It’s here! It’s here! It’s finally here [insert “Michael Scott ‘It’s happening!’” gif]! The first-ever Seattle Kraken training camp is upon us. Thursday morning, Seattle’s players take the ice at the Kraken Community Iceplex to practice in a split-squad format with their coaches present and calling the shots for the first time.
There will be a lot of excitement over the next few weeks as we build closer and closer to opening night in Vegas on Oct. 12. But before that day comes, a lot of questions need to be answered for Seattle.
The most common debates during just about every NHL training camp ever have revolved around which bubble players will break camp with their respective big-league teams and which players will instead be put on waivers and/or assigned to the AHL.
Being that we’ve never seen this group play together, there may be more question marks around this particular roster than we will ever see again. And with 44 total players in camp, there are a lot of decisions that will need to be made by head coach Dave Hakstol and his staff to get the group down to 23 in the next three weeks.
Trying to keep track of all the players and their performances could make your head spin, so we’re going to whittle this down to help you focus on a few key battles in the first Seattle Kraken training camp.
Here are the players that we are certain have a spot on the team. Some combination of Jaden Schwartz, Alex Wennberg, Jordan Eberle, Jared McCann, Yanni Gourde, and probably Calle Jarnkrok will make up the scoring lines, though Gourde will miss time as he continues to recover from shoulder surgery.
Beyond those six, there are Brandon Tanev, Joonas Donskoi, Marcus Johansson, and Mason Appleton who clearly will play significant roles, though probably not in the top six.
On the blue line, the obvious top pairings will be made up of Mark Giordano, Adam Larsson, Vince Dunn, and Jamie Oleksiak.
We’re calling this group “the probables,” because they’re all bona fide NHL players, so we fully expect them to end up with spots on the roster. The thing about this group is that it isn’t totally clear who from this lot will dress each night and who will watch from the press box.
- Colin Blackwell — 28 years old — Salary $725K in NHL or AHL. Blackwell emerged as a mainstay in the New York Rangers lineup last season, playing 47 of 56 games, registering 22 points and as many as 19 minutes of ice time on a given night.
- Ryan Donato — 25 years old — $750K in NHL or AHL. We argued internally about which category Donato should be in here. We’re leaving him as a probable, though a case could be made that both he and Riley Sheahan are battling for a roster spot. Donato has played 50, 62, and 56 games respectively the last three seasons. His minutes have tended to dwindle as those seasons have worn on, and he’s now on his fourth NHL team, but he is clearly an NHL player at this point. With a good opportunity skating alongside good players, he should produce offensively.
- Riley Sheahan — 29 years old — $850K in NHL or AHL. Sheahan is a classic depth veteran forward and has not been to the AHL since 2013-14. He will grind it out and provide energy and can likely take nights off on occasion without issue.
Donato and Sheahan are in similar boats here, so one could imagine a world in which they are battling one another for a spot in the lineup. Still, we believe they will both be on the roster when camp ends.
- Carson Soucy — 27 years old — $2.75 million in NHL or AHL. Soucy is a very good defenseman, who can slide up to one of the top pairings in case of injury. He will not spend much time in the press box, unless the other two in this category are doing remarkable things.
- Haydn Fleury — 25 years old — $1.3 million in NHL or AHL. He also hasn’t been to the AHL since 2018-19 and was one of the players the Kraken trotted out at the Expansion Draft, so they clearly expect him in the lineup regularly. He played north of 20 minutes most nights toward the end of last season in Anaheim.
- Jeremy Lauzon — 24 years old — $850K in NHL or AHL. His presence on the roster is what makes things murky for the bottom pairing. Lauzon was very well respected on a very good Boston Bruins team last season, logging as many as 25 minutes of ice time. He will be afforded some opportunities to play.
That brings us to “the battlers,” those players that are fighting for a spot on the NHL roster when the Kraken break training camp in October. Based on our math—assuming that Gourde isn’t included on the initial 23-man roster and that we are correct with all of our above predictions—there are two spots left to fill. “The battlers” are the players that have a chance to fill those spots but will have to really perform well these next three weeks.
Here’s a curveball to consider, though. Let’s also assume that everyone previously mentioned (except Gourde) stays healthy all the way through to opening night. It generally makes more sense to carry two extra forwards and one extra defenseman, and we’ve listed seven defensemen above, so there is already going to be an odd man out from that group.
Based on this logic, unless one of those seven defensemen gets injured, anyone listed on the blue line below is likely destined to start the season in Charlotte. Still, they need to make a lasting impression, and nothing is written in stone, so these guys will all be competing hard regardless of their position.
- Morgan Geekie — 23 years old — $750K in NHL, $75K in AHL. Geekie cracked Carolina’s lineup more consistently last year, playing 36 games at the NHL level. But on a deep roster, he found himself in a fourth-line role, which really doesn’t suit his game. He’s still developing, but we think he will reach a point soon where his performance will command bigger minutes.
- Alex True — 24 years old — $750K in NHL, $200K in AHL. The former Seattle Thunderbird has 19 career NHL games under his belt with the San Jose Sharks. He’s been a consistent contributor at the AHL level, but has yet to get a real shot in the NHL.
- Nathan Bastian — 23 years old — $825K in NHL or AHL. Bastian was impressive as a youngster in the New Jersey Devils organization and earned 41 games with the big club last year while avoiding the AHL. He only notched 10 points, though, and played very few minutes on the nights he dressed toward the end of the season.
- Carsen Twarynski — 23 years old — $750K in NHL, $100K in AHL. He has 22 games under his belt with the Philadelphia Flyers, but it feels like a bit of a long shot that he’ll make the team over Geekie or Bastian. He will need to really bring it to stick with the Kraken.
- Kole Lind — 22 years old — $874K in NHL, $75K in AHL. Lind got a seven-game cup of coffee with the Canucks last season and did not record a point, but he is a highly regarded prospect who is considered to be on the cusp.
- Will Borgen — 24 years old — $900K in NHL or AHL. Borgen only has 14 NHL games under his belt, but he did become a regular at the end of last season for Buffalo. The one-way contract makes it more financially painful for Seattle to send him to the AHL.
- Cale Fleury — 22 years old — $750K in NHL, $75K in AHL. The younger Fleury is just one year removed from playing an impressive 41 games as a rookie with the Montreal Canadiens.
- Dennis Cholowski — 23 years old — $900K in NHL, $130 in AHL. He was a well-regarded prospect for the Red Wings, and split time between Detroit and Grand Rapids each of the last three seasons. In all, he has 104 career NHL games and 27 points.
- Gustav Olofsson — 26 years old — $750K in NHL, $200K in AHL. Once a touted prospect with Minnesota, Olofsson’s career was derailed by injuries. He has 59 career NHL games but hasn’t been in the show since 2019-20 when he played three games for the Canadiens.
- Connor Carrick — 27 years old — $800K in NHL, $350K in AHL. Everybody seems to love Carrick. He has 241 career NHL games, but he’s split time between the AHL and NHL the last three seasons.
Much like line projections, these training camp conversations always need to be taken with a grain of salt. Seattle could play one game, have an injury, and then need to call a guy up that doesn’t make the initial roster out of camp, rendering all of our impassioned debating moot. Still, it makes for some fun competition over these next few weeks as players look to solidify roles with the inaugural Kraken team.
Which bubble players make your initial roster?
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.