Last Word On Hockey’s Puck Drop Previews are back for the 2022-23 season! As the regular season approaches, Last Word will preview each team’s current outlook and stories to watch for the upcoming year. We’ll also do our best to project how things will go for each team over the course of the campaign. Today, we’re previewing the 2022-23 Seattle Kraken.
2022-23 Seattle Kraken
Before the games began, the 2021-22 season was historic for the city of Seattle. For them, it signaled the return of NHL hockey for the first time since 1924. The Seattle Kraken went into the season as an unknown, comprised of many players who were candidates to break out in a more significant role. This was the case for some players, and none more than Jared McCann. McCann recorded a career-best 50 points in 74 games last season for the Kraken. On the back end, Vince Dunn tied a career-high in points with 35, which led the Kraken defensemen.
Past that, the season was fairly disappointing. The expectations were set higher after the shocking success of the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017-18, which put pressure on the Kraken to show that another expansion team could have immediate success. For Seattle, that was not the case. The Kraken finished the season last in the pacific division with a record of 27-49-6, which placed them third-worst in the NHL.
There was a significant struggle to put the puck in the net. This was a noticeable problem that presented itself following the expansion draft. Most acquired players were profiled as playmakers or defensive forwards, which created problems for them during the season. The late-season addition of forward Matty Beniers helped with some of the problems, but the task was far too difficult for a rookie to take on by himself.
One of the biggest deficiencies for the Kraken in the 2021-22 season was the goaltending. With a pairing that consisted of Philipp Grubauer and Chris Driedger, the Kraken had one of the poorest goaltending performances in the league. Grubauer, who is signed for another five seasons at $5.9 million, posted a .889 save percentage which ranked last among goalies with at least 40 starts. If the Kraken were able to ice goaltending closer to league average, they would have likely finished significantly higher in the standings.
The Kraken focused heavily on adding offensive weapons this offseason, beginning with the signing of forward Andre Burakovsky. The 27-year-old Austrian forward is coming off three really good seasons with the Colorado Avalanche seeing him tally a total of 150 points in 191 games. Seattle brings him in in hopes he adds some depth scoring to an offensively deprived forward group, sliding into the second-line right wing spot.
The first-line right-wing slot is filled by another new addition, Oliver Bjorkstrand. Bjorkstrand was acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets for two draft picks and looks to be pencilled into that top-line winger spot beside Beniers. Bjorkstrand had spent the first seven years of his career in Columbus, where he developed into an offensive weapon. He set career highs in goals and points last season with the Jackets, tallying 28 goals and 57 total points.
The most notable addition wasn’t acquired via trade or free agency but instead was found in the NHL draft. The Kraken picked at number four in this past year’s draft and were shocked when previous consensus first-overall pick, Shane Wright, was available. They selected Wright fourth overall, and his impact could ultimately shift the fortunes of the forward group.
In the 2021-22 OHL season, Wright recorded 93 points in just 63 games. Wright looks to add yet another new level of scoring to the forward group. His offensive impact should help this Seattle team that mightily struggled to put the puck in the net last season.
Other Notable Additions: D Justin Schultz, G Martin Jones
Ryan Donato – Matty Beniers – Oliver Bjorkstrand
Jared McCann – Shane Wright – Andre Burakovsky
After a season of offensive struggles, Seattle has done the work to improve the top half of their lineup. A point of emphasis needs to be the development of Matty Beniers during an entire season of NHL hockey. In his limited NHL action, Beniers impressed. In 10 games for the Kraken, he posted three goals and nine points. He projects as the number-one center in his first full season, which could prove challenging for the young forward.
The Kraken will likely roll out Bjorkstrand and Donato on his wings, taking some pressure off of Beniers. Bjorkstrand arrives in Seattle after seven seasons with the Blue Jackets. He’ll look to build off a career-best season, which comes at a good time. The Kraken will undoubtedly rely upon his abilities to help drive an unproven line.
This Beniers kid is pretty good.
— NHL (@NHL) April 19, 2022
While it has to be earned, Shane Wright comes into camp with a shot at winning the second-line center job. Wright has impressive offensive weapons that could make him one of the more dangerous players in this lineup. McCann, the Kraken leading scorer in 2021-22, will likely slot in on the left to support Wright as he develops. Newcomer Burakovsky will likely slot in on the right. If Wright takes immediate steps towards being an impact NHLer, the Seattle top six becomes one of the more talented groups in the pacific.
The improvement of the top six has a trickle-down effect, as the forward depth has become significantly better for the Kraken. The load will likely be decreased for players such as Jaden Schwartz and Jordan Eberle. This might actually benefit their output by simply matching them up against lower lines. Yanni Gourde remains one of the most important players for the Kraken. He will most certainly feature heavily in their lineup regardless of where he plays. The 30-year-old Gourde is coming off a 48-point season, which is the second highest season total of his career.
The fourth line won’t be easy to play against either. The line will feature some of the most energetic and frustrating players to play against in the whole league. Brandon Tanev will return to the Kraken after his debut season was cut short by a knee injury. He will join Wennberg and Donskoi on a line that will focus heavily on puck possession and forechecking. This should help to complement the style of the rest of the lines. They won’t put up the points, but they’ll certainly give you their all on each shift.
Vince Dunn – Adam Larsson
The Kraken enter the season with a similar look in the top four, but this time with a notable addition. They signed long-time defender, Justin Schultz, to a two-year deal worth $3 million. Schultz looks to add a veteran influence following the departure of Mark Giordano at last year’s deadline. Vince Dunn and Adam Larsson were Seattle’s most played pairing last season and will begin the season doing the same. The top pair struggled at times and were often out-chanced. With a new-look pairing behind them, they might have some of the pressure lifted off of them. If Seattle looks to compete, getting consistent play from their top four is necessary. After having one of the most offensively deficient blue lines in the league, they need to find ways for them to put up points.
Seattle’s third paring is an interesting study. It is comprised of a positionally sound Carson Soucy and Will Borgen, who is looking to succeed in his first full season. If Borgen plays as well as he did in his limited NHL action in 2021-22, the duo can match up well against their opponents. They won’t be getting much offence from Borgen, but Soucy will look to follow a season that saw him record a career-best 21 points.
The Seattle goaltending tandem was among the worst in the entire NHL last season. Barring a massive turnaround from Philipp Grubauer, the crease appears to be a weakness for 2022-23. The Kraken have swapped their backup goaltenders, adding Martin Jones. Jones is coming off a long season with the Philadelphia Flyers where he finished up with a .900 and a 3.42 Goals Against Average. Coupling that with Grubauer’s .889 Save Percentage from 2021-22, the Kraken could be in for a rough go. Most teams need the occasional “goalie bail-out”, and it doesn’t look as if the Kraken can rely on that at all this season.
Players to Watch
Beniers comes into the 2022-23 season slated to be Seattle’s first line center. This is quite the jump for him given his limited NHL action. The young forward has played only 10 NHL games up to this point, and despite impressing in those games, it begs the question of wondering if he can carry that into his first full season. He’ll have help on the top line this season, joined by newcomer Oliver Bjorkstrand. Bjorkstrand should ease some of the offensive burdens on Beniers, which can only help in creating an environment in which Beniers can be a true number-one center in this league.
After being considered as the consensus first overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, Wright found himself being selected fourth by the Seattle Kraken. Wright now enters his first NHL training camp with a chip on his shoulder, looking to prove the three teams that didn’t select him wrong for not doing so. There seems to be a divide amongst people regarding where Wright fits into the Kraken lineup. Being a player with a fantastic set of offensive skills, Wright would fit well in a role next to the team’s best players.
That being said, Wright has to earn this spot and the case for Yanni Gourde and Alexander Wennberg to move up the lineup becomes clear. The middle ground in this, however, could be seen in starting Wright in the top six in hopes that he produces. If Wright comes into the season and becomes the star he is projected to be, then Seattle looks like geniuses. If he struggles, there’s no harm in sheltering him in a third-line role for a while until he earns more ice time. His season will likely be one of the more interesting storylines to watch throughout the 2022-23 season and could work out in Seattle’s favour.
2022-23 Seattle Kraken Season Prediction
The Kraken enter the season with a better team than their inaugural squad, but still lack the production and goaltending to be contenders in the West. There need to be boxes to be checked for them to snag a spot, and it seems unlikely. What Seattle will likely accomplish this season is finding out how much their forward group can contribute to the offence. More specifically, their eyes will be trained on their new additions and the young players such as Beniers and Wright.
Offensive game aside, you can only score so much to cover up poor goaltending. The Seattle goaltending situation is probably the direst issue with this roster. Given their struggles last season, it seems unlikely that they outscore their opponents with such lacklustre goaltending.
Despite the improvements, look for the Kraken to finish near the bottom of the Pacific Division and several points behind the final playoff spot.
final 20 👊 pic.twitter.com/FjyjHCwhlE
— Seattle Kraken (@SeattleKraken) September 30, 2022