The Optimist’s Guide to Seattle Kraken: 5 things providing hope
The Kraken hit a new low Wednesday night. They started slow then got better, but it wasn’t enough as they dropped their seventh game in a row with a 5-2 loss in Dallas.
Seattle Kraken still looking for consistency, chemistry after another long break
Seven straight losses is a season-high, or low, for the expansion franchise, and the frustration is starting to show.
“Enough is enough,” forward Jared McCann said in Dallas.
The season has not gone the way the Kraken had hoped, and with a 10-21-4 record for just 24 points in 35 games, the playoffs are no longer realistically in the picture.
It’s been rough for everyone associated with the team. On top of that, January is traditionally gloomy weather-wise in Seattle, and the hockey team isn’t helping.
But hope is not all lost. No, it’s not going to happen this year, but there are reasons to be optimistic for the future ahead. So, for one day, let’s embrace the positives, watch the clouds break, and let the sunshine in.
For all the glass half-full folks, this is for you. This is an optimist’s guide to the Seattle Kraken.
Jared McCann is blossoming
McCann scored his 15th goal Wednesday night to establish a new career-high in just 30 games, and he is well on his way to a career season.
He’s been the most consistent Kraken, he’s been versatile, and is still just 25 years old.
Playing the last three seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins, McCann was stuck. As a center with Pittsburgh, he found himself behind two future Hall of Famers in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. That limited his playing time and chances. Now with Seattle, he’s blossoming into the player that the Vancouver Canucks envisioned when they selected him in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft.
The goals and assists are one thing, but McCann has been a plus possession player, is creating more chances for than against, and has been Seattle’s best player on the power play.
YES, HE MCCANN!!! 🚨 pic.twitter.com/0SUR25DoiY
— Seattle Kraken (@SeattleKraken) January 13, 2022
McCann is a restricted free agent after the season so re-signing him should be a no-brainer despite the raise he has coming.
Looking forward, McCann can become a huge piece of Seattle’s core. The Kraken need to add offensive pieces, but with McCann and players like Jordan Eberle and Jaden Schwartz already in the fold, the potential for a potent top six is there.
Cap space aplenty
Kraken general manager Ron Francis’ main goal at the NHL Expansion Draft was to ensure that he had flexible cap space to build a team that could sustain success.
The success hasn’t been there this year, but he has set the Kraken up nicely with the salary cap. Seattle has just over $7.5 million in cap space now but has 12 players that are either unrestricted or restricted free agents after this season.
Not all of those players will be back, which will give Francis even more cap space heading into the summer. What does that mean? It means Seattle can be a big player in free agency or on the trade market with space to add needed upgrades.
Seattle Kraken prospects looking good
With only one NHL Draft under their belt, the Kraken have just seven amateur prospects in the pipeline. There will be more added this coming June with what looks to be a strong 2022 draft class.
Seattle took University of Michigan center Matty Beniers with the second overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, and he has looked incredible this season. He has 26 points in 22 games for the Wolverines and was announced as a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award – college hockey’s Heisman.
Michigan is poised to make a deep run in this spring’s NCAA tournament but don’t be surprised if Beniers signs with the Kraken once that is over and plays a handful of NHL games at the end of the season. That’s something to be excited about as Beniers will be in the mix for Seattle next year.
Matty Beniers with the moves, Brendan Brisson with the finish pic.twitter.com/ZFWVe50ggc
— Michigan Hockey (@umichhockey) November 20, 2021
In the second round of the draft, Seattle raised some eyebrows by selecting defenseman Ryker Evans from the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League. Some draft analysts thought that was a reach, but Evans has been spectacular this season, making the Kraken’s choice look smart.
Evans, 20, is tied for second in scoring among WHL defensemen with five goals, 25 assists and 30 points. He looked good this past training camp and will get a long look with a chance of cracking the Kraken roster this coming fall.
Ryker Evans! How 'bout that one, @SeattleKraken?@TSNHockey | @TheWHL pic.twitter.com/fqunkNdzVw
— Canadian Hockey League (@CHLHockey) December 28, 2021
In the third round, Seattle took Ryan Winterton, a forward playing in the Ontario Hockey League for the Hamilton Bulldogs. He was an intriguing pick since the OHL did not play a season last year. Winterton only played seven games (with Canada at the U18 World Championships) so there was not a lot of viewings on him.
He started this season injured and didn’t return to the ice until earlier this week. How did he do? He scored a goal in the game’s first four minutes and then assisted on four more for a five-point season debut. Winterton has a great shot and it’s possible the Kraken have found a diamond in the rough.
At 18 years old he’ll most likely need one more season in junior but he is a guy to keep an eye on going forward.
He's baaaaaack 😎
Relive @SeattleKraken prospect Ryan Winterton's (@ryanwinterton22) five-point season debut for the @BulldogsOHL on Tuesday 🎥 pic.twitter.com/xi4R2BShY3
— OntarioHockeyLeague (@OHLHockey) January 12, 2022
Grubauer bounceback possible
Goalie Philipp Grubauer has struggled this season, and while it hasn’t been all his fault, Seattle’s goaltending has not been good. We won’t dive into that too much since this is a positive piece.
Goaltending can be fickle, and proof of goalies bouncing back came this past Thursday when the Philadelphia Flyers hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The two goalies that night, Carter Hart for the Flyers and Tristan Jarry for Pittsburgh, both came off tough seasons. Jarry was not good for Pittsburgh in the playoffs and Hart suffered the worst season in his young career in 2021. Both guys heard a lot from the fans and media in their markets, but both have bounced back this year. Jarry has a goals-against under two and a .932 save percentage while Hart has improved from a .877 save percentage to .912 this year.
Grubauer is more experienced than both and has it in him to bounce back in a similar fashion.
The Seattle Kraken compete
In both of this week’s losses on the road, one constant was clear: despite the score and ultimate final, Seattle never stops competing.
It’s been there all year – the team works hard. That hasn’t translated into wins, which only adds to the frustration, but it’s a core ethic of the club that will help as it adds pieces in the future.
You need the perfect combination of talent and compete level to win in the NHL, and while the Kraken may be on the short side when it comes to talent this year, they have the latter. If they can combine the two this summer, things will go a lot better next season.
Read more from Seattle Kraken insider Andy Eide