Professional hockey returns to the city of Seattle in 106 years and it’s been almost three weeks since the NHL Expansion Draft. Kraken General Manager Ron Francis is still making acquisitions to the roster only two months before the start of the 2021/2022 NHL Season. A lot hasn’t been set in the stone and what can we learn about the players selected not only for the inaugural season but the vision of the roster’s long-term future?
Narratives in the Expansion Draft
Four years earlier when the Vegas Golden Knights had their expansion draft, teams made the mistake of leaving their forwards unprotected for expansion draft. Flash forward to 2021 every team made sure not to make the same mistake twice by leaving their forwards unprotected. They protected their forwards alright but failed to protect their defenders. This is where analysts found the players Francis and his scouting network chose to pick for the expansion draft intriguing. He opted to build the roster with a defensive mindset. Half the roster of the picks were players whose age ranged from 22 to 25. This doesn’t bother Francis and for good reasons. They only needed a few veterans sprinkled in to the chemistry.
Some of the experienced veterans picked was goaltender Chris Driedger. They picked solid defenders in players such as Jamie Oleksiak, Mark Giordano, and Adam Larsson. Even in the offense the Kraken selected reliable offensive players in centers such as Calle Jarnkrok, Mason Appleton, Collin Blackwell, and Yanni Gourde. They also selected proven wingers such as Brandon Tanev, Jordan Eberle, and Joonas Donskoi.
Building A Foundation for The Long Term
Now the players the Kraken in the draft may not sound like the flashiest or well-known players except Mark Giordano who spent 15 years with the Calgary Flames. That’s okay. Much like how the Seattle Sounders started in MLS back in 2009 the players they selected besides Kasey Keller and Freddie Ljungberg were unproven and unknown. Players such as Fredy Montero, Ozzie Alonso, Brad Evans, and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado would set the foundation in the early years. As time went on and the club became more successful, management was able to sign higher expensive talent built off the backs from those players successful on-field contributions in the early years.
The Kraken likely want to do similar. Having veterans in Giordano, Tanev, Driedger, Gourde, and Oleksiak around motivates younger players on the team such as Jeremy Lauzon, brothers Cale and Haydn Fleury, Carsen Tarwynski, Alexander True, Morgan Geekie, and Kole Lind to carry the mantle for the team’s hopeful success in the long term.
Much like how Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher were relative unknowns to Hollywood before Star Wars: A New Hope was released to theaters in 1977. If the Kraken find success not just the inaugural season but in the early years, these players could build that foundation of success. That’s a smart way to build an expansion franchise keeping long term success in mind too.
The Kraken aren’t looking to acquire the greatest the most expensive players in the league right out of the gate. They are looking to have long term success and have looked for players who are workhorses, blue collared, reliable, dependable, and unproven who can cement their careers and legacies in Seattle. They have learned from the Knights quick ascension to sudden downfall.
Nothing Set in Stone
Francis and his scouting department aren’t done. They have made signings of players in free agency such as Jaden Schwartz, Alexander Wennberg, and Philipp Grubauer. The Kraken likely won the best player in the college draft class of 2021 picking Matty Beniers from the University of Michigan although he has the option to stay at Michigan for another year or he could sign a professional contract. Either way the Kraken have his player rights. A lot still could happen but assessing the roster now so far, the Kraken have made right moves. Only way to find out if it’s truly paid off will be on October 12 at T-Mobile Arena.