establish extended bouts of possession, but they won’t offer much significance going the other way.
|Left Defence||Right Defence|
|1st Pair||Mark Giordano||Adam Larsson|
|2nd Pair||Vince Dunn||Jamie Oleksiak|
|3rd Pair||Carson Soucy||Haydn Fleury|
The Kraken would do well to pair a more offensively-minded defender with a defensively conscious partner to maximize each pair’s strengths and weaknesses.
Both Larsson and Oleksiak have previously taken on their teams’ defensive burden, while offensively-inclined defensemen (think Tyson Barrie or John Klingberg) have done most of the zone transitions and puck-moving for their respective clubs.
Mark Giordano and Vince Dunn both completed power-play duty last season. In particular, Dunn is my player to watch on the back-end, with the Mississauga, Ontario native being sheltered on the Blues third pair for most of his NHL career. If he is given increased responsibility and the ice-time that goes with it, he could soar to the top of the defensemen scoring leaderboard.
Their third pair of Soucy and Fleury would act as a pair of big-bodies who can clear the front of the net and make simple but effective passes out of the zone. For their limited minutes and responsibilities at even-strength, you could do a lot worse.
|Starting Goaltender||Phillip Grubauer|
|Backup Goaltender||Chris Driedger|
The Kraken’s biggest offseason splash was arguably in goal, as the expansion franchise snagged a Vezina-nominee in Grubauer from under the noses of the Avalanche, who were left scrambling to find a replacement for their starting goalie.
In Grubauer, the Kraken have an above-average starter (his .918 save percentage since 2018-19 ranks 12th among all goalies with at least 2000 minutes played) and one who has playoff experience with the contending Avalanche. While playing 40 of the teams’ 56 regular season games, Grubauer backstopped Colorado to the league’s best record and the top seed in the playoffs. Grubauer understands what comes with a starter’s workload and shouldn’t be fazed by the pressure.
On the other hand, Chris Driedger has been one of the league’s most effective goalies in the past three seasons, albeit in a very small sample size at the NHL level. His all-situations .931 save percentage ranks 1st among all goalies with at least 2000 minutes played since 2018-19, although his games played in that timespan is the fewest among all qualified goalies. His entrance into the Florida Panthers’ crease likely saved their season, as their $10-million starter in Sergei Bobrovsky once again faltered to start the year.
After the expansion draft, Seattle likely scoured the free agent market and figured that their best bet was to construct a defensively responsible team with the talented netminders to clean up any mistakes. With an offensively suspect contingent upfront, the Kraken will be hoping that they can squeak out a lot of 2-1 wins on the back of strong goaltending performances. Ultimately, the Kraken can feel secure in their depth in net, as they know they have a capable backup who can step in admirably in a pinch.
The charts show a team that will be stingy and have difficulty putting the puck in the net. The two-way play of their forwards, puck movement of their blue liners, and the strong goaltending should be enough to challenge for a playoff spot, especially in the weak Pacific division.