The Seattle Kraken had an underwhelming debut season in the NHL last year, but things should be markedly improved in year number two.
When the Seattle Kraken entered the league, there was plenty of intrigue around how the NHL’s 32nd team would perform after the surprising fairy tale beginning the last expansion team, the Vegas Golden Knights, had in 2017-18.
While the Golden Knights took the league by storm and charged all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals, falling to the Alexander Ovechkin-led Washington Capitals in five games, the Kraken nearly bottomed out and finished with the third-worst record (27-49-6, 60pts) in the entire league.
The team struggled to get much goaltending in their first NHL season, with Chris Driedger posting a 2.96 goals against average and a .899 save percentage in 27 games, along with Philipp Grubauer’s 3.16 GAA and .889 Sv% in 55 games.
Fast forward to the beginning of September, however, and the future is already looking brighter for Ron Francis and Dave Hakstol, with faces old and new set to have a big impact on the team in the 2022-23 season.
Firstly, the Kraken were gifted the second overall pick in the 2021 Draft and landed arguably the best forward prospect that year in Matty Beniers, who excelled at the University of Michigan both before and after being selected.
Beniers featured in ten games with the Kraken to end the season, registering nine points (three goals, six assists) during that stretch – failing to register a point in just one of his appearances, earning five-game and four-game point-scoring runs during his brief stint and giving fans a glimpse of the future.
This season, Beniers projects to feature heavily in the Kraken’s top six, cementing himself as a regular NHLer while hopefully continuing the impressive showing he had at the end of last year, and he won’t be alone.
The Kraken saw the need to upgrade on offense and added some genuine talent in André Burakovsky and Oliver Bjorkstrand, who are expected to play on either side of Beniers on what could develop into a formidable top offensive line.
From there, the Kraken still have quality offensive players in Jordan Eberle and Jared McCann returning, but they have also added a player who could become a genuine star in the NHL and give the team a solid one-two punch through the middle for years to come.
Shane Wright was viewed by many to be the top overall prospect available in this year’s draft, right up until the week of the draft where talk began to turn to the possibility that he would not be taken first overall by the Montreal Canadiens.
This came to pass when the Canadiens selected Juraj Slafkovský, and Wright took a surprising tumble down to the Kraken in fourth after seeing Šimon Nemec (NJD) and Logan Cooley (ARI) selected ahead of him; a tumble that hugely benefits the Kraken.
Beniers may start the 2022-23 campaign as the Kraken’s top-line center, but if Wright develops as expected and he turns into the player he was largely viewed as before his draft fall, then he could overtake him for that role and establish himself fully in the NHL.
Regardless of who plays more this season, the Kraken should be a far more serious threat to opposing teams in the league with additions that have been made on offense.
Goaltending will still be the focus for the team moving forward, with the addition of Martin Jones giving them Kraken more options should either Driedger or Grubauer struggle, but even so we should see a far more competitive team thanks to some smart off-season moves.