Seattle. It’s been a long time coming. But we’re here, and the Seattle Kraken are playing real-life hockey games against real-life opponents. Sure, it’s only the preseason. But nonetheless, the league’s 32nd franchise…conceived just a couple of years ago, and born this summer at the expansion draft…is taking its first steps. And like any new parent, the fans are ecstatic. Opinions fly left and right, as it’s simply too tempting and exciting not to mull over all the possibilities on the horizon. So, why not? Here are some early takeaways from the Seattle Kraken in their first two preseason contests.
Takeaways From Seattle Kraken in Its First Preseason Games
On September 26th, the Kraken took the ice in Spokane, Washington against the Vancouver Canucks. The game represented the first of three preseason “home games” dubbed the 3-Rink Rush. Each of the games is to take place in a WHL arena within Washington state, the first of which on this night occurred in the home of the Spokane Chiefs. They won the game by a score of 5-3 (and lost a “just-for-fun” shootout 1-0 in five rounds afterwards).
They then travelled to Alberta to take on the Edmonton Oilers for their first road game in franchise history. (Fine, the first preseason road game in franchise history). The roster that night looked a bit different than the one iced in Spokane, as coach Dave Hakstol works through his depth chart. The game ended with a 6-0 scoreline, with the Oilers coming out victorious.
In those six periods of hockey, fans got a glimpse of what the team will look like on opening night. The roster will surely look different than either roster displayed thus far, as more changes will continue even just over the remainder of the preseason. But still, fans left with some takeaways on their Seattle Kraken both nights.
Lessons from Spokane: 5-3 Kraken Victory
For their first game as a franchise, the result Sunday night was surely a positive one. There are so many reasons though to avoid reading too much into this one game. For starters: it’s just one game. And not like any other team’s “just one game” argument, either. This is literally the very, very first game the Kraken ever played. Most of the roster never played together with the exception of a couple of former teammates here and there.
It showed early, too. Seattle definitely looks like they’re working on nailing down Hakstol’s systems above all else, supporting one another in the defensive zone and building from there. But after the first period, fans may have been slightly concerned by the 2-0 hole the Kraken sat in. Jack Rathbone scored on a breakaway as he exited the penalty box, and just under 90 seconds later Brock Boeser tallied a powerplay goal. So, not a great look for Seattle’s special teams units right off the bat. The main concern, however, stemmed from the fact that Seattle dressed the vast majority of its probable opening-night roster against a very thin, very AHL-heavy Canucks team.
Also, Philipp Grubauer started in net and gave up two goals on less than ten shots. Again, one came on a breakaway and another on a powerplay. So, let’s not read too much into things quite yet for last year’s Vezina nominee.
Kraken Mount the Comeback
But things started to click in the second period. Riley Sheahan scored the Kraken’s first franchise goal early in the frame from Nathan Bastian. Those two and Brandon Tanev made up a hard-working and exciting fourth line group, providing energy and then the first goal. Jared McCann and Ryan Donato each scored powerplay goals thereafter, one apiece from opposite sides of the zone. Obviously, some good signs there for the special teams units, especially after the first period.
Nils Hoglander tied the game soon after for Vancouver, deflecting a puck past Chris Driedger just a minute after Seattle swapped goalies at the game’s halfway mark. Had this been a regular season contest, the league and referees would have undoubtedly reviewed the goal. Hoglander deflected it down from high in the air, potentially in the range of being deemed a high-stick. But, since its preseason in a non-NHL facility, the game rolled on without protest.
Driedger shut the door the rest of the way, but Seattle simply outplayed Vancouver in front of him. At the conclusion of the second period, the score may have been 3-3, but the shot advantage sat at a whopping 27-8 spread in favour of the Kraken. The third period was more even-keeled at both ends, but only Morgan Geekie tickled twine for Seattle. He did so twice in the third frame. The first goal was more of an own-goal on Vancouver’s part; the Canucks won a draw in the defensive zone, and the puck eluded the defenceman in front of the net and rolled in past Spencer Martin. It was fluky, but Geekie’s second goal was anything but; he ripped a powerplay marker past the Canucks netminder from the high circle to give Seattle its third man-advantage tally of the night.
Lessons from Edmonton: 6-0 Kraken Loss
This game looked like a reversal of the game two nights earlier. Instead of Seattle walking all over its opponents’ AHL and depth players, it was the Oilers walking all over Seattle’s AHL and depth players. The Kraken dressed ten players who did not appear in their first preseason contest, the majority of whom will spend next season somewhere in Seattle’s system below the NHL level. Driedger played the first two periods, surrendering four goals, then Joey Daccord allowed the last two in the third period.
On offence, the Kraken’s fourth line from Sunday night was the only group remaining intact. They also suited up as the team’s first line, with all other lines shuffling to incorporate various youngsters. Many of these players, like Luke Henman and Carsen Twarynski, gained important experience against an Oilers team with most of their NHL talent. The team’s second round pick, Ryker Evans, played but looked overwhelmed by the level of play. On the other end Connor McDavid potted three points, Darnell Nurse scored a weak goal against Driedger, and Zach Hyman grabbed his first goal in an Edmonton uniform.
Defensively, the Kraken replaced five of the defenders from Sunday in favour of a very, very young group. Vince Dunn did get his first action, but the rest of the pairings featured depth players like Connor Carrick and William Borgen. Jeremy Lauzon looked decent, but in general, the team struggled as a unit to keep up with McDavid et al.. Daccord looked strong and made a few great saves in his limited action as well. Of the group of players who were playing their first preseason game for Seattle, Alexander True probably had the strongest impact. He could very well earn more chances to impress in preseason. Without a doubt, the lineup is far from set in stone.
More Seattle Kraken Takeaways to Come from Remaining Preseason Games
The Kraken turn around right away and face the Calgary Flames tomorrow night, before returning home. Given the back-to-back schedule, expect a new netminder between the pipes tomorrow. Maybe Grubauer gets a full game, but also maybe Joey Daccord gets a start. Either way, Hakstol will surely swap out multiple other bodies too. He has to delicately balance giving everyone an opportunity to crack the roster while also building familiarity and chemistry within the team. After all, most of these players have never played with one another. The rag-tag group needs the experience badly to ramp up for regular season action. Because of this, Hakstol seems likely to continue dressing a roster of mostly NHL talent with a handful of fringe names.
The back-to-backs, though, look like the best opportunities to mix up the roster. Giving more surefire roster players a night of rest simultaneously gives more of the depth players a shot to show their stuff. With another back-to-back set against Edmonton and Calgary upcoming on October 1st and 2nd, the same should be true in just a couple of days. Those games conclude the 3-Rink Rush, playing at the home of the Everett Silvertips and then the Seattle Thunderbirds. Finally, the preseason wraps on October 5th up in Vancouver.
From there, we’ll have all the way-too-early Seattle Kraken takeaways absorbed and overanalyzed. The regular season can’t come soon enough.