The 5 biggest Seattle Kraken questions as training camp opens

Sep 21, 2022, 10:22 AM

Seattle Kraken Beniers Eberle...

Matty Beniers and Jordan Eberle of the Seattle Kraken talk during an April 16, 2022 game vs. New Jersey. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Season 2 of the Seattle Kraken is here. Well, training camp is here starting Thursday morning. Hockey training camps move quicker than they do in other sports where it is seemingly endless.

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Seattle hits the ice for its first preseason game as soon as Monday against the Edmonton Oilers at Climate Pledge Arena. That game comes after just three full days of practice. Training camp sessions are open to the public at the Kraken Community Iceplex at Northgate. You can watch as coach Dave Hakstol prepares to use an improved roster to hopefully win more games and just maybe get into playoff contention.

For those who attend, you’ll see more drills and systems building than you will actual scrimmaging, but the formation of what the second season of Kraken hockey will look like will be on display.

As the team prepares for the season opener in Anaheim on Oct. 12 and home opener on Oct. 15 against the Vegas Golden Knights, training camp will help to answer these intriguing questions:

Where will Andre Burakovsky and Oliver Bjorkstrand fit in?

Whenever new players join a team, the search for chemistry and linemates begins. Both players bring offensive skills to the table so expect them in the top-six forward group. Will Hakstol use them on the top line as wingers? If so, who will center them?

Often in training camp practice, players are thrown together for drills, but over time as chemistry starts to show itself, combinations will begin to become consistent. This will start to form, so pay attention to how both Burakovsky and Bjorkstrand are deployed in the preseason games.

Exhibition games are often a chance for prospects to get a taste of the NHL game, but as the six games get closer to the start of the season, Hakstol will start to experiment with some lines. Where players start out isn’t necessarily where they’ll stay all season as lines are far from static. But training camp will give us hints as to where they are starting and who is showing chemistry together.

How does Philipp Grubauer look and who will back him up?

The Kraken need a bounceback year in goal from Grubauer, who struggled early last season. Training camp will give us a peek as will the exhibition games that he plays. One of the issues last season, especially early, was an unfamiliarity between Grubauer and the players in front of him. They struggled in their own end and in breaking the puck out clearly while avoiding turnovers. That should not be an issue this time around and the players should be used to each other.

With free agent Justin Schultz the lone addition to the defensive corps, the Seattle blue line should start as a cohesive unit. But backup goalie Chris Driedger is out with an injury for most of the season, so the Kraken need to establish a consistent backup.

Seattle signed Martin Jones in the offseason as a free agent, and he is the leader in the clubhouse to start as the No. 2 in goal. Jones appeared in 35 games with the Philadelphia Flyers last year – 22 of which he started – and ended up with a save percentage of .900. That number isn’t overly impressive but it is worth noting that it would have led all Kraken goalies last year.

Kraken general manager Ron Francis has said that all the goalies have a chance to win the position, which brings Joey Daccord into the picture. Daccord had a great season last year in the AHL but did not fair well in call-ups to the Kraken during the year. He’s a young player and if he can convince Hakstol and Francis that he can do it at the NHL level, he could crack the lineup.

Most likely, Daccord and free agent signee Magnus Hellberg will eventually end up in the AHL with the upstart Coachella Valley Firebirds.

Can Matty Beniers be the top Seattle Kraken center?

Beniers will still be 19 years old when the season opens in October. In his 10-game run at the end of last season, he was impressive and did play as the Kraken’s No. 1 center. Is he ready to take that role for a full 82 games?

He’s looked good early this week in rookie camp – yes, he’s still considered a rookie – and knows things will be tougher this year. Beniers says that he added 11-12 pounds of muscle over the summer to help prepare for the full schedule and has veteran guys to lean on when it comes to navigating the NHL ups and downs.

He’s arguably the most skilled player on the roster, but can he handle the responsibility and matchups that comes with being the top center? Poise and confidence are apparent watching Beniers skate, and he stood out in rookie camp. In training camp, he’ll get a shot at the top spot and potentially play with Burakovksy or Bjorkstrand, which could end up benefiting everyone.

If Beniers is in fact the top center to start, who will slot in behind him? Seattle has a number of options down the middle and Hakstol will need to use the next few weeks to sort out who will play where.

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The Shane Wright question

Is he ready for the NHL? Seattle’s first-round pick at the 2022 NHL Draft is in training camp looking to play in the NHL right away at 18 years old. But can he?

Because of NHL rules and an agreement with the Canadian Hockey League, Wright can only play in the NHL this year or be sent back to the Ontario Hockey League’s Kingston Frontenacs. If he is sent back, he can not be recalled during the season.

Will Seattle Kraken top pick Shane Wright play in the NHL this season?

All signs point to him playing with the Kraken this year and developing in the NHL. But he’ll have to earn it and should get a juicy chance in training camp and the exhibition games. He’ll be a player to watch in order to see if he shows that he has the strength and speed to compete in the league. If he looks outmatched during camp or in games, then the Kraken may question where he’s best suited for this season.

Wright is aware of the challenge and said it inspired him this summer to amp up the intensity of his workout regimen.

“A goal in mind was to come into training camp and earn my spot on the team and to make the team,” he said after rookie camp on Tuesday. “That was definitely my mindset throughout the whole summer.”

Will any other rookies make the Seattle Kraken roster?

Beniers and Wright appear to be the only rookies who will start with the Kraken, but don’t sleep on defenseman Ryker Evans. Seattle’s 2021 second-round pick is coming off a monster season with the Western Hockey League’s Regina Pats where he scored 14 goals and 61points in 63 games.

As an older rookie who will soon turn 21, Evans has an outside shot at making the team. He’s an offensive-minded defenseman who shows a knack for jumping into the play and timely attacks on the net. His skill set is something that is somewhat lacking from the current Kraken defensive corps.

He will be fun to watch in the main camp and preseason games to see if he plays his way on the team. One potential roadblock for Evans is that there is not an obvious spot for him as Seattle returns most of its defensemen from last season and added Schultz through free agency. If Evans doesn’t make it he’ll play in Coachella Valley, but don’t be surprised if he finds his way through a call-up at some point this season.

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