Seattle Kraken Takeaways: What stands out from 2-0 preseason start

Sep 28, 2022, 10:02 AM
Seattle Kraken Brandon Tanev...
Brandon Tanev of the Seattle Kraken skates against the Edmonton Oilers in a Sept. 26 preseason game. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

After three days of training camp, the Seattle Kraken hit the ice twice early this week to open their six-game preseason schedule.

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Preseason NHL games are a different breed than their regular season counterparts. Teams use the preseason to figure out lines and special teams, give prospects a chance to see what the game is like, and lack the same intensity.

The Kraken won both of their games by identical 3-0 scores over the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames.

A good start, yes, but what does it mean? Ultimately, like in any other sport, the preseason is mostly meaningless but the beginnings of some trends start to form. The Kraken have four more games to go starting Thursday in Vancouver against the Canucks.

“We’ve got a long way to go, there’s a lot of pieces to put in place,” Seattle Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said after Tuesday’s game. “Far from complete efforts, but good competitive efforts. We’ll take that and go back to work tomorrow. I could give you a laundry list (of things to work on). We could sit here and talk for a long time. We’ve been able to hit on some things.”

So, the wins are nice but there are still improvements and fine-tuning to go before the Kraken open the season Oct. 12 in Anaheim on against the division rivals Ducks. Here are some takeaways from the two games so far.

Beniers just may be special

Matty Beniers has the potential to be an elite young center in the NHL and he’s still just 19. Rational thought suggests we temper the expectations of Beniers for this season, but sports are rarely rational and it’s hard not to be excited after watching him.

In Monday’s preseason opener against the Oilers, he was spectacular. It wasn’t just the goal he scored when he reached back to collect an errant pass and quickly moved the puck to his forehand and then loosed a wrist shot that beat Oliver Rodrigue on the short side, over his shoulder. It was as good as it gets.

He almost scored early in the game when newcomer Oliver Bjorkstrand sent a perfect pass to the goal mount for a Beniers tip that somehow just went wide. Again, later in the game, he was stopped on a deadly looking one-time slap shot.

Beniers drove play all night with six shots on goal, and for good measure he won three of the five faceoffs he took.

It’s just preseason and the Oilers did not dress their big guns, but still, Beniers looks ready for the season. Logic says it will be harder on him this year than it was for his 10-game stint at the end of last year. He never has played 82 games in a season, teams will send tougher defensive matchups, and oh yeah, he’s still 19.

That all screams to pumping the breaks on anointing him, but then you watch him play and even the most ardent cynics can’t help but think maybe he’s going to thrive as a rookie after all.

“Real positive things that he’s doing,” Hakstol said. “Just the way he’s working, skating, competing, let’s put that at the top of the list. He’s driving the compete level.”

Brandon Tanev is healthy, doing Brandon Tanev-type things

After missing 52 games with a knee injury last season, Tanev told the media at the start of training camp that he was healed and ready to go. He’s looked so in camp, but Monday was the real test.

He showed no signs of being slowed or hobbled by the injury, and in fact looked like the player that made him a fan favorite in the first half of last season. He was fast, played over 16 minutes, and created a short-handed goal in the second period. Tanev chipped the puck past the Oilers point man and sped down the ice with Morgan Geekie on a 2-on-1. Tanev made a slick pass to Geekie, who scored with an equally slick one-time shot.

The jury is still out on where Tanev will ultimately play this season, but his versatility and high-energy play make him an asset on whatever line Hakstol ends up putting him on.

Justin Schultz

The Kraken brought the veteran defenseman through free agency this summer and wasted no time in putting him in the lineup for the first preseason game. He played a solid defensive game and gave Hakstol over 18 minutes of ice time.

One of the main attractions of Schultz was his ability to man the power play. The Kraken struggled mightily last season on the way to finishing 29th in the NHL on the power play. While they did not score with the man advantage against Edmonton, they moved the puck well, created chances, and would have scored if not for an Oliver Bjorsktrand shot hitting Alex Wennberg, who was in front of the net.

Shane Wright debuts

We had to wait until the second preseason game against the Calgary Flames to get a look at 18-year-old rookie Shane Wright and his quest to make the team.

“First experience was a lot of fun,” he said after the game. “Definitely a pretty cool experience and something I’ve been looking forward to for basically my entire life. It took a little adjustment at first… I’m really happy with the overall result.”

Playing between veterans Jordan Eberle and Jordan Schwartz, Wright didn’t score or do anything spectacular, but importantly he looked like he was handling the pace and physicality of the NHL game.

Wright was on the ice for over 13 minutes, including over two on the power play, and had three shots on goal. One area that he may need to work on is in the faceoff dot where he was 4 for 12 on attempts. That’s not a surprise for a young rookie in the NHL. As the competition amps up, it will be fun to see how Wright fares against tougher opponents.

Goalies are good so far

There’s no doubt that goaltending was an issue for the Seattle Kraken last year and they’re looking for a rebound season. So far so good as after two games, Seattle has yet to allow a goal. Before handing out Vezina Trophies, it’s worth pointing out that neither Edmonton nor Calgary iced a full NHL lineup so a medium grain of salt should be taken when looking at the performance.

Still, no goals is a positive.

Incumbent starter Philipp Grubauer looked poised and in control on Tuesday, stopping all six shots he faced. A leading candidate to be the backup, Martin Jones made 13 saves on Monday and also looked calm, although he was saved by a post and a disallowed goal.

Joey Daccord not only made 16 saves in his work but also picked up an assist on his great stretch pass to Ryan Donato, who scored on a wraparound goal.

Power kill activated

The Kraken haven’t spent a ton of time working on the penalty kill but have scored in each game while shorthanded.

The Tanev to Geekie goal was first, and Tuesday night it was a pretty back-and-forth passing play between Jared McCann and Jaden Schwartz that ended with Schwartz scoring on a tap-in goal.

Does this mean Seattle will be deadly while killing penalties? Probably not, but it has been fun to see early on.

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