Seattle Kraken’s Dunn Poised For Breakout 2022-2023 Season

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - OCTOBER 12: Vince Dunn #29 of the Seattle Kraken plays the puck during third period action against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena on October 12, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Christopher Mast/NHLI via Getty Images)

With September fast approaching, the upcoming NHL season is not far behind. After a dismal opening salvo to their NHL existence, the Seattle Kraken are set to enter their second big-league campaign on the heels of a busy summer that saw the influx of several talented newcomers. Their offseason dealings were highlighted by the drafting of center Shane Wright with the fourth-overall selection at the 2022 NHL Draft. For as poor as last season, the future looks bright in the Pacific Northwest, with blossoming defender Vince Dunn leading the charge on the backend.

Dunn Ready For Leading Role on Kraken Blueline

Astute readers will remember that I already predicted a Dunn breakout season prior to the start of the 2021-22 campaign, but I am once again calling my shot for 2022-23. After all, it’s not as though the 25-year-old blueliner exceeded all expectations in the Kraken’s inaugural NHL season. Even after posting 35 points in 73 games to tie a career-high, Dunn didn’t begin performing at a higher level until team captain Mark Giordano was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the trade deadline. The veteran’s departure opened up a role on the top powerplay unit, an opportunity which the Mississauga, Ontario native grabbed with both hands.

Statistic (Per-60-Minutes)Before Giordano TradeAfter Giordano Trade
Games Played5815
5v5 Goals0.310
5v5 Assists0.740.82
5v5 Points1.050.82
5v5 Expected Goals0.210.24
PP Goals0.950
PP Assists2.386.8
PP Points3.346.8
PP Expected Goals0.540.49

Dunn’s rate of powerplay production expectedly skyrocketed after being handed the plum gig as the defenseman on the top powerplay unit. It’s unwise to take any results from a sample as small as 15 games, but there is no doubt he should continue to reap the benefits of increased playing time and more favorable deployment. Over an 82-game season, Dunn’s post-trade numbers (nine points in 15 games) grade out to a 49-point pace, easily outpacing his previous benchmarks.

Related: Seattle Kraken Should Target These 3 Remaining Free Agents

His production wasn’t only a byproduct of more talented linemates and easier matchups; his underlying micro-stat profile suggests he was a driving force regardless of who he played alongside. According to Corey Sznajder’s tracking data, Dunn led the Kraken in primary shot assists per-60 at 5v5, the final completed pass before a shot is taken. He also ranked second in scoring chances per-60 among the team’s blueliners by a wide margin, closely trailing Carson Soucy.

Given his comfortability with the puck and his supporting personnel, it comes as no surprise that Dunn bore the brunt of the team’s transition game. Among the team’s regular defensemen (those who played more than half of the games), Dunn facilitated the highest net rate of defensive zone puck retrievals leading to zone exits, calculated by subtracting failed attempts from successful exits. 

Overall, all signs point to a player already capable of leading an NHL blueline, with Giordano’s exit last season removing the last obstacle standing in his way to achieving leaguewide stardom. If nothing else, he should ascend to becoming a fantasy hockey staple for the foreseeable future.

Defensive Success Next On Dunn’s NHL Checklist

Despite his prowess on the offensive end, there are still areas in which Dunn can improve, particularly on the defensive end, as he becomes a more integral part of the Kraken lineup. At age 25, he should still find opportunities to establish himself as a bonafide top-pairing defenseman, but time is running out to make his mark in the league.

Related: Seatle Kraken’s Bjorkstrand Trade A Win For The Franchise

Among the Kraken defensemen, Dunn’s defensive impacts rank near or at the bottom. When he takes the ice at 5v5, Seattle concedes the second-highest rate of shots against and the highest rate of expected goals and scoring chances against compared to the results of their other blueliners. His defensive struggles are not overly surprising given his previously sheltered deployment, even though he played the second-most cumulative minutes at 5v5 on the team last season. With the departure of a notable defensive anchor in Giordano creating a vacuum needing to be filled, Dunn is sure to be thrown to the wolves via much more challenging defensive assignments.

Dunn languishes in the bottom third of the Kraken blueline in terms of his overall possession numbers, which tracks with the rate at which he bleeds shots and scoring chances. Of the 8 Kraken defenders to have played at least 300 minutes at 5v5 in 2021-22, he ranks fourth in shot-share (50.2%), fifth in goals-share (45.1%), sixth in expected goals-share (46.8%), fifth in scoring chance-share (49.1%), and last in high-danger chance-share (44.5%). It’s a testament to his talents in attack that his numbers are even close to respectable in the aggregate.

Related: Evaluating The Seattle Kraken’s 2022 Free Agent Signings

At this point in his development, Dunn gives away the puck just as much as he creates with it, making him about a net-neutral impact player. If he is to elevate himself to the next echelon of defenders – which I believe he is capable of – he must improve on that aspect of his game. There is no doubt he has the potential, but that is only one half of an ongoing story.

Dunn and Kraken Poised For Success In 2022-23

As previously mentioned, the Kraken’s ambitious offseason prepares them to seriously challenge for a first-ever playoff spot in their sophomore season. Injecting some offense by way of significant free-agent signings and a pair of heralded rookies in Wright and Matty Beniers bodes well for their outlook in the near future. Mix in stabilized goaltending and considerable improvement from Dunn at both ends of the ice, and a much more successful season appears to be in the cards for the NHL’s newest franchise. A division title may be out of reach, but the postseason is tantalizingly within their grasp.

Data courtesy of AllThreeZonesEvolving HockeyNatural Stat Trick, and the NHL.

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About Marko Zlomislic 127 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.