Photo: Bleacher Report
Now that the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft and a majority of player movement across the NHL has passed, many can start projecting the 23-man opening night lineups for every team, including the first-year Seattle Kraken. Some moves have yet to be made as they currently have 32 players on their roster, including four goalies.
However, we can pencil in the most critical players on the team by the time they take the ice at T-Mobile Arena for their first game against the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday, October 12. NoVa Caps takes a stab at projecting the 32nd team’s opening night roster.
Jaden Schwartz — Jarred McCann — Jordan Eberle
With center Yanni Gourde out for the first two months of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery, McCann will be the Kraken’s top center between Schwartz and Eberle. McCann finished with at least 28 points for the third consecutive year and tied his career-high in goals with 14 last season with the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he also finished with 32 points in just 43 games. Schwartz signed a five-year contract and earned eight goals and 21 points in 40 games with the St. Louis Blues, while Eberle tallied 16 goals and 33 points in 55 games with the New York Islanders. McCann, 26, has never won 50% of the faceoffs he took in a season during his career and his personal best is 46.67% (set in 2018-19). Schwartz has earned at least 19 goals and 55 points in a season five times in his nine-season NHL career while Eberle has hit the 19-goal one seven and 50-point plateau five in his 11-season career.
Matty Beniers — Alexander Wennberg — Calle Jarnkrok
Berniers, the second overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft who put up 10 goals and 24 points in 24 games at the University of Michigan last season, is a natural center but will likely start the season on the wing if he is in a top-six role. Wennberg, 26, has never won 50% of the faceoffs he took in a season during his career but set a career-high (49.24%) last year, earned at least 23 assists four times in his seven-year career and 35 points three. He earned 17 goals and 29 points in 56 games with the Florida Panthers last season. Jarnkrok tied the Nashville Predators team-lead in goals with 13 last season. The 29-year-old has hit the double-digit-goal plateau in each of the past six seasons (hitting 15 in four of them) and 30-point plateau four times over that span.
Marcus Johansson — Mason Appleton — Joonas Donskoi
Appleton, 25, earned his place in the NHL last season when he set career-highs in goals (12), assists (13), points (25), and faceoff-winning percentage (53.85%) in 56 games with the Winnipeg Jets last season, his first full one in the big leagues. Appleton averaged 56 seconds on the penalty kill last season. Johansson hit the 17-assist and 30-point plateau in each of the two previous seasons (despite playing for three teams over that time) before earning six goals and 14 points in 36 games with the Minnesota Wild last season. The 30-year-old earned at least 44 points five times with the Washington Capitals. Donskoi set a career-high in goals (17) last season, where he finished with 31 points in 51 games with the Colorado Avalanche, and has hit the 31-point mark five times in his six-season NHL career.
Brandon Tanev — Morgan Geekie — Colin Blackwell
Tanev, 29, will serve as the Kraken’s energy forward as he has finished every one of his five full NHL seasons with at least 128 hits and hit the 240-mark in that category in each of the two previous seasons before 2020-21. In addition, he hit the double-digit goal mark in two consecutive seasons (2018-20) and the 25-point makr in each of them. Tanev led all Penguins forwards in shorthanded ice-time per game (2:24) last season. Geekie has six goals, 13 points, and a 52.8% winning percentage at the dot in 38 career NHL games, all with the Carolina Hurricanes over the past two seasons. He could be the odd-man-out once Gourde returns. Blackwell, 28, broke out to a full-time NHL player last season when he had 12 goals and 22 points in 47 games with the New York Rangers. He averaged 42 seconds per game on the Blueshirts’ penalty kill.
Extra: RW Nathan Bastian, C Alexander True
Other Options: RW Kole Lind, LW Carsen Twarynski
Mark Giordano — Adam Larsson
While averaging a Calgary Flames-high 22:57 per game (including 2:22 on the power play and 3:03 on the penalty kill), Giordano, 37, shows no signs of slowing down after posting nine goals, 26 points, a +5 rating, a 53.12% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, and a 52.63% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage in 56 games last season. He earned at least 38 points in six consecutive seasons from 2013-19, hitting the 47-point mark four times over that time (including 2018-19 when he earned career-highs in assists (57), points (74), and plus-minus (+39)).
Larsson, 28, recorded four goals, 10 points, a +2 rating, a 46% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, a 48.12% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 45.53% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 56 regular-season games with the Edmonton Oilers last season, when he averaged 19:39 per game (including 2:18 on the penalty kill). Larsson has earned at least 15 assists in a season five times in his nine-season career and has finished with a minus rating just twice after his rookie campaign.
Vince Dunn — Haydn Fleury
Dunn, 24, finished last season with six goals, 20 points, a -8 rating, a 49.35% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, 45.04% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 47.69% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 43 games where he averaged 19:15 per game, including 1:42 on the power play. Dunn has hit the 20-point plateau in each of his first four NHL seasons, including a 35-point campaign in 2018-19. He tallied a +30 rating in his first three seasons.
Fleury, 25, posted three goals, four points, a -6 rating, a 52.42% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, a 49.62% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 52.33% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 47 games with the Ducks and Hurricanes last season, when he averaged 15:24 of ice-time per game, including 1:14 on the penalty kill. Fleury is listed as a left-handed shot but has also played on the right in his NHL career.
Jamie Oleksiak – Carson Soucy
Oleksiak, 28, posted a career-high six goals, 14 points, a -3 rating, a 52.56% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, a 54.11% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 55.8% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 56 regular-season games with the Stars last season. The 6’7” blueliner averaged 20:29 per game, including 1:30 with a man down in 2020-21. After recording seven goals, 14 points, and a +16 rating in 55 games in 2019-20,
Soucy, 27, posted one goal, 17 points, a +22 rating, a 42.54% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, a 49.13% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 45.96% five-on-five scoring-chances for percentage in 50 games with the Minnesota Wild last season, when he averaged 15:17 per game (including 58 seconds on the penalty kill). Soucy was listed at 6’5″ prior to last season, giving the Kraken a big, mean, but responsible third-pairing on defense. Soucy is listed as a left-handed shooter.
Extra: LHD Jeremy Lauzon
Other Options: RHD Will Borgen, RHD Connor Carrick, LHD Dennis Cholowski, RHD Cale Fleury
The 29-year-old went 30-9-1 with a .922 save percentage, a 1.95 goals-against average, and seven shutouts with the Colorado Avalanche last season when he finished third in Vezina Trophy voting as the league’s top goaltender. Grubauer has not finished with a save percentage lower than .915 in his nine-season NHL career. He was the William Jennings Trophy alongside Braden Holtby with the Capitals in 2016-17.
The 27-year-old went 14-6-3 with a .929 save percentage, a 2.09 goals-against average, and three shutouts with the Florida Panthers last season. In 12 games in 2019-20, Driedger went 7-2-1 with a .938 save percentage, a 2.05 goals-against average, and a shutout. He took over the Panthers’ starting job last season.
Other Options: Joey Daccord, Antoine Bibeau
By Harrison Brown