A healthy Schwartz may be great match for Seattle Kraken with Beniers
After four straight preseason wins, the Seattle Kraken dropped their first, losing 4-1 to the Calgary Flames on the road Monday night. Just as there was no reason to plan a parade after four wins, there is no reason to panic after this loss. The Flames are good and had nearly a full roster, and while the Kraken struggled through parts of the games, there were some bright spots.
In particular, the game provided a sneak peek of the impact Jaden Schwartz could have on the Kraken this season.
Schwartz was playing in just his second preseason game and found himself on a line with rookie Matty Beniers and free agency addition Andre Burakovsky. He was a presence Monday, and his game may be a great match for the young Beniers this season.
Schwartz is healthy
The Kraken brought Schwartz in last summer as one of their first-ever free agent signings, nabbing the veteran St. Louis Blues forward for a five-year, $5 million per year deal.
It was hoped that Schwartz would be a mainstay in the team’s top-six forward group and provide some scoring depth. That had been his profile with the Blues, a guy who would give you double-digit goals along with a strong two-way game.
He scored more than 20 goals in a season four times, and during the Blues’ Stanley Cup Championship run in 2019 he potted 12 goals in 26 playoff games. The reason he was attractive to Kraken general manager Ron Francis was obvious.
Last season with the Kraken, Schwartz scored eight times but was sidelined with injuries that limited him as he missed 45 games. It was a blow to the Kraken forward group and his impact was ultimately lessened.
On Day 1 of Seattle’s training camp at the end of September, he was “ready to go.”
“I think our expectations are a lot higher,” Schwartz said. “We want to start off with taking it a day at a time here and have a good camp. Our start last year wasn’t where it needs to be so I think that’s going to be a big goal for us. We have a new team this year, we have a lot of new players, we got a lot better over the summer and I think each guy’s hungry to prove ourselves and prove to each other that we can be a lot better.”
He’s looked good in camp and with the number of players the team wanted to see in game action, Schwartz and fellow veterans like Jordan Eberle skipped some of the early preseason games. That doesn’t mean he isn’t being counted on this season.
Seattle Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol is happy Schwartz is healthy and ready to go.
“He’s a guy that fixes any line you put them on,” Hakstol said about Schwartz. “You put them on a line and that line is gonna find success. The way he goes about his business is a little bit under the radar, but it’s not within our group, inside of this room. The things that he does out there to generate possession, and more importantly generate offense off that possession are really important. So long story short, I know he’s a (heck) of a competitor and he knows how to get the job done in this league.”
A Schwartz-Beniers combo for Seattle Kraken
One preseason game is as small a sample size as it gets, but Schwartz displayed all the assets Hakstol mentioned Monday night playing with Beniers.
He was hard on the forecheck, dug pucks out of battles on the board to keep the possession alive, and went to the net without fear. On a night where the Kraken were losing the puck possession battle to the Flames for two-thirds of the game, the Beniers line was strong and created more shots at 5-on-5 than it allowed.
A tough, go-after-the-puck guy like Schwartz could be an asset to the younger Beniers, who could then be freed up to feed the puck to a scorer like Burakovsky. The trio could work and become tough to play against as a matchup problem with a combination of grit and skill, some of which we got a glimpse of on Monday.
Schwartz has to stay healthy to be on this line. So far he looks good, and if he can find that health and play a full season, he could be an underrated key asset for the Seattle Kraken this season. Playing alongside a playmaker like Beniers could help Schwartz hit that 20-goal mark again.
It looked good Monday, and it may be the line that gets deployed in Friday’s preseason finale, but Hasktol reminds that it’s still too early to read into what his ultimate lines will look like.
“I wouldn’t read too much into that right now,” Hakstol said prior to Monday’s game. “I would assume pieces of it will be (our final lineup), but it depends on where we’re at coming out tonight and going into practice on Wednesday and Thursday.”