Potential Kraken Line Combinations
Seattle has drafted some high end talent and they've now made some UFA signings as well. What can we expect the Kraken opening night roster look like as it stands today?
First let's look at the key adds that Seattle made so far:
Shane Wright: The 4th overall pick in the NHL 2022 Entry Draft. Wright is a natural centre and a right shot. We do not yet know for certain if he will play in the NHL this season but he has signed his ELC contract. Wright could slot in as a centre or also be used as a winger.
Justin Schultz: A third pairing offensive minded defenseman capable of producing on the powerplay.
Andre Burakovsky: A skilled top six forward capable of scoring 20+ goals a season while playing a 200 foot game.
With these in mind, here are the lines I would roll out.
Schwartz - Gourde - Eberle
The "top line" for the Seattle Kraken is more aptly the veteran line. This would be the line that Seattle should roll out against the toughest competition every night. This gives Beniers and Wright a better chance to grow and improve without having to shoulder all the heavy lifting. This forwards all played for the Kraken last season and spent ample time with on another, giving the team a solid sense of familiarity.
Burakovsky - Beniers - Donskoi
The second line has some interesting potential as well as some clear risk. Beniers will turn 20 at the beginning of November and has already in a brief stint showed his ability (3-6-9) in 10 games last season. Beniers will likely get a look at centre before Wright, being a year older. The biggest concern with Beniers right now will be faceoffs, meaning this line should not be put out for defensive zone draws. Alongside Burakovsky and Donskoi this line should try and take on other second lines and try and get the more favorable matchups. Donskoi I believe is the least fit for this role but he should bounce back from his terrible 2 goal campaign and return to at the least being a 12-15 goal player.
McCann - Wennberg - Wright
It's crazy to put the top scorer from last season onto the third line but that speaks to the depth that the team has brought in since. McCann should feast in these minutes alongside the defensive specialist Wennberg. Both of these players, natural centres should be great mentors for the young Wright. Wright can focus on his offensive game, taking some more favorable faceoff matchups while McCann and Wennberg can shoulder the tougher responsibilities. As the season progresses, McCann can be bumped up in the lineup, especially if Beniers struggles or Wright could be bumped up as well, perhaps to take a centre position in the top six. Instead of being the third line, this could be viewed more as line 2A as I see time split fairly evenly between this and the Beniers line.
Tanev - Geekie - Kuhlman/Hayden
Tanev became a fan favorite quickly in Seattle after getting off to a torrid early goal pace before being sidelined with injury. Last season, Tanev was playing top six minutes with the lack of other offense but now he is in his rightful spot as a bottom six energy player. Morgan Geekie still has not emerged as a legitimate offensive option yet and will continue to (hopefully) succeed in outscoring bottom six opposition. Meanwhile Kuhlman and Hayden both will challenge for spots in the lineup every night, as will a guy like Kole Lind.
Dunn - Larsson
The Kraken have not yet replaced the hole left by Mark Giordano; a left shot defender that can play top four minutes. John Klingberg remains the best UFA option available but right now it doesn't seem like the Kraken are moving that way. Dunn remains a streaky player who on some nights looks like a #1 and other nights looks like he should be healthy scratched. Pairing him with a defensive stalwart like Larsson hopefully will hide some of the warts of his game.
Oleksiak - Schultz
Again, this is a scenario of using a defensive player to cover up for a player who makes defensive zone mistakes. Schultz was only averaging about 16 minutes a game last season but the previous seasons was playing closer to 20. Oleksiak, while a right shot can play either side and played a fair amount of the left side last season.
Soucy - Borgen/Fleury
Soucy is the next most likely option to step up and play top four minutes but in a perfect world he is an excellent shutdown option on the third pairing. With Borgen or Fleury beside him this is a duo that should be able to maintain possession and limit the goals against.
Any chance of the Kraken becoming at the very least a threat to make the playoffs will occur only if Grubauer has a massive bounceback season. Both netminders struggled throughout the season last year. Grubs needs to start strong and Jones needs to provide at least somewhat steady backup duty until Driedger comes back and also needs to come back strong. We won't know what these goalies will look like until we see them back in action.
The biggest needs of this Kraken roster are a top nine right winger and a top four left shot defender. This isn't to say that is all that is needed to win a Cup or even just to make the playoffs. Those are simply the most glaring holes at the moment, without factoring in the growth and natural struggles of young potentially elite players like Wright and Beniers. Regardless this is a deeper Kraken team than their inaugural season and should win plenty more games.