With the expansion draft protection lists submitted, the players on the block for the Seattle Kraken have been decided. Now in the lead-up to their inaugural draft, the Last Word on Hockey team are proposing their ideal selection from each team. As part of this exercise, salary cap and roster make-up have been incorporated into picking Seattle’s roster on behalf of general manager Ron Francis. Focusing on the teams in the Metropolitan Division in this particular piece, let’s dive into our ideal picks for the Kraken. The following players listed account for our Seattle Kraken mock draft selections for the Metropolitan Division.
Seattle Kraken Mock Draft for the Metropolitan Division
Jake Bean, Defenceman
Regardless of the Hurricanes player, Seattle ends up taking, it’ll be interesting to see who Francis prioritizes. After all, he is very familiar with the Canes’ roster after his previous stint as their GM.
Anywho, the pick we are going with is Jake Bean, primarily for his upside. He’s a player early in his NHL career and one who, Ron Francis drafted as the 13th overall pick in 2016. Bean has yet to catch on but certainly has the potential to be a top-four defenceman. He is currently a restricted free agent and requires a new contract.
Originally, Warren Foegele was projected to be a sure-fire Kraken pick but in the end, he was protected. Elsewhere, Petr Mrazek and James Reimer are also in play here, but it’s likely Seattle goes in other goalie directions. Stay tuned for that later in the division.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Dean Kukan, Defenceman
Eric Robinson would have been a great pick, but he got a protection slot and Dean Kukan gets the nod as a result. The 28-year-old can be a solid depth selection for the Kraken. He also carries a low-cost cap-hit of $1.65 million that runs out at the end of next season.
Conversely, if the Kraken want to get a big-ticket item, Max Domi is in play after being exposed. However, based on Francis’ recent comments surrounding cap maneuverability, the pickings are slim with regards to players on the pricier side and Seattle may want to spend their money elsewhere.
New Jersey Devils
Nicholas Merkley, Forward
Nick Merkley hasn’t gotten a lot of ice time, but the RFA has promising production stats. He’s scored double-digit goals three times in the American Hockey League. What’s more, he also came at the relatively low cost of $860,000+ last season and should be around the same price point again.
Nathan Bastian could also be in play for the Kraken. He’s a big body at 6-foot-4-inches tall and could give some muscle to the new team.
New York Islanders
Kieffer Bellows, Forward
It seems that Kieffer Bellows is in need of a fresh start and going to Seattle would provide that. Bellows has fallen out of favour in Barry Trotz’s lineup but can provide goals if given a chance. He’s still only 23 years old and is an RFA that could come with another low price tag.
Alternatively, the other Sebastian Aho (Settle down, Canes fans.) could be in play if the Kraken want to use the Islanders to stock up on defensive options. That said, Bellows seems to be the safe selection bet.
New York Rangers
Julien Gauthier, Right Wing
The selection of Julien Gauthier was one of the harder picks to decide in this mock. Brett Howden was on the radar, but his rights were shipped to the Vegas Golden Knights instead. For Seattle, part of Gauthier’s allure hinges on the fact that he recently signed a $775,000 deal for one season, so that would be another low-cost deal.
Though Seattle could also go with unrestricted free agent Colin Blackwell and we went back and forth between him and Gauthier. As it stands, we are banking on some emotional connections to these selections. As such, Francis goes for another player he drafted 21st overall in 2016, coincidentally, in the same first round where he picked Jake Bean.
James van Riemsdyk, Left Wing
Francis said that cap flexibility is one of his main goals and he wants to keep some of it for after the expansion draft. Although we have to assume that they’ll pick a couple of star players in the draft to avoid getting fleeced by free agency markups. James van Riemsdyk would fit that bill with 264 career goals and 524 career points.
Yes, he does come at a steep $7 million price tag for the next two seasons, but Seattle needs some proven scorers. JVR scored 17 goals in 56 games this season and he has maintained that sort of production pace or higher since the 2012-13 season. Furthermore, he would likely be part of the Kraken’s leadership group which is an intangible element but also an important consideration.
Zach Aston-Reese, Centre
Zach Aston-Reese may not score a lot of goals, but he’s still a valuable player. “ZAR” is a defensive specialist that got Selke Trophy votes in 2019-20. He’ll be a solid bottom-six pivot that can lock down other team’s top lines. Aston-Reese is also an RFA that would need a new deal but should be a low-cost player.
Otherwise, Casey DeSmith might get a look if the Kraken want a backup or a number one starter with the Charlotte Checkers in the AHL. They’ll share their affiliate with the Florida Panthers next season and he’d be a solid third goalie if injuries occur.
Vitek Vanecek, Goalie
Czech goalie Vitek Vanecek is the odd man out as the Caps will ride with Ilya Samsonov in net going forward. Though, Vanecek did win 21 games and had a goals-against-average of 2.69 with Washington last season. He’d be a fine backup or even challenge for the top spot in the Seattle crease. He’s also got a nice and low salary of $716,000+ for the upcoming season. Bit of a no-brainer selection-wise!
Elsewhere, there could be some temptation to snag Justin Schultz as a veteran defenceman option. Seattle will likely be juggling their defensive picks since exposure candidates like Mathew Dumba were eventually protected. Although, he’s in the final year of his contract that pays him $4 million which is a bit of a deterrent. As a result, we’ll lean towards Vanacek, but don’t be surprised if Schultz heads to the Pacific Northwest.