ESPN NHL expert: How Seattle Kraken will approach expansion draft, what early expectations are
Jul 17, 2021, 9:56 AM
We’re only a few days away from finding out who will be playing for the Seattle Kraken in their inaugural season.
That’s right, the Kraken’s expansion draft is set for Wednesday, July 21, and the list of players who will be protected and unprotected by teams across the league will be finalized over the weekend.
Someone who’s locked in to the Kraken and the rest of the NHL is Greg Wyshynski, who is a senior NHL writer for ESPN.
He joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake and Stacy this week to discuss the expansion draft, early expectations for the Kraken as well as some insight into the mind of the team’s head coach. Here’s some of what Wyshynski had to say.
Hakstol learned from Flyers tenure, matches GM’s philosophy
The Seattle Kraken named Dave Hakstol, a former University of North Dakota head coach who later was head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers, as the first head coach in franchise history.
Wyshynski recently talked to Hakstol about the new gig and what he learned from his first run as a head coach in the NHL and shared some of that with Jake and Stacy.
“It’s much different than his first gig with the Philadelphia Flyers as a head coach when he made the jump from the University of North Dakota to the National Hockey League because you’re taking over a team with players that have been in place for a long time,” Wyshynski said. “… Obviously in interviewing for this job, it becomes more philosophical. ‘How do you intend to build the team? How do you intend to coach these games?’ and that sort of thing.”
Hakstol’s philosophies, Wyshynski said, appear to line up well with what Kraken general manager Ron Francis, a Hall of Fame center, is looking for in building this franchise.
“We actually joked about the fact that the players Ron Francis seems to be looking for are in fact (like) Ron Francis when he was playing,” Wyshynski said. “Smart, high IQ, tenacious, somewhat gritty players. He has a sense of what the team is looking for and I think his style and his outlook kind of align with where the Kraken are.”
Wyshynski said that he also got the feeling that Hakstol is reflective and understands why his Flyers tenure didn’t go as well as anyone would have liked. Hakstol’s teams made the playoffs twice, but they failed to make it out of the first round. One area Wyshynski said that Hakstol appeared to be focusing on is communicating with all players regardless of their place in the lineup.
“That’s a real key for an expansion team,” Wyshynski said. “You’re not coming into this thing with four or five guys that are going to be your voice in the room. You’re not coming into this thing with four or five guys who are stars you build the team around. You don’t know anything about the team yet.”
How the Kraken will approach the expansion draft
Teams are in the process of finalizing which players will be protected and unprotected in next week’s expansion draft.
Wyshynski said teams likely will go out of their way to protect bigger-named players, but that the Kraken will still have the ability to select high-quality players in this draft. Part of that is because of how the Las Vegas Golden Knights built their team in their expansion draft in 2017. It’s worth noting that the Kraken’s expansion draft has the same rules as Vegas’ draft.
That means that teams will have the choice of protecting either seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, or eight skaters (forwards and defensemen) and one goalie.
Wyshynski thinks Seattle will do what Vegas did, which is load up on as many quality defensemen as possible.
“And then the question then becomes how many of them will they carry into the season?” he said. “How many of them do they immediately turn around and try to trade?”
Between their expansion draft and the start of their inaugural season, the Golden Knights traded a few of those defensemen for picks or other players.
Wyshynski sees defensemen and “quality goaltending” as the two key targets for the Kraken in the expansion draft.
“And then we’re gonna see what’s out there at the forward spot,” he said.
The Golden Knights, Wyshynski said, found some contributors at forward in the draft, but they made trades using “the leverage of the draft” to gain “really good players up front.”
“What might be the best path for Seattle is use the leverage they have in this expansion draft and force teams to give them some good quality players up front,” he said.
Despite not knowing yet who is officially protected and unprotected, Wyshynski said that Francis likely has a good understanding of the landscape because of conversations with opposing general managers over the last few months. Those conversations may very well lead to some trades in the near future as well.
“You have to remember that a lot of the conversations he’s been having with teams for the last two months have been about players teams may be forced to leave unprotected, and how do we ensure that you guys don’t take them,” Wyshynski said. “And (the two sides) make those little side deals and all that stuff that happened in the Vegas draft.”
What are early expectations for the Seattle Kraken?
The Golden Knights came out of the gate red hot and in four seasons have made the playoffs every year and have made three Western Conference Finals appearances. They also made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in their inaugural season.
Whether the Kraken will have that kind of success and lead them to being a marquee franchise early remains to be seen, Wyshynski said, but he believes Seattle will try and be a key player right away.
“This ownership group is going to spend,” he said. “They’ll spend a lot and it wouldn’t shock me to see them potentially dabble in unrestricted free agency if there’s somebody that’s there this management group thinks can really help this team straight away.”
Wyshynski also believes that Seattle is a very desirable landing spot for players in the expansion draft, free agency and trade, which could help the Kraken out early on. But more than anything, the expansion draft is key in how the start of the franchise goes, especially when it comes to one key position.
“If you go back to Vegas, a lot that depends on who’s going to be in goal for you because Marc-André Fleury was the MVP for them in their inaugural season,” Wyshynski said. “You need really good goaltending, I think, to give a foundation and a base to whatever you’re going to build for the rest of the team.”
But luckily for Seattle, Wyshynski said, the team plays in a favorable division.
“The fact of the matter is they’re going to be placed in a Pacific Division that is not insurmountable insofar as trying to make the playoffs if you’re a competitive team right off the bat,” he said.
Listen to the interview with Wyshynski at this link or in the player below.