If everything goes as planned, there won’t be much drama for the Seattle Kraken during the NHL Draft’s first round. Seattle holds the second pick Friday and should have its options narrowed down to a couple of players.
The first round starts at 5 p.m. and can be watched on ESPN2 in the United States.
Buffalo holds the first pick overall, which means Seattle general manager Ron Francis will get to make the franchise’s first ever Draft selection early into the festivities. The team surprisingly didn’t acquire any additional picks for Friday’s first round or Saturday’s second round. That could still change prior to the Draft’s kickoff but for now, it’s just the one pick Friday and six more Saturday.
So, who is the likely first choice? There are some obvious names that have been out in public for a while, but until we hear Francis announce it, we can’t say for sure. Let’s take a look at the options.
Tier one: The most likely Kraken NHL Draft picks
Matthew Beniers, Center, Michigan
One of three University of Michigan players who will hear their names called in Friday’s top ten picks, Beniers is the most likely Kraken pick. The 6-foot-1 center is coming off a point-per-game freshman season with the Wolverines but also impressed at the World Junior Championship and the IIHF World Championship for Team USA.
He’s a playmaker who elevates his linemates and plays the proverbial 200-foot game. Beniers appears to be one of the more NHL-ready players in the first round and can play on both the power play and the penalty kill.
For the most part, the NHL Draft is all about selecting the best player available, regardless of the position. However, the Kraken Expansion Draft was heavy on defensemen which would make picking up a young center to eventually anchor your top six, like Beniers, almost a no-brainer for Seattle.
Owen Power, Defenseman, Michigan
If Buffalo goes against the grain and takes Beniers first overall, the Kraken need to jump on Owen Power.
Power is a 6-foot-5 puck-moving defenseman who ended the season ranked as the No. 1 skater by the NHL’s Central Scouting. He can do a bit of everything on the back end and projects to have potential as a top-pairing defenseman in the NHL.
He is a fluid skater, despite his frame, and plays with a calm demeanor as he retrieves pucks and leads the offensive rush the other way. Power isn’t afraid to jump into the rush and can finish.
Would the Sabres pass on Power and leave him available to the Kraken? It’s a long shot but they did select defenseman Rasmus Dahlin first overall in 2018. Power and Dahlin are both left-shooting blueliners with similar skill sets which could create a redundancy. Further, Buffalo faces an offseason where they could lose center Jack Eichel and forward Sam Reinhart. That might make a player like Beniers more attractive.
Tier two: Could be in the mix for the Kraken to draft
Luke Hughes, Defenseman, USNTDP
Ranked as the fourth-best North American skater by NHL Central Scouting, Hughes could be another option for the Kraken to Draft.
The brother of Jack and Quinn, Hughes is a slick-skating, offensive-oriented player who could sneak up the draft board. He’s a top-end puck handler, can draw defenders to him, and can transition the puck from defense to offense in the blink of an eye.
Francis drafted defensemen in three of the four NHL Drafts he handled when he was with Carolina which makes a player like Hughes a possibility.
Simon Edvinsson, Defenseman, Frolunda
Edvinsson is another sizeable defenseman – listed at 6-foot-4 and 198 pounds – who is ranked as the second-best international skater by Central Scouting.
His play may not be as refined as Hughes or Power, but he has raw skills and can skate with the best of them. The potential is there and if the Kraken draft him, there would be a couple years of development ahead of him before he gets to be NHL ready.
William Eklund, Left wing, Djugårdens
Eklund is NHL Central Scouting’s top-rated international skater and has been getting some buzz as a top-of-the-Draft prospect. He played in the prestigious SHL in Sweden last year, a professional league, and scored 23 points in 40 games. He has the creative play-making skills to be a top-line forward at the NHL level.
Tier three: So, you’re saying there’s a chance
It’s tough to predict how a team has ranked prospects in their internal Draft rankings. If they like a player enough, they’ll take him regardless of public rankings. It’s unlikely these players will hear Francis call their names at pick No. 2, but there’s a chance, no matter how remote.
Dylan Guenther, Left wing, Edmonton Oil Kings – A pure scorer, Guenther has put up big numbers wherever he has played. He can see the ice, make plays, and put the puck in the net.
Kent Johnson, Forward, Michigan – Another Michigan guy, Johnson might be the most creative scorer available in the Draft. He grew up in North Vancouver and lit up the BCHL prior to his freshman year in college.
Mason McTavish, Center, Olten – With the Ontario Hockey League canceled last season, McTavish went to play in the Swiss League. He rose up the Draft ranks as a big, tough center with a ton of offensive skill.
Brandt Clarke, Defenseman, Nove Zamky – Another OHL ex-patriot, Clarke is a right-handed defenseman who can run a power play and could end up on your top pairing.
Conner Roulette of the Thunderbirds in the second round, would be nice!