What’s going into Brandon Tanev’s surprise breakout start for the Seattle Kraken?
During the first period of last Tuesday’s game between the Seattle Kraken and the Montreal Canadiens, Brandon Tanev crashed the opposing net, as he usually does. Jamie Oleksiak had the puck deep and flung it on goal where Tanev expertly deflected the puck at the goal’s doorstep for a go-ahead score.
He would add a second goal later that night and another in a 4-1 win against the Minnesota Wild two days later.
Heading into Monday’s game in Edmonton, Tanev led the team with six goals. He scored seven all last year and he’s never scored more than 14 – as he did for the Winnipeg Jets in 2018-2019.
When the Kraken selected the 29-year-old Toronto native off the Pittsburgh Penguins at the NHL Expansion Draft, they weren’t looking for him to necessarily be a goal scorer. He was thought of as a high-energy guy who would solidify a third or fourth checking line.
So, what gives?
“I think it’s just confidence and the coaches surrounding me with great players,” Tanev said after last Tuesday’s win over Montreal, where he scored two goals. “It’s not all on me making plays. I think it’s the guys on the ice, we saw that tonight. Jamie Oleksiak made an amazing play and I’m in a fortunate spot to get a bounce…it’s a great group we have here.”
He’s scoring goals by playing a fast game and putting himself in prime scoring position. That speed and the tenacity on ice has his teammates referring to him as “Turbo.”
Once there, he’s displayed quick hands and a finishing touch.
“He’s a guy that plays with pace. He plays hard and with passion,” Seattle Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said. “Every shift is confident and when he has an opportunity, he expects to be able to find the back of the net. It’s not like he’s just out there hoping or looking for an offensive opportunity, he works 200 feet. So usually when you do that, good things happen. And that’s the way he’s been generating.”
Tanev’s newfound goal-scoring prowess has elevated him to the Kraken’s top line where he’s played the past three games. While Hakstol loves the goal production, Tanev’s game brings so much more to the table.
Tanev is affecting all areas of the ice for the Kraken
When he’s on the ice, Tanev plays the stereotypical 200-foot game.
That descriptor has become cliché in coach speak, but in this case it’s apt. Tanev is a fierce forechecker, plays responsibly in the neutral zone, and defensive zone. He’s helped the Seattle Kraken have the league’s third-best penalty kill and heading into Monday hadn’t been on the ice for a power-play goal against.
Tanev’s underlying numbers are equally impressive.
When he’s on the ice at 5-on-5, the Seattle Kraken get more shot attempts than the opponents. They also create more scoring chances and a higher quality shot rate. His expected goal percentage – a metric that looks at the quantity and quality of shot attempts – is a strong 55 percent. He’s been on the ice for 24 high danger attempts and just 14 against.
Tanev entered Monday’s game shooting an absurd 30 percent. His career percentage is 11 but he is generating over two shots on goal per game. While his pace of scoring will regress closer to his career shooting numbers, he’s still off to a start that will most likely result in a career-high in goals.
That will boost the Kraken efforts as they continue to look for consistent secondary scoring.
Scoring goals starts with controlling the puck and even if he isn’t scoring goals, Tanev is helping the Kraken create chances.
Quickly becoming a fan favorite
Thanks to his “I saw a ghost” team photos, Tanev was already one of the more popular players on the Kraken roster.
WHO ELSE BUT NO. 13 pic.twitter.com/hlxEdDnuzC
— Brandon Gustafson (@TheBGustafson) October 27, 2021
Now it’s his game that’s drawing attention.
His No. 13 jerseys are becoming more common in the stands and it’s not hard to figure out why. Tanev is always skating at full speed and by the way, he leads the team in hits, which is always a crowd-pleaser.
“It’s a big part of my game,” Tanev said. “Playing fast, playing physical and anytime you’re able to get in and make a hit or a big play we’ve had reactions from the fans. That’s the atmosphere we want here at Climate Pledge and the fans are doing an unbelievable job with that.”
The Kraken have taken to having the three stars of the game throw plush fish into the crowd after home games. Tanev has done it twice already and if he continues to play a complete game, he’ll become a fish-throwing fixture.