NHL Draft: Kraken's biggest needs, top prospects
After watching how the Vegas Golden Knights handled expansion, the Seattle Kraken took the slow and steady path, looking more like the expansion clubs of old. They struggled from start to finish, but have managed to acquire a dearth of draft picks. This year that will include the fourth overall pick and four picks in the second round. The crown jewel in Seattle’s organization is 2021 second overall selection Matty Beniers. Behind Beniers, there is far less certainty in the Kraken’s depth charts. They’ll look to address much of that at the draft.
Matty Beniers, C: Seattle took an interesting gamble burning a year of Bernier’s entry-level contract to insert him into the final 10 games of a losing campaign, in which he recorded nine points. His resume this season includes representing the USA at the Olympics, leading the Big 10 in scoring and being named a First Team All-American with Michigan. Next year, Beniers will immediately be tasked with a top-six role where his intelligence will make him an early Calder Trophy contender.
Ryker Evans, D: When the Seattle Kraken selected Evans 35th overall in 2021, many thought the team had made a blunder in their first draft reaching for the left-shot defenseman well ahead of his ranking. This season, however, Evans looked like a high-end offensive defender, and once he adds strength, he could make Seattle’s scouting staff look like they knew his potential all along. Evans likes to jump into, and sometimes lead, the rush, which propelled the blueliner to 61 points in 63 games with the WHL's Regina Pats this year. He will head to the AHL next season where his all-around game will be challenged.
Ryan Winterton, C: Selected 67th overall by Seattle last year, Winterton missed all of 2020-21 campaign due to the pandemic and then started this year shelved by a shoulder injury. Upon his return, however, Winterton quickly shook off the rust scoring more than a point per game in the regular season and playoffs for the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs. He’s a prospect a few seasons out from his NHL debut, but Winterton is trending in the right direction.
One to watch
In need of depth in their prospect pool, Seattle dipped into the European free agent market signing 21-year-old defender Peetro Seppälä. A member of Finland’s U18 and world junior roster in recent years, Seppälä is not an unknown, but he didn’t show well at international tournaments. Now 6-foot-2 and with two seasons of Liiga play under his belt, Seppälä jumped from eight points in 39 games as a rookie, to 29 points in 57 games this year. If he fares well early next season in the AHL, Seppälä could earn his first NHL action. Or, if things don’t go as planned, he could be a one-and-done trial.
Ready to step in
While Beniers is the logical choice and will certainly be in Seattle next season carving out his reputation as a star in the making, it’s a pair of affordable depth options Seattle will likely pencil in to bottom-six roles to begin the season. Kole Lind and Alex True have paid their dues in the AHL and are ready for a full-time opportunity. Lind had an extended stint in Seattle this year, giving him the edge in this race, but True will be in the fight for a fourth-line position as well.
Needs at the draft
Everything. Seattle’s prospect pool is shallow after only a single draft. The team needs to stock up on picks and hope that a few hit. The Kraken select fourth at the draft which could put them in a prime position to address organizational depth on the blueline. Evans is their top defensive prospect, but the team does not have a future cornerstone on the back end. That could change should the team use their pick to select Czechian David Jiricek or Slovak Simon Nemec. Different players in what they offer, both are projected as future top-pairing defenders. When GM Ron Francis steps to the microphone in July, don’t be surprised to see one of these European prospects announced.
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