Jordan Eberle a big fan of Seattle Kraken offseason moves
Moments after Shane Wright was selected by the Seattle Kraken with the fourth pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, his phone started lighting up. He was getting flooded with text messages and calls, mostly from unknown numbers. One was famously from hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, but a good number of them were from members of the Kraken wanting to welcome Wright to the team.
“Having those guys congratulate you and tell you how excited they are to have you be part of the organization is a pretty cool thing for me,” Wright said. “Obviously those are the guys that I look up to, guys that I watch most nights on TV so just pretty cool.”
One of the players to text was Kraken forward Jordan Eberle, who was watching from home.
“My message to him was pretty simple,” Eberle said this week. “From the Seattle standpoint, I don’t know if you’re gonna find a more committed ownership group as far as putting money into the team, and then as far as the fan base, I’ve got nothing but good things to say and he’s gonna get a real opportunity. So as a young player, I don’t know if he can ask for much more than that. I know we’re super excited to have him on our team.”
Eberle and the veteran Kraken players have been watching as general manager Ron Francis has added to the club this summer.
They’ve paid attention and are excited by the moves that have been made. It started with the Draft where Wright inexplicably slipped to Seattle at the fourth pick. This after nearly a year of being presumed to be the number one pick and still seen by many as the best player in the Draft this year.
“I was shocked, to be honest,” Eberle said about Wright landing in Seattle. “I’m getting too old to be able to watch these kids that much, but a lot of highly-touted kids are projected to go first.”
Drafting for the future is one thing, but the team added players to improve the team now. Free agency brought a goal-scorer in Andre Burakowsky, Justin Schultz on the back end, and a backup goalie in Martin Jones.
That was followed by a slick trade to bring in a talented offensive forward in Oliver Bjorkstrand, and it had a motivating impact on the rest of the team.
“When you see your general manager and the ownership team making moves to try and get better, that’s the biggest thing you want to see,” Eberle said. “When you see the scenario with as much cap space that we were working with coming into free agency, I think we kind of expected to make some moves and try to add some pieces and they’ve definitely done that.
“I love the depth that we have up front with our forward group. We’re hopefully going to put the puck in the net a little bit more, so it’s gonna be a matter of putting the right pieces together and start meshing the team.”
Eberle played 79 games last year and scored 21 goals, which was third-best on the team.
The additions of Burakowsky and Bjorkstrand will add goals to the top of the sheet and take some of the burden off Eberle, Jared McCann, and Yanni Gourde from having to be responsible for all the scoring. The additions will allow coach Dave Hakstol to perhaps develop some stable line combinations, something the team could not find last year.
Leaning on the young guys
Seattle will have two young and inexperienced players in the forward group this year with the 18-year-old Wright and soon-to-be 20-year-old Matty Beniers. The pair are extremely talented for sure, but are still young and there will be growing pains.
It will be up to players like Eberle, and others, to help those two out. Eberle played nine games on Beniers’ wing last year, so there is some familiarity. He’s also no stranger to young guys making the transition into the NHL.
After scoring 50 goals for the WHL’s Regina Pats at age 19 in 2009, Eberle was in the NHL with the Edmonton Oilers – who had taken him in the first round of the 2008 NHL Draft – the following season. He dealt with the pressure and tougher competition of jumping to the NHL just like Beniers and Wright are doing.
“You see these young guys now and they’re literally making that jump look easy,” Eberle said. “I think the game has gotten so skilled and so fast, and it’s maybe less of a rough, hard-hitting league. It’s become more skilled, and these kids are covered. Their skills are above and beyond where we were when we were younger.”
When Eberle was with the New York Islanders in 2017, he played on a team that featured a young Anthony Beauvillier and Mathew Barzal, two skilled players jumping straight from junior to the NHL
He’s been the older guy around highly-touted draft picks.
“I think the biggest thing is just to not get overly frustrated,” he said of Beniers and Wright. “Things are tough at times, you’re gonna have ups and downs. But ultimately, if you can stay consistent, and day-to-day just continue to get better, especially at a young age, I think that’s the biggest thing. Just keep getting better and take it game by game and you’ll create offense just by doing that.
“Those guys both have such a high ceiling and there’s a lot of opportunities that they’re gonna get. We’re just excited to have them as part of the group and for an older guy like me it’s just trying to guide them towards the players they potentially can be.”
The Kraken have had a strong summer and it’s generated a lot of excitement among the fans and media in the city. Eberle and the returning players are just as excited.
There is about a month to go before the team opens its second training camp. They’ll do so with an improved roster and less unknown. A year ago, the players had no idea what to expect from the city, the coaches, and each other.
Growing pains had to be overcome, but this season, those are gone.
“That’s a huge advantage,” Eberle said. “A lot of the same group and we’ve got a little bit of base to work off of. Having the same coaching staff and the same message and you just want to continue to build.”
Seattle will be better this season. They’ll be harder to play against, they’ll score more goals, and be better on the power play. The question now is whether that building has turned them into a playoff team.