- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
The Seattle Kraken are about to embark on their first season in the NHL, and there's a lot of intriguing storylines.
Prior to 2017, almost every expansion team across almost every sport entered the league and were downright bad. They were expected to take their lumps their first few years. But in 2017, the Vegas Golden Knights joined the NHL and had a tremendous regular season and made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.
Is it fair to compare the Kraken to the Golden Knights? Do we expect the Kraken to fall all the way back to what expansion teams used to be? It's an interesting question that will get responses on both sides of the equation.
Currently, the Kraken's over/under for points in the regular season is set at 92.5 points on BetMGM. Odds on them making the playoffs currently sit at -125.
Seattle has clearly adapted the mantra of building your team from the back-end out. The Kraken selected goaltender Chris Driedger from Florida during the expansion draft. They then signed Philipp Grubauer in free agency.
Driedger took over as the starter in Florida for portions of last season, but he was deemed expendable due to Sergei Bobrovsky's contract and Spencer Knight's potential and draft pedigree. Last season, Driedger ranked 10th in GSAx (goals saved above expectation) and tied for 4th in save percentage among all goalies across the league.
Grubauer comes over after a season where he was nominated for the Vezina Trophy for league's best goaltender. Grubauer finished the season ranked 15th in GSAx and 8th in save percentage. He tied for the league lead in shutouts. Colorado tried to re-sign Grubauer but couldn't come to terms.
With Driedger and Grubauer in the picture, Seattle has one of the best goaltending duos in the league already. Over the past decade, the league has shifted more in favor of using two goalies rather than having a workhorse No. 1 goaltender. Seattle now has that luxury and few teams can compete with their duo.
Mark Giordano is just over two years removed from winning the Norris Trophy as the league's best defenseman, but at the age of 38 it's hard to envision him returning to that form. However, he is still a top pairing defenseman in this league and gives the Kraken a leader for their defensive core.
Behind Giordano, the Kraken have a plethora of options that would be considered solid second pair defensemen. Jamie Oleksiak, Vince Dunn and Adam Larsson all have differing skillsets that could be mixed-and-matched to form a formidable top-four on the backend. Pairing the defensive prowess of Larsson with Dunn's ability to transition the puck seems like a good match.
Behind their top four, it seems like Carson Soucy and Haydn Fleury will get first crack at starting on the bottom pair. Both are intriguing options who have potential to grow into more. If either or both falter, Jeremy Lauzon and Dennis Cholowski have flashed their abilities in previous stops during their NHL careers.
Seattle has a more than capable defensive unit. They might be lacking the true game changer on the top pair, but they make up for it by being able to 8-deep with solid NHL options. A lack of depth defensively can sink a season, and Seattle won't have that issue.
The forward group is the biggest concern with the Seattle Kraken, however, there's three important factors that I'd consider before judging them too heavily.
First and foremost, what this team lacks in star power, it makes up for in depth. It might not have a transcendent elite talent on the top line but they can roll four lines with players capable of putting up 30-plus points. Over the past few seasons, teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders have made deep runs and a big reason for that is the depth of their forward groups. Sure, Seattle doesn't have a Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point or Mathew Barzal, but they should be able to survive without a star due to their depth.
Secondly, opportunity will increase for a lot of these players. We saw Jared McCann post 32 points in 43 games with Pittsburgh last season in mainly a third-line role. Can he extrapolate that to 60 points with more ice time and better linemates? Jordan Eberle, Jaden Schwartz, Alex Wennberg and Marcus Johansson all have posted seasons of at least 58 points in recent memory. Gourde will begin the season injured, but the other three have proven to be capable of producing in this league.
Third, the forwards on this team have almost all proven to be defensively responsible. Even the most talented players like Gourde, Schwartz and Eberle either killed penalties or played in defense-first systems on their previous teams. Calle Jarnkrok, Brandon Tanev, Riley Sheahan and Mason Appleton were all checking line players on their previous teams.
Plus, this Kraken team has the depth to wear teams down. There will definitely be a few players who make the most of their increased role and develop into a household name, such as William Karlsson did during Vegas' first season.
When looking through Seattle's roster, they reminded me a bit of an off-brand version of the New York Islanders. There's less talent here than the Islanders possess, and Dave Hakstol is nowhere near the coach that Barry Trotz is. However, just like the Islanders, I expect Seattle to prioritize keeping the puck out of their net and being able to score just enough to win. They will wear teams down. These teams are often underrated by the betting market because they're harder to quantify.
The Pacific Division is the worst division in hockey. At least three teams will make the playoffs from this division due to the NHL's structure. I think we can put Vegas down in ink and then pencil in Edmonton. Beyond those teams, it's anyone's guess. I think Seattle is a better team than both the Flames and the Canucks, so I'd lean toward betting on them to make the playoffs at -125.
In terms of over or under 92.5 points, this number has come down after opening at 94.5 points. I project Seattle to finish right around the 93-94 point mark that is usually required to make the playoffs. I wouldn't fault anyone for staying away, but I'd lean over the current number of 92.5 points.
Stats from Evolving-Hockey and Pro-Hockey-Reference.