KRAKEN

The Seattle Kraken Core: The 6 players who will be household names

Jul 23, 2021, 1:08 PM | Updated: 1:19 pm

The expansion draft is in the books, and while the opening night roster may look slightly different, the core of the Seattle Kraken is in place.

Seattle Kraken schedule released: See the inaugural season here

This is by no means an attempt to project the starters – especially because coaches often vary which line will be on the ice to begin a game – but there are six to a side, so here is a look at the guys who should become household names by the time the home opener arrives on Oct. 23.

Goalie: Chris Driedger

The goalie is the single most important player on the ice, and night in and night out they are the most scrutinized player on a team. Games can be stolen, playoff runs sparked, and opponents frustrated to the point of snapping sticks if a goalie gets hot.

The Kraken have been in on Driedger for months, and signing him to a three-year, $10.5 million deal essentially committed to him as the primary man in net. Having him fly in for the expansion draft and staying at a hotel under an alias also shows they might have been pretty serious about this guy. He is just 27 years old and got valuable playoff reps during three games in net for the Florida Panthers against the eventual Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

Defenseman: Jamie Oleksiak

If the 6-foot-7 frame isn’t enough to sell you, the “Big Rig” moniker surely will. The Kraken signed Oleksiak to a five-year deal, and he will be the guy who opposing players become quite familiar with.

Oleksiak embraces the physicality of the game (when typing his name into Google the first autofill option is “Jamie Oleksiak fights”) and can be the standard for the Kraken defensemen. He was a key piece of Dallas’s run to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final, finishing with nine points (five goals, four assists) on 40 shots, plus 65 blocked shots and 117 hits.

Defenseman: Mark Giordano

No team needs an identity more than an expansion team, and the soon to be 38-year-old Giordano has proven he is a leader during his 15 seasons with the Calgary Flames, including eight as the team captain. Despite his age, Giordano will undoubtedly carry the chip on his shoulder that comes with being an undrafted player and the subsequent will and drive it takes to play 949 games in the NHL.

The title of captain carries tremendous weight on an NHL team and it’s a role that will be essential on a team that doesn’t get the benefit of years of experience playing and growing together on and off the ice. Oh, and the guy can still play, too. He won the Norris Trophy – given to the league’s best defenseman – two seasons ago.

Forward: Yanni Gourde

It will be a delayed debut for Gourde as he had shoulder surgery a few days before the draft and is expected back in November, but there are plenty of reasons why the Lightning and their fans were devastated to lose the 29 year old.

Gourde was the center on the Lightning’s grit-and-grind third line, the one that would often start games in order to immediately jump in and wear down opponents with gnat-like tenacity. He also built a reputation as a clutch playoff performer, scoring seven goals in 25 games in the 2020 playoffs and six goals in 23 games this past season, including a short-handed goal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final that proved to be the difference in a 1-0 Lightning win.

Forward: Jordan Eberle

He flitted between the top line and second line on a loaded Islanders team but has the experience and scoring prowess to slot in on the Kraken top line. Eberle’s point production slightly decreased the last few seasons, but that seems to be more to the effect of the plethora of scoring options the Islanders had in the midst of back-to-back trips to the conference finals.

Like Gourde, Eberle elevated his game in the playoffs, racking up 14 points during the 2019-20 postseason, including an overtime game winner in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Forward: Mason Appleton

Potential and upside are the kind of buzzwords thrown around when talking about Appleton. A likely first- or second-line right winger, the 25-year old is coming off the best season of his NHL career. He played in all 56 games last year for Winnipeg, racking up career highs with 12 goals and 13 assists. That continued the upward trajectory Appleton has displayed in his three NHL seasons.

The Las Vegas Golden Knights were lauded for their run to the Stanley Cup Finals in their first year in 2017-18, and their offensive spark that year was 24-year-old William Karlsson, who went from 25 points with Columbus the year before to a whopping 78. Appleton might be ready for a similar breakout.

Mike Lefko is producer of 710 ESPN Seattle’s Wyman and Bob, a regular host of the pregame and postgame shows on the Mariners Radio Network, and one of 710’s resident hockey experts. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLefko.

More Seattle Kraken coverage from 710Sports.com

The Breakdown: A close look at all 30 Kraken expansion draft picks
Chris Driedger: ‘No-brainer’ joining Seattle Kraken on new contract
• NHL insider Frank Seravalli: Kraken will be ‘difficult to play against’
• Kraken expansion draft: Side deals absent, salary cap clear priority
NHL insider Chris Johnston: Expect several Kraken trades after draft

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