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2021-22 Seattle Kraken Preview: They don’t have to be good to make playoffs

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Who is gonna be a challenge to them in the Pacific? The Flames? The Oilers? Yeah right, buddy.

The Seattle Kracken draft picks (L-R) Jordan Eberle, Chris Driedger, Chris Tanev, Jamie Oleksiak, Haydn Fleury and Mark Giordano following the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft at Gas Works Park on July 21, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. The Seattle Kraken is the National Hockey League’s newest franchise and will begin play in October 2021. Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

How do we preview a team that has yet to play a game?

More importantly, do we address the fact that Seattle hockey fans were likely previously either Vancouver Canucks fans (upgrade) or San Jose Sharks fans (less of an upgrade, but good on you for getting free from this mess)? It’s fine, I understand, and it’s not like we lost fans in the last expansion draft ... wait, I’m being informed that Vegas took Sharks fans too? Well, shit.

Good for you. I bet that fresh start feels real good. I, for one, cannot wait until we hate each other.

And while general managers were still bound and determined to make their stupid little trades this off-season, perhaps they learned something from 2017, choosing to not make said trades with the new guy on the block. Maybe this time around, the expansion team will know their place and be bad for a little while first.

Please? I’m hanging on by a thread here.

Where they left off

The first time we saw the Seattle Kraken was the 2021 Expansion Draft, and while the selections were ultimately leaked on Twitter hours before the event, it was worth tuning in to see Macklemore, J.T. Brown throwing around fish and the stunning Kraken jerseys on real human bodies.

From each of the 30 teams not named the Vegas Golden Knights — who, despite going into their fifth season, were exempt — Seattle selected a player from those left unprotected by their current clubs. Forward Alex True was selected from the Sharks.

Unlike the Vegas expansion draft, which saw a number of side deals — including the Florida Panthers gifting Vegas two-thirds of their inaugural top line — general managers were more reluctant about helping Seattle be competitive from the jump. That said, this is still the dumbest professional sports league, and Seattle’s selections include a number of gems, like Yanni Gourde, Joonas Donskoi and goaltender Chris Driedger.

2021 Entry Draft

As an expansion team, the Kraken were entered into the draft lottery, earning the second-overall pick. With that pick, they selected center Matty Beniers from the University of Michigan. Beniers will be returning to U of M for the 2021-22 season, along with many collegiate prospects from the 2021 draft class will, as they feel they missed out on the college experience due to coronavirus.

That said, the extra development time is probably for the best, especially for a draft class that was so heavily impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Beniers won’t be in Seattle this season, but watch out for when he finally is.

The Kraken followed up the Beniers pick with one pick in each subsequent round.

  • Ryker Evans, D (35th overall)
  • Ryan Winterton, C (67th overall)
  • Ville Ottavainen, D (99th overall)
  • Jacob Melanson, RW (131st overall)
  • Semyon Vyazovoi, G (163rd overall)
  • Justin Janicke, F (195th overall)

It was an alright draft, if a bit underwhelming outside of the Beniers pick. Ryker Evans in particular was a reach, but Ryan Winterton was an excellent selection in the third round. There’s potential for late-round steals, but it will be a few years before this draft class is ready for the pros.

Roster

Following the expansion draft, two selections were shipped off to new teams for future draft picks (forward Tyler Pitlick to the Calgary Flames and defender Kurtis MacDermid to the Colorado Avalanche), as well as returning goaltender Vitek Vanecek to the Washington Capitals in exchange for a 2023 second-round draft pick. They also lost selections John Quenneville and Gavin Bayreuther to free agency.

They easily made up for those losses in free agency signings. They added Phillip Grubauer and Antoine Bibeau in net, giving them a pretty solid pipeline for their first season. Up front, the team added Jaden Schwartz, Alexander Wennberg and Marcus Johansson, as well as Connor Carrick and Gustav Olofsson at the blueline.

Here’s how the Daily Faceoff expects the lines to shake out for Seattle:

Forwards
Jaden Schwartz — Yanni Gourde — Jordan Eberle
Calle Jarnkrok — Jared McCann — Joonas Donskoi
Brandon Tanev — Alexander Wennberg — Mason Appleton
Colin Blackwell — Morgan Geekie — Nathan Bastian

Defenders
Vince Dunn — Adam Larsson
Mark Giordano — Jamie Oleksiak
Carson Soucy — Haydn Fleury

Goaltenders
Phillip Grubauer
Chris Driedger
Joey Daccord

What can we expect in 2021-22?

A return to the regular divisions (aside from shifting the Arizona Coyotes to the Central Division, while adding the Kraken to the Pacific) leaves the Pacific wide open, as the Minnesota Wild, St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche are replaced by the Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames. The California teams have improved around the margins, but not near enough to contend with the Vegas Golden Knights in any meaningful way.

Betting odds signal a tight squeeze, but a playoff team nevertheless in Seattle, and the roster has some real star power, along with players who may be on the verge of a break-out year, something that propelled Vegas into the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season. The roster isn’t perfect, and not getting an NHL-ready player at second-overall (despite getting the best available player at second-overall) hurts a little. But there’s so much space for the Kraken to take a comfortable lead in the standings.

The Sharks and Kraken will face off four times this season, with the first meeting on December 14 at SAP Center. The Kraken will also be San Jose’s final opponent of the season, wrapping up on April 29, 2022 at Climate Pledge Arena.