When perusing the Seattle Kraken roster, a common observation surrounds their lack of elite star power. However, missing one bonafide superstar didn’t keep them from earning their first playoff appearance in franchise history. Maybe an elite scorer would have pushed them deeper in the postseason, though; they fell one win shy of the Western Conference Final, after all. All that said, the team made minor changes to its forward group thus far in the offseason. It appears the Kraken doubled down on their offence being enough as-is, with hopes that they can go further without tinkering too much.
Kraken Hope their Offence Success Carries into Next Season
The Kraken’s offence doesn’t feature anyone in the same realm as Nikita Kucherov, Nathan MacKinnon, or Connor McDavid. Heck, they don’t even have anyone in the next couple echelons (think players like Artemi Panarin, Dylan Larkin, or Roope Hintz). In fact, their leading scorer last year (Jared McCann) ranked 60th league-wide in points. Most franchises had not one, but two players with more points than any single player on the Kraken.
Kraken Scoring Came by Committee in 2022-23
Yet despite that fact, the team finished fifth in the NHL in goals last season. Rather than relying on one or two players to lead the charge, Seattle spread the wealth fairly evenly up and down their lineup. McCann played first-line minutes, and his most-frequent linemates finished third (Jordan Eberle) and fourth (Matthew Beniers) on the team in scoring.
Between those players, Vince Dunn ranked second in points with 64 from the defence. And after Beniers comes a real mix of second, third and fourth liners. All of them averaged somewhere between ten and 19 minutes of ice time per night. None got overworked, none underutilized. All stayed fresh all night long and contributed significantly to the Kraken’s offence.
Forward Changes for 2023-24
As is the case every offseason, players depart and others arrive, some via free agency and others via trade. In Seattle’s case, fortunately, their forward core all remained under contract through at least next year. The Kraken offence lost three lineup regulars, but they all played almost exclusively on the fourth line.
That cannot be overlooked, though, especially on a “win-by-committee” style team. Daniel Sprong posted 21 goals and 46 points from the fourth line last season. Morgan Geekie and Ryan Donato combined for another 55 points as well. That totals up to 101 points, all from the team’s fourth line, that they must replace. Talk about a unique problem.
Depth Replacements on Kraken Offence
To replace them, Seattle signed Kailer Yamamoto, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Marian Studenic. They only scored a combined 38 points in 2022-23 on their respective squads. Obviously, that leaves a significant gap to close. Yamamoto scored 20 goals two years ago, so a change of scenery could help reignite the 24-year-old as it did with so many other forwards on the Kraken offence.
Bellemare will serve as a safety valve on the penalty kill and other defensive zone assignments, so shouldn’t be expected to post big scoring numbers. Also, Studenic likely won’t be a lineup regular and seems more destined to play in the AHL for the Coachella Valley Firebirds.
Kraken Forwards with Something to Prove
Where Seattle really wants to fill their voids though comes from internal development of their prospect pipeline. Tye Kartye posted five points in ten playoff games, filling in for an injured McCann on the team’s first line. Shane Wright, the fourth overall selection from the 2022 entry draft, also should push for a spot.
Perhaps most importantly though will be the return of a healthy Andre Burakovsky. He scored at a pace that would have ranked him second on the team, ahead of Dunn, in scoring by year’s end if not for his injury. In 49 contests, he still managed 39 points. He’ll certainly want to re-assert himself in the Kraken’s offence, within their top six.
When fully healthy, the forward group looks arguably more potent next season than last, despite losing Sprong and Donato. Burakovsky produces more than those two combined, plus there’s plenty of reason for optimism with the remaining lineup battles. Between Yamamoto, Kartye, and Wright, there’s lots of potential for breakout candidates. The opening night lineup should look something like the below, and fans should be optimistic.
McCann – Beniers – Eberle
Eeli Tolvanen – Yanni Gourde – Burakovsky
Brandon Tanev – Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – Kailer Yamamoto
Extras: Tye Kartye, Shane Wright
Main Photo Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports