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 Central Division in this particular piece, let’s dive into our picks for the Kraken. The following players listed account for our Seattle Kraken mock draft selections for the Central Division.
Seattle Kraken Mock Draft for the Central Division
Michael Bunting, Left Wing
Arizona’s slowly maturing prospect finally got a proper taste of the NHL last season and seized the opportunity with both hands. Bunting went on a blistering goal-scoring bender with 10 goals in 21 games while shooting at a (slightly unsustainable) 26.7 percent. Sure, that number is going to regress, but there’s clearly offensive talent to capitalize on here.
The 25-year-old, former fourth-rounder finished second in scoring in consecutive seasons between 2018-19 and 2019-20 for the Tucson Roadrunners in the AHL. This year, his seven goals ranked fourth on the team and he only played half a season in the minors.
Clearly, the issue here is a lack of an NHL sample size, but as a gamble, Bunting is not a bad one with the relatively low sure-fire talent to bank on within the Yotes’ list of available players.
Adam Gaudette, Centre
A lot of optimism surrounded Gaudette coming into 2021 after he found a solution to his chronic stomach problem that was preventing him from gaining weight. But then he went and played for the mess that was the 2021 Vancouver Canucks. Needless to say, not many ‘Nucks have come out of this year looking all that great but a myriad of factors contributed to their disastrous season; arguably none more so than the spread of COVID through the squad.
In the here and now, Gaudette does still stand out among the middle-six options. Both his age and possession metrics are favourable, not to mention his projected upside. Of course, Chicago also has Nikita Zadorov exposed, who offers a bit of muscle and nastiness on the backend. This could also be tempting for a Seattle team that may have lots of speed available elsewhere. But in a toss-up, we prioritize affordability. Gaudette is a restricted free agent and shouldn’t fetch much more than $1 million per year.
Gabriel Landeskog, Left Wing
It is utterly bonkers that the Avalanche have let their captain’s contract situation fester this long. And with the malcontent now reaching an apex between the two camps, the Kraken can swoop in with first dibs and claim a jackpot prize as a result.
Not many first-line bargains are out there, but locking in a 20+ goal-scorer with proven powerplay excellence at around 7-8 million would be absolutely tremendous for an expansion team. Landeskog finished in the top ten in the entire league for Corsi For and Fenwick For percentage (ie shot differential) and eleventh in expected goals percentage at five-on-five. Granted this was on what many would consider the best line in the NHL but the Avalanche’s captain is a significant component to that success as a gifted playmaker with strong defensive metrics.
Basically, the guy is the full package, he’s just currently on a team with bigger fish to fry; Seattle simply needs to take advantage of the Av’s cap-hit handcuff.
Julius Honka, Defenceman
The interesting situation with Dallas’ protection list is there is nobody obvious worth taking. After Jason Dickinson was traded to Vancouver, Stars general manager Jim Nill basically whipped the best snacks out of Seattle’s party bag. As a result, the Kraken’s front office needs to salvage some value from the Stars’ prospect pipeline. This is where Julius Honka comes into play.
Selected 14th overall by the Stars in the 2014 Entry Draft, Honka is almost a forgotten former top-end prospect these days. After his on-ice struggles and subsequent contract dispute with Dallas, he left North America to play in the Liiga in Finland.
But there is untapped potential there and a puck-moving defenceman is a must-have commodity in today’s NHL. With a minimum of nine defencemen required in this expansion draft, Seattle could do worse than drafting a 25-year-old in need of a fresh start.
EDIT: The Kraken are expected to sign UFA defenceman Jamie Oleksiak which will count as their actual pick for the draft.
Kaapo Kahkonen, Goalie
Minnesota’s decision to expose a young goaltender with a Dollar-Tree-level cap-hit is almost too tantalizing to refuse. Kahkonen had an up-and-down season but that can be part and parcel of a goalie’s development in the NHL. After all, the theory behind drafting youth in expansion is predicated on ‘the best is yet to come’-type rhetoric. Moreover, it also avoids Seattle holding the bag with an older option like Ben Bishop, who could decline from nowhere, as is the unfortunate nature of ageing netminders.
Having said all that, Kahkonen’s numbers don’t read all that well after last season. He had a .902 save percentage in 24 games with two shutouts and a -13.1 goals saved above expected value. This ranks below the likes of Ottawa’s Marcus Hogberg and Pittsburgh’s Tristan Jarry. Though volatility is more a promise than a possibility with netminding so it shouldn’t be too surprising if Seattle hedges their bets on the developing youngster. After all, they are probably safer compiling a bevy of cheap and flippable options and leave the heavier cap hits for trades and free agency.
*My colleagues within this series have already picked breakout netminder Chris Driedger and solid rookie Vitek Vanecek for Seattle but the Kraken need three goaltenders as per the expansion draft rules. Consequently, we round out the goaltending group with another inexperienced but cost-effective option.
Yakov Trenin, Centre
Trenin is the shot-in-the-arm-type player that sets the tone on an effective third line. Entrusted with carving out an identity for the Predators this season, the 24-year-old Russian developed superb chemistry with Colton Sissons and Tanner Jeannot. Together, the media-dubbed ‘Herd Line’ had a 62.17 expected goal share in 120 minutes of ice time. He’s certainly an under-the-radar pick that is likely the best Nashville can offer, in terms of value for money.
Alternatively, another likely candidate for selection is Calle Jarnkrok. A consistent goalscorer with two-way talent is a big draw, especially as a middle-six option. Elsewhere, Colton Sissons rounds out the obvious Predators’ Kraken candidates. Unfortunately, unless Nashville offers Seattle David Poile’s shares in Tesla, Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen are going nowhere.
St Louis Blues
Vince Dunn, Defenceman
The divorce of the St Louis Blues and Vince Dunn was as foreseeable as that of a drunken couple getting married by an Elvis impersonater in Vegas. But unlike the latter scenario, it’s hard to work out exactly why.
Dunn is a very talented skater which makes him incredibly effective on the powerplay. So far, 33 of his 102 NHL career points have come on the man advantage. Meanwhile, at even strength, he has consistently churned out excellent relative Corsi values. The Stanley Cup champion’s only question mark revolves around his ability to deliver in an elevated role. Dunn was fifth on the Blues’ defensive depth chart in minute allocation per game this season.
Why then should he be preferred over an elite scorer like Vladimir Tarasenko, you ask? Well, with the Russian winger’s 7.5 million cap-hit and burgeoning injury history, Dunn presents as a much more prudent claim. Given his all-around talent, Seattle doesn’t take too big of a risk with Dunn and stand to reap plenty of rewards.
Dylan DeMelo, Defenceman
The idea that Seattle is on the brink of prizing a talented defenceman out of Winnipeg is almost satirical. But it beautifully demonstrates how badly the Jets have botched their protection list. Opting to shield Logan Stanley over Dylan DeMelo is clearly motivated by the idea that Stanley will continue on an upward trajectory. But DeMelo is such a solid player and one of the few assets on a very shaky backend.
His presence has clearly improved the game of his partner, Josh Morrissey; while together on the ice, the Jets boast a majority shot-share and a 53 percent edge in expected goals at five-on-five. Without DeMelo, Morrisey’s contribution translates to 44 percent in xG share.
So what gives here? Well, you have to imagine there’s a contingency plan. If Kevin Cheveldayoff is happy to have DeMelo snagged by the Kraken, he must have a replacement in the pipeline already. At least, that’s what the Jets fans will hope.
More on the Seattle Kraken Mock Draft
If you haven’t already done so, please check out the other articles within the Seattle Kraken mock draft series: here are the Atlantic Division, Metropolitan Division and the Pacific Division pieces. Thanks for reading one and all!
*All NHL skater stats sourced via Natural Stat Trick and Hockey Reference. All minor-league skater stats were sourced via Elite Prospects. Goalie stats sourced via MoneyPuck