The last week and a half have been bonkers for the Kraken and their fledgling fanbase. Thirty players were selected in the Expansion Draft, three of those were traded away, seven prospects were taken in the NHL Entry Draft, and three significant unrestricted free agents were signed. There will come a time in the near future when we will feel the need to analyze and dissect every transaction that involves a Kraken player. But with things happening in such rapid succession, we really haven’t had a chance to take a step back and consider what the Seattle Kraken actually have in their initial roster.
So, let’s give it a gander, shall we?
Projected depth chart
Jaden Schwartz – Alex Wennberg – Jordan Eberle
Jared McCann – Yanni Gourde – Calle Jarnkrok
Brandon Tanev – Colin Blackwell – Joonas Donskoi
Morgan Geekie – Mason Appleton – Nathan Bastian
Mark Giordano – Adam Larsson
Vince Dunn – Jamie Oleksiak
Carson Soucy – Haydn Fleury / Jeremy Lauzon
Vying for spots
Alexander True / Luke Henman / Carsen Twarynski / Kole Lind
Cale Fleury / Will Borgen / Dennis Cholowski
Now, this is obviously just our guess at how things will shake out. Yanni Gourde had surgery and is expected to miss a month or two, so already the Kraken may have a spot for a guy like Alexander True out of the gates, though we think more forwards will be added before the season starts.
Impressive at defense and goalie, better than people realize at forward
The depth on defense is impressive. We see Haydn Fleury and Jeremy Lauzon as interchangeable options on the third pair, but both of those guys are legit NHL players who played as many as 25 minutes on a given night this past season. We also list Cale Fleury as being on the outs, but he played 41 games for Montreal as a 22-year-old, so he will get a look in training camp. He’s also a right-shot defenseman, which is valuable, as he is one of just three on the Seattle Kraken roster (Adam Larsson and Will Borgen are the other two).
With Philipp Grubauer taking over the starting spot in the goalcrease and Vitek Vanecek sent back to Washington, the Grubauer/Chris Driedger tandem looks to be one of the better batteries in the NHL. Combined, the duo had a regular-season save percentage of .924 in 2020-21, which legitimately puts Seattle at the top of the league if they both put up comparable numbers. So, with all that, it’s pretty easy to imagine the Kraken being a difficult team against which to score.
“I think our D corps is really good,” Grubauer said on Friday during his media availability. “Forwards too. With [Jaden Schwartz], some experience in the forward section there, so it’s going to be really interesting what system coach puts in place, and we’ve got to find our identity as a team too. The team looks great on paper, but obviously you’ve got to play and create some chemistry, and I think it’s a young team so really looking forward.”
Even with the free agent signings of Schwartz and Alex Wennberg, though, the prevailing theory seems to be that the forward corps is thin and won’t produce enough goals. There is a good group of secondary- and tertiary-type scorers in guys like Gourde, Jared McCann, Calle Jarnkrok, and Joonas Donskoi. That should bring a balanced attack throughout the top three lines, regardless of how head coach Dave Hakstol draws it up. But without high-octane scoring leaders, can Seattle get enough offensive production in a score-by-committee approach?
I’m no data guy, but let’s look at this from a slightly more analytical angle, rather than just straight-up eyeball testing it. The 12 forwards and six defensemen that we have slotted into the above depth chart (let’s assume the last spot on the blue line goes to Haydn Fleury just because he has more NHL experience than Lauzon) combined for 168 total goals in the shortened 2020-21 season. That sounds weak, right?
Well, actually, if the Seattle Kraken had played this past season and those 18 players had made up the entirety of their roster and produced that exact same amount of goals, they would have landed even with the Boston Bruins in a tie for 14th place in the NHL.
That’s an oversimplification because there are myriad factors that we are not taking into account that would skew things in both directions. For example, Wennberg was playing on a very good line with Jonathan Huberdeau and Patric Hornqvist, so perhaps his numbers were skewed up. Schwartz missed 16 games and only managed eight goals after scoring 22 the year before, so we would imagine that his production was skewed down.
The point is that although the first glance may tell you there isn’t enough firepower in the forward group, it does feature a pretty good contingent of guys who consistently score 20+ goals in the NHL. If you put enough of those guys in one lineup, they collectively produce at a pretty good clip.
The below tweet also looks quite nice.
How will intangibles factor into the Seattle Kraken roster?
We also can’t forget about the intangibles. It’s no secret that Ron Francis and company have been focused on finding “character” guys and players who never quit on a play, and they have been successful in this endeavor. How that factors into the team’s success remains to be seen, but things like that do have an impact.
“I think everybody kind of has a little bit of the same makeup,” said Kraken forward Colin Blackwell during a Zoom call with press on Friday. “A lot of guys have talked about just what a good group of character guys it is, and I can’t tell you how far that goes in the game that we play, bringing in a bunch of good guys.”
“The roster is shaping up really well,” Blackwell added. “We’ve got a lot of guys that are kind of like myself, guys that can play up and down the lineup. We’ve got a good mix of some young, really good players, some people that are really hungry and maybe have only played one or two years under their belt but have a lot of potential and can really turn into some great players. You have a great mix there, and it starts with goaltending and the goaltending that we got is really good… So I think the roster is looking awesome. I’m extremely excited about it.”
Will the Kraken be the top-scoring team in the league? Absolutely not. But they’re going to score enough to get by, their defense appears very solid, their goaltending looks outstanding, and their compete level should be quite high. Let’s not forget, there’s still plenty of cap space to add either before or during the season, so Seattle is in a pretty good spot here.
Header photo by Brian Liesse.
Darren Brown is the Chief Content Officer at Sound Of Hockey and the host, producer, and editor of the Sound Of Hockey Podcast. He is an inconsistent beer league goalie who believes that five players have to make a mistake before the puck gets to him. Follow him on Twitter @DarrenFunBrown or email email@example.com.
I’ve heard the Kraken are going to be weak and have the worst expansion team ever. Really? I am looking at this team differently. Did anyone expect Vegas to be as good as they were out of the gate? If people say yes, they are full of bullsh*t! That team had a lot of players (as Seattle does), that were young, possibly 3d of 4th line guys, who blossomed given more ice time. There is great potential on the Kraken, loaded with younger hungry guys who haven’t gotten the same ice time that they will be getting here. There are vets, who haven’t won anything yet and are still playing at the top level (Giordano) who are hungry as well. Blackwell will go through brick walls, to help his team out and can play all four lines on wing OR center. He hits anything in an opposing sweater. These forwards all play a 200 foot game and are defensively responsible. You want superstar forwards, look at the Leafs, who are top heavy with overpaid superstars and what have they won….NOTHING! They can’t even get out of the first round of the playoffs. They haven’t had the best tandem in net, although they weren’t that bad. Their problem has been on the back end and not having forwards who are responsible in their own end of the ice. Look at the Islanders, they don’t score a lot of goals either and even with Barzal, there isn’t a lot of offense. They Islanders system is to play team defense and win the 2-1 games…..even Barzy has bought into it. Defense and great goal tending wins in this league, especially in the playoffs. Would I like to see a 40 goal guy or two on the team? Sure I would, but not at the expense of playing team defense. I see a balanced lineup, with no real #1 line, but they are balanced and another teams can’t defend against just one good line. Who knows, maybe the team has that player right now, given the ice time, with theses younger forwards. The way Gourde plays, he could be a 25-30 goal guy, given more ice time. True scored a lot on the AHL and lead the San Jose Barracuda in scoring one season. Geeke is another player with a lot of upside. He was a scorer in the WHL for Tri-City and scored at the AHL level. Morgan just had a difficult time cracking the loaded Carolina roster, with too many ahead of him. This last season finally making the lineup, it was still a numbers game working against him and he didn’t get a lot of ice. The potential is there for the Kraken to make some noise. I am not saying they will go to the Stanley Cup finals as Vegas did that first year (nobody saw coming), but this could very well be a playoff team and once there with good goal tending and team defense, they could possible make noise. They could get out of the first round or go beyond even that. Let’s not forget, even though the Kraken were under the same expansion rules given Vegas, it really wasn’t the case. Owners, team presidents and GM’s, learned a lesson in that draft and the Kraken weren’t really afforded the same situation. I like what the team did, given the hand they were dealt. I was a bit underwhelmed at the expansion draft, but thought Frances had something up his sleeve. Then Grubauer practically fell into the team’s lap. No one saw that coming. Frances was shrewd, not taking certain players from St. Louis, then getting the player he was targeting on the UFA market. The team now has two solid players from that organization. Dunn could be the puck moving defenseman and PP QB the team is looking for, but I could also see the team trading him before the season begins. That may sound crazy to some, but those people who may not know the game well enough yet, do not know what the game is about. Some trades still could take place, involving players the Kraken now have. There are rumors of a trade with the Rangers for Strome, but I don’t see that happening. There is nothing on the Seattle roster NY needs and I doubt seriously if Frances would give up any high end prospects and top draft picks for the near future, to make that trade possible. Unless of course NY just wants to send his contract to Seattle for little return, such as they did with Buchnevich to St. Louis. If they did that, chances are they would be really in on Eichel. BUT, the Rangers shouldn’t be in on him, unless Buffalo trade demands are less and they offer up Eichel’s medical records, which they refuse to do. NY still needs to sign Zibanejad and Fox to the $9m plus yearly contracts they will probably get, Shesterkin will probably be signed to a 5 year,$6m Av contract. Then Kakko ,Kravtsov, Miller, Lafreniere and others, will soon be coming off their ELC’s and need to be signed. Frankly, if Eichel is signed, I don’t know where the money if going to come from, to pay all of the above mentioned players. This was a bit off the subject, but if Strome is a trade target, it all ties in. Prediction, Seattle can make the playoffs, even given the roster they have now.
That’s similar to my assessment, though I think you seem to have a stronger hockey background, so I trust your judgement better, ha. It seems like people have been so myopic and revisionist in their reactions to the expansion draft, etc, and it really is just a bad look for the city trying to establish themselves as a hockey fanbase. Oh well, either way I’m excited to see what the future has in store for the franchise and to finally have this party starting!
I just think having a million penalty killing forwards and no skill guys who can punish in the offensive zone or PP is a recipe for perpetual 1st or 2nd round exits and mid-round draft picks. Not great considering we didn’t get any significant draft capital in the last few weeks!
I’m rooting for this team absolutely, but criticism is warranted at this point.
Also this Grubauer contract issue is inexcusable.
Uhh…sorry folks. the squid will not make the playoffs. not much talent and not enough heart in this roster.
Wow this sure didn’t age well lol