Seattle Kraken 2021-22 Season Preview

Hey look, another expansion team! After the cinderella run that the Golden Knights experienced in 2017-18, the Kraken have much higher expectations than they should. But in the league’s worst division by far, Seattle really has a fighting chance. If only they executed the expansion draft better.

Offseason additions: Everyone.

Offseason subtractions: lol.

Forwards

One of the team’s biggest name brands that came in via the expansion draft was Yanni Gourde, but offseason shoulder surgery will cost him the first few months of the season. He scored 17 goals with 36 points for Tampa last year, and added six more in the postseason as the team won another Stanley Cup. Jordan Eberle is the team’s only real first line player from last year. Just like most of the Islanders, he traded offensive production for better defense. Playing alongside Mat Barzal, Eberle scored 16 times with 17 assists in 55 games. He had 11 points in 19 playoff games before being eliminated by Gourde and the Lightning. Jaden Schwartz had been a prolific scorer for the Blues over a number of seasons, but last year was different. He netted just eight goals with 21 points in 40 games. Sure, he did score 22 with 35 assists in 2019-20, but this is a risky bet to take on a 29-year for five seasons at $5.5 million per. Jared McCann was traded away from the Penguins to avoid him going to the Kraken, but the Leafs exposed him anyways, and here we are. McCann is a solid middle-six player who can sub in at center and on the wing. He played in 43 games for Pittsburgh last year, scoring 14 goals with 32 points. With Gourde out, the center depth is very weak, so McCann could be a top line center to start. Calle Jarnkrok can play all over the lineup. He has scored double-digit goals — but no more than 16 in a season — in every season for the Predators since 2015-16. He had 13 with 15 assists last year in 49 points. Alex Wennberg had a revival season with the Panthers, although it was not as good as the $4.5 million that the Kraken gave him per season. Wennberg scored a career-high 17 goals with 29 points last year. The scariest part is that Wennberg had a crazy 20.7 shooting percentage, which is nothing not anything that he has had in his career. Joonas Donskoi has been a solid third-line scorer over the past few seasons. He set a career high in goals in 2019-20, then topped that with 17 last year. Just like Wennberg, there was a ton of shooting luck involved. Donskoi had a 19.8 percentage. Speaking of high shooting percentages, Colin Blackwell had an 18.8 rate last year. For him to score a career high 12 goals with that shooting percentage and while playing a lot with Artemi Panarin, there are significant signs to show that he is not a 21-goal player, which was the pace he was on last season. The five-foot-nine winger still brings the grit that can improve a bottom-six. Marcus Johansson was a very good defensive winger who could score during his prime. But as he has reached his late twenties, Johansson has crashed. He scored just six goals with eight assists in 36 games for the Wild last year. He has played a good amount of center in his career, although the position may not be cut out for him. Former Olympics sensation Ryan Donato has been a fine bottom-six player on the scoresheet in his career. He scored just six goals for the Sharks last year, but he added 14 assists to go with that. He had a 5.8 shooting percentage, offsetting his 14.7 percent from the season before. While he may be known for his odd photo-day pictures now, Brandon Tanev is a very solid fourth line winger. He played in just 32 games last year, but scored seven goals with nine assists, as well as 33 blocked shots and 139 hits. Whoever GM Ron Francis took from his old Hurricanes was going to be notable. It ended up becoming Morgan Geekie, a draft pick by Francis in the third round of 2017. Geekie just completed his first NHL season, with nine points and 28 hits in 36 games. He averaged less than ten minutes a night as a fourth line center for Carolina last year, and the same could be expected from him this year. Green Bay native Mason Appleton had a breakout season for the Jets last year, leading to the Kraken choosing him over defensive defender Dylan DeMelo. Appleton played in all 56 games for Winnipeg, scoring 12 goals with 13 assists for 25 points. Riley Sheahan provides veteran center depth. He played in 53 games for the lowly Sabres last year, scoring 13 points. A second-round pick of the Devils back in 2016, Nathan Bastian had his first proper NHL season last year, playing a bottom-six role for New Jersey. Bastian scored three time with seven assists in 41 games.

Defensemen

What the Golden Knights had in Marc-Andre Fleury, the Kraken will have in Mark Giordano. Let’s just hope that Giordano doesn’t get ghosted. The undrafted 2018-19 Norris winner completed his 15th season for the Flames last year, and while he is not a top defenseman, Giordano is still a very solid two-way player. He had nine goals with 17 assists in 56 games for Calgary last year, blocking 110 shots. Defensive stalwart Adam Larsson agreed to a contract before the Kraken took him in the expansion draft. Larsson only had 1.9 xGA/60 last year, leading regular Edmonton defensemen. He does give you no offensive ability whatsoever, with 1.77 xGF/60, hurting his xGF%. The Kraken are making a buy-low play on Vince Dunn, who was great in his first three seasons but slowed down a bit last year. Dunn still had 20 points in 43 games last year, but was on the trade block for most of it. At just 24 years of age, Dunn could be a very valuable piece for the Kraken. Just like Larsson, UFA Jamie Oleksiak signed and was picked by Seattle. In his first stint with the Stars, he was a depth defender. But over the last two seasons, Oleksiak was a very productive second-pairing player. The six-foot-seven, former 14th overall pick had 14 points with 148 hits last year for Dallas. The monster played a good deal with budding star Miro Heiskanen last year. Carson Soucy is also a huge defenseman, at six feet and five inches tall. He played in 50 games for the Wild last year, with 17 points, 62 hits, and 49 blocked shots. He spent a team-leading 51 minutes in the penalty box. Haydn Fleury was heavily sheltered on a good Hurricanes team last year, and did get to average over 20 minutes a night in 12 games for the Ducks at the end of the year. He scored two goals for Anaheim with 15 blocks and 17 hits. Jeremy Lauzon finally broke into the Bruins starting lineup for good last season, and now he is forced to break into another team’s starting six. He played in 41 games last year, with 53 blocks and 98 hits. Also in the mix are Will Borgen and Haydn’s brother, Cale Fleury. Neither have a ton of NHL experience but both have skill.

Goalies

When the Kraken passed on Carey Price, a goaltending committee seemed like the obvious choice. Then Seattle signed Philipp Grubauer. The 29-year-old had a career season last year, finishing third in Vezina voting. He played in 40 games, with a .922 save percentage and a 1.95 GAA, as well as a 14.5 GSAA. Grubauer could easily have a tough time going from the elite Avalanche defense to an expansion group. Chris Driedger emerged as a very good goalie for the Panthers last year, but there was no room for him with top prospect Spencer Knight and expensive Sergei Bobrovsky in the fold. Driedger played in a career-high 23 games, with a .927 save percentage and a 2.07 GAA. He had a .931 save percentage in 35 games as a Panther in his career.

Projected Lines

Jaden Schwartz – Jared McCann – Jordan Eberle

Calle Jarnkrok – Alex Wennberg – Joonas Donskoi

Ryan Donato – Marcus Johansson – Colin Blackwell

Brandon Tanev – Morgan Geekie – Mason Appleton

Extras: Riley Sheahan, Nathan Bastian

Mark Giordano – Adam Larsson

Jamie Oleksiak – Vince Dunn

Carson Soucy – Haydn Fleury

Extras: Will Borgen, Jeremy Lauzon, Cale Fleury

Philipp Grubauer

Chris Driedger

Prediction

While they had the opportunity to be much, much better, the Kraken still have a solid squad. With the Golden Knights looking like the only serious competitor in the Pacific Division, Seattle has a real chance. However, I see them just missing the playoffs, failing to follow in Vegas’ footsteps.

Published by carterhud

Carterhud.com. SI Kids Kid Reporter, Prime Time Sports Talk writer

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