Who Seattle Kraken will turn to fill void left by Brandon Tanev injury
It happened with just under four minutes left in the 5-3 Seattle Kraken loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Dec. 18, but the team will be feeling it moving forward.
Left wing Brandon Tanev took a hit deep behind the Oilers net and fell to the ice, and he needed assistance to skate to the bench and down the Seattle tunnel. He has yet to return to the ice, and the team announced Tuesday that the forward was on injured reserve and would miss the remainder of the season with an ACL injury.
Tanev’s loss is a big one for a team that hasn’t started its inaugural season the way it hoped. The Kraken have been inconsistent, are in danger of being buried in the standings, and have had to navigate several COVID-19 breakouts.
Losing Tanev will be costly. He was sixth in scoring for the Kraken, a key penalty killer, and led the team in hits. Tanev was scoring, as well; the nine goals he has through 30 games is third on the team and had him on pace for a career high.
Beyond that, he’s a high-energy player who goes hard on every shift and was becoming a leader on the team.
“I don’t think there’s a single guy that can replace Tanev,” Seattle Kraken center Yanni Gourde said after practice Sunday. “It’s really unfortunate but injuries happen, so we’re all going to have to do a little bit more and bring your energy level up a little bit more, your emotion level a little bit higher, every single night because that guy does it every single night. So everybody’s gonna have to step in and take a little bit.”
The hole that Tanev leaves is twofold.
His play and production on the ice will need to be made up for, but so will his leadership and energy.
“I’ve always been a strong believer that when you lose guys, you win by committee,” Kraken right wing Jordan Eberle said. “Individuals have to raise their play and other guys are gonna get more opportunities… so you’re just gonna have to find a way to win with whatever roster you’ve got. And the most competitive team is the one that’s going to pull that off. It’s always been a next man up mentality and that’s what we have to have here.”
It will take more than one guy to step in and make up for what the Kraken have lost. Barring any setbacks – four recent Kraken games have been postponed so far while they and the rest of the league deal with COVID-19 outbreaks – Seattle will get its first chance Wednesday when the Philadelphia Flyers are scheduled to come to Climate Pledge Arena.
Which players on the Kraken roster will be the most likely to step up and bring some of what Tanev did? As Gourde said, no one player is going to do it, but perhaps a combination of guys can get close.
The Kraken have players on the roster that possess some of the skills Tanev has, and some will get more ice time and a higher role in his absence. Can they come together and make up the difference in the aggregate?
Here are the best candidates to do so.
• Colin Blackwell
The 28-year-old Blackwell has had a rough start to the season. He began the year injured and then went on the COVID-19 list prior to the holiday break. As a result, he’s only played in eight games for the Kraken.
Blackwell had a breakout season in 2020-21, setting career-high numbers in goals (12), assists (10) and points (22) in 47 games with the New York Rangers, which made him attractive in the NHL Expansion Draft.
He doesn’t have the same size as Tanev, but he’s got the speed and energy so he can play similar roles. In eight games, Blackwell has scored twice for Seattle, including a spectacular goal on Dec. 3 that ignited the Climate Pledge crowd in a 4-3 win over Edmonton.
drop an emoji to describe blackwell's backhander ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/9y39FmlDAr
— Seattle Kraken (@SeattleKraken) December 4, 2021
Blackwell is off the COVID list and should be back in the lineup Wednesday.
• Ryan Donato
Donato has given the Kraken production already and has scored a goal in each of his last three outings.
Early in the season Donato was often a healthy scratch, but he has earned more playing time as of late. He’s rewarded the Kraken with strong play and timely scoring. He isn’t as physical as Tanev so he won’t be able to fill that void, but if he can continue his hot scoring, the loss of Tanev won’t be as tough.
you love to SEA it pic.twitter.com/44zBOPrJX2
— Seattle Kraken (@SeattleKraken) December 15, 2021
Like Tanev, Donato has played up and down the lineup and on the power play. Unfortunately for the Kraken, Donato was placed on the COVID list over the weekend so they will have to wait to see if he can continue his hot play.
• Calle Jarnkrok
After potting 10-plus goals in six straight seasons, Jarkrok has struggled to find production with the Kraken. He started the season in COVID protocol and was slowed early. Since returning to the lineup, he’s scored just twice in 19 games.
Like the others, Jarnkrok is not as physical as Tanev and won’t elicit fear on the forecheck, but he does have a scoring touch. If he can find that moving forward, he can make up for Tanev’s departure.
• Mason Appleton
Like Blackwell, it’s been a tough start to the season for Appleton. He’s a physical power forward who can and is not afraid to throw his body around. He’s dealt with injuries and was also just placed on the COVID list.
Once off, he will hit and has shown a bit of scoring ability with a pair of goals and six points in 19 games with the Kraken.
• Alex True
The former Seattle Thunderbird was an AHL call-up to fill in for COVID losses. He has scored this season with the Charlotte Checkers (seven goals, 11 assists in 22 games) but is still unproven in the NHL.
True doesn’t have close to the speed Tanev does but he can be physical on the forecheck and deep in the zone. True has killed penalties in the past but has not had a look with the Kraken yet. Will he be a guy who takes advantage of a chance to play more?