We have turned the corner on training camp from the “Who will stick around for a while?” phase to the “Who will make the opening-night roster?” phase. While there’s plenty of whittling left to do for the Kraken (and a big round of cuts is looming), we feel we’ve seen enough to form our own opinions about which players will be with the NHL team when it breaks camp at the end of this week.
Worth noting, we’re still just projecting here based on our own observations of how things are playing out in camp. Who is getting the longest looks? Who has taken advantage of preseason playing opportunities? Which young players are skating alongside mostly veterans, as coach Dave Hakstol starts piecing together potential regular-season lines?
Even with everything we’ve seen over the past two weeks, this was still a hard exercise, and we don’t envy the Kraken brass tasked with deciding who to keep and who to cut. In fact, while we made our final picks here, we would love to see your opinions in the comments about what you think we got right and wrong.
Here are our picks for which players make the opening-night roster for the Kraken.
Bubble players we think will make it
We’re starting with our hottest take here, and this one could blow up on us if we’ve read the situation incorrectly. Throughout this camp, we’ve maintained that Ryker Evans deserves a chance to play at the NHL level, but with the signing of left-shot defenseman Brian Dumoulin this offseason, we didn’t see a spot for Evans on the Kraken blue line. For Evans to make the team, we figured an injury would have to occur or Evans would have to play so well, the Kraken would have no choice but to keep him.
The latter scenario seems to be coming to fruition.
After watching Evans dance around NHL competition, quarterback the power play, and frankly outperform some of the veteran defensemen on the team, we are sold. We now predict the Kraken will find a way to keep him with the big club.
What sealed the deal for us was Seattle’s home game against Vancouver on Thursday, in which Evans was deployed on the right side—his off-hand side—and didn’t miss a beat. Hakstol used the word “outstanding” that night to describe Evans’s handling of the puck in the offensive end of the ice, a word we don’t hear often from the bench boss.
Exactly where Evans fits in remains to be seen, but his ability to play either side helps his case for snagging a lineup spot.
Vince Dunn was mysteriously absent from camp for a few days but returned to the ice Tuesday to run through drills on his own with coach Jay Leach. So, filling in for Dunn doesn’t look like it will be an option for Evans.
On the other side of the coin, even assuming Dunn is ready to go by next week, we still see a scenario in which one of Jaycob Megna or Cale Fleury (or both) gets put on waivers, making Evans one of seven defensemen (or eight if they keep two extra blueliners) on the roster.
Having said all this, we only believe our own prediction here if Evans has a real opportunity to play games at the NHL level; we don’t think Seattle will keep him if he’s going to sit as a healthy scratch. Thus, if he is stealing a roster spot, that means a veteran will have to come out of the lineup, or maybe players will have to rotate through the press box.
The situation for Tye Kartye coming into camp was a little different than that of Evans. There has always minimally been a spot on the roster for Kartye and even a potential spot in the lineup; he just needed to beat out other players to secure that spot. We think he has done that.
Aside from Monday’s game against Edmonton, Kartye has largely skated on a line with veterans this preseason, specifically Brandon Tanev and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. Seeing this trio grouped together really felt like Hakstol testing out a potential fourth-line combo.
Kartye has made impressive plays at every stage of training camp and appears poised to build off his 2022-23 season, which brought an AHL rookie of the year award and five points in 10 Stanley Cup Playoff games. Kartye’s best play came in the split-squad game against Calgary, when he was stopped on a breakaway by Dustin Wolf, but then recovered in time to intercept an outlet pass and snipe it past the Flames netminder. The kid is NHL ready.
Kartye’s inclusion would likely mean Shane Wright and Kole Lind go to Coachella Valley, at least to start the season.
We’ve liked what we’ve seen from Shane Wright and think he’s right on the cusp of being ready. But we still think more time in the AHL, playing at the top of Coachella Valley’s lineup, will benefit Seattle’s most touted prospect and make him better in the long run. There’s no point in keeping a guy like Wright on the NHL roster if it means he’s going to play six minutes a night or be a healthy scratch. He has not had a normal developmental runway, and we think he still needs at least a little of that to become an impactful NHLer.
As for Lind, we love the player and still think he deserves a shot in the NHL. But he came into this camp needing to prove he was more NHL ready than Kartye and Wright, and that he brought more to the team than veterans like Devin Shore and John Hayden. From what we’ve seen, Kartye has the upper hand on Lind, and we are not convinced the brass will have seen enough from Lind to keep him over a serviceable fill-in veteran like Shore.
We don’t think it’s a coincidence that Philipp Grubauer’s batterymate for most of training camp has been Joey Daccord. With Seattle’s players split into two groups, Grubauer and Daccord have tended to stick together for their on-ice sessions, while Chris Driedger has mostly played opposite Ales Stezka.
We paused for a moment when Driedger joined Grubauer Sunday and Monday mornings, but Grubauer played the full game Monday night, while Driedger watched from the bench.
Daccord has earned his opportunity. He was lights out in the Calder Cup Playoffs last season, keeping a firm grasp on the Firebirds goal crease, even after Driedger returned from injury. His play earned him a one-way contract for this year and next, and he has continued to look solid throughout this camp. At this point, we think it’s Daccord’s job to lose, rather than the other way around.
Of our “bubble” picks to make the roster, we have the least conviction in our selection of Shore to stay with the big club. He hasn’t blown any of the other bubble players out of the water, but he is a quintessential “extra” forward, perfect to keep around for added depth. At 29 years old, there will be less concern for getting him playing time, and he can fill in at any forward position, including center.
Hayden ticks a lot of the same boxes and adds more physicality. So if Hakstol and his staff aim to keep two extra forwards, and one of those is a veteran guy they can plug in when needed, Hayden may be the pick here. But we’re giving Shore a slight edge based on what we’ve seen in preseason action.
Bubble players we think will miss out
We talked throughout this article about why we think Wright, Lind, and Hayden will be among the final cuts from the Kraken forward corps. On the blue line, we think the same will happen for Megna and Fleury, though neither deserves to be sent through waivers. Both have had solid camps, and Fleury looks like he has taken a big step in his development this offseason.
The problem for Fleury and Megna is that the Kraken simply have too many NHL defensemen, and Evans only adds to that pool. For Fleury’s sake, we hope he gets a chance to play regular minutes this season, whether that be at the NHL or AHL level. But barring injuries, it’s hard to see a path to regular shifts on the Kraken for either Fleury or Megna.
Predicting the opening-night roster
Here’s what we are predicting will be the opening-night roster for the Seattle Kraken. We think Hakstol will keep two extra forwards this season, as opposed to two extra defensemen, as he has done in the past.
Again, let us know in the comments where you think we went wrong here.
Jared McCann / Matty Beniers / Jordan Eberle
Jaden Schwartz / Alex Wennberg / Andre Burakovsky
Oliver Bjorkstrand / Yanni Gourde / Eeli Tolvanen
Brandon Tanev / Pierre-Edouard Bellemare / Tye Kartye
Kailer Yamamoto / Devin Shore
Vince Dunn / Adam Larsson
Jamie Oleksiak / Will Borgen
Brian Dumoulin / Justin Schultz
Other candidates for last roster spot