Eide: 5 prospects Seattle Kraken may end up drafting with 1st-round pick

Mar 4, 2022, 1:56 PM

Seattle Kraken...

General manager Ron Francis of the Seattle Kraken at the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft at Gas Works Park. (Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

(Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

Despite an entertaining, and much needed, 4-3 win against the Nashville Predators Wednesday, the Seattle Kraken are not going to make the postseason.

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The silver lining is that they will end up in the NHL Draft lottery with a chance to add a top end player to the system.

It’s only the second such NHL Draft for the Seattle Kraken and it’s vital they choose the right player with what will be a good pick. Whomever general manager Ron Francis and his scouting crew decide is the best fit will eventually team with last year’s top pick, Matty Beniers to make up the future core of the franchise.

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No pressure there.

The top of this year’s draft looks promising in terms of top end talent available, especially at the center and forward positions. Obviously, there’s no guarantee of a draft pick working out, but Seattle should be able to pick up a player dripping with promise and one way to jump start your club is with top-10 picks.

“I think 16 teams in the last four years, in the conference finals, 14 of them had two or more top 10 picks in the lineup,” Francis said earlier this week. “I think Tampa had six and they won the Cup back-to-back, so those guys are important to building a franchise.”

The NHL Draft operates differently than other major sports. There is a lottery so finishing last overall does not lead to getting the top pick. Seattle currently is the third-worst team in the league, which gives them a 10.9 percent chance of winning the top pick. Regardless, the Kraken should land in the top five.

Players are eligible to be drafted after their 17-year-old season is over and most will return to their amateur team for a year or two of further development. Some, maybe the top two or three picks, do play in the NHL at 18 years old.

“I think there’s potentially guys that can step in and do that,” Francis said about this draft. “(You have to wait) until you get them to camp and see how they battle. It’s tough but they have another summer to put that strength on. But certainly there are guys that can do that.”

So, Seattle may end up with immediate help, but most likely the prospect they land will be a year or two away. With Seattle’s roster depth where it is, Francis will look for the best player available rather than focus on a certain position.

“Best player certainly is what we look for,” he said. “We probably have some ideas as to positionally, what we prefer. We’ll keep this to ourselves for now.”

Draft prospects are not as well known as perhaps a college football star may be to NFL fans. These kids are playing all over the world. Some come from the Western Hockey League – the league the Seattle Thunderbirds and Everett Silvertips play for – while others may come from other junior leagues, the NCAA, and Europe.

So, who are these prospects? Who should Seattle be looking at?

Here are the names of the top five prospects the Seattle Kraken may end up drafting. This list will need to be updated as prospects rise and fall during the season.

Shane Wright, C, Kingston Frontenacs, Ontario Hockey League

Wright has been the presumptive top pick for the 2022 Draft since he was granted exceptional status to play in the OHL at 15. He’s produced for Kingston since day one and this season has scored 21 times and has 61 points through his first 42 games.

He impressed during last year’s U18 World Championships playing for Canada in a tournament filled with NHL prospects and he scored nine goals in five games.

Wright is an all-around top player and already displays NHL caliber skills.

He skates with the best of them and can beat you with his shot or high-end playmaking ability. He projects to be an elite, number one center in the NHL and whatever team has their lotto ball win the first pick will take him. If that team is the Kraken, you can start daydreaming about Wright and Beniers as the team’s top two centers.

Matthew Savoie, C, Winnipeg ICE, Western Hockey League

Another top scorer, Savoie is part of a strong ICE team that is poised to make a long WHL playoff run this spring. He’s listed at 5-foot-9 which has led some to question his size, but he plays a surprisingly physical game that should not limit him in the NHL.

What he can do is score. Savoie sees the ice well, is creative with the puck, and through 48 games with Winnipeg he’s scored 23 goals along with 42 assists for 65 points. There has been question about his play defensively, but you must wonder if that’s a product of not having to play much defensively so far in junior.

He’ll get a chance to shine in big games as the ICE are one of the favorites in the WHL and will get tested in the postseason.

Logan Cooley, C, United States National Team Development Program

Cooley is an exciting offensive player who is a creative player with finish. He can do a little bit of everything and do it well. Depending on what scouting service you prefer, Cooley will get drafted anywhere between the second pick and the fourth, which is right in the Kraken wheelhouse.

He has the potential to be a strong possession center and in 45 games this season, he’s piled up 62 points. A strong all-around player, Cooley can skate whether he’s carrying the puck or not. He should be the first American born player to be selected.

Brad Lambert, Forward, JYP-Liga Finland

Lambert has been on the radar for a couple seasons after showing well for the Finns during international tournaments. He’s a highlight reel forward who has the potential to be an “on the edge of your seat” kind of player as he flies through the neutral zone in transition.

Scouts generally like him but there is a wide range as to where he’s projected to be selected. There are some questions about hockey sense and whether he can create offense in the zone rather than off the rush. The Kraken lack a dangerous chance creator on the roster and could potentially fill that void with Lambert.

Juraj Slafkovsky, LW, TPS-Liga, Finland

The Slovakian born Slafkovsky was the darling of the recent Olympic games, scoring seven times as the Slovaks won bronze. What stands out here is his size. Checking in at 6-foot-4, 218 pounds, he’s one of the bigger forwards that will be available in the Draft.

His stock has shot up after his Olympic performance and he’s dominated against his peers but has not fared as well playing against men in Finland’s top league. He won’t turn 18 until the end of March, making him one of the youngest players in the Draft and he might need another year before being NHL ready. He can skate for his size, handle the puck, and the ceiling looks high here.

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