Seattle Kraken Season Preview: Keys and questions for year 2

Oct 11, 2022, 7:28 PM
Seattle Kraken Matty Beniers...
Matty Beniers of the Seattle Kraken and Dominic Toninato of Winnipeg face off on May 1, 2022. (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Seattle Kraken headed to Anaheim, Calif., Tuesday afternoon to prepare for Wednesday’s season opener against the Ducks. It’s always an exciting time of year as every team is in playoff contention.

Seattle has improved its roster and will be a better team in its second NHL season. What should you be watching for? Who will be the captain? What are some keys to how good the Kraken can be?

How do the Seattle Kraken match up with their Pacific Division foes?

Here are some questions and keys for Kraken: Mach Two as it gets underway Wednesday night.

Full 2022-23 NHL Seattle Kraken schedule

Matty Beniers for the Calder

It is becoming harder and harder to temper the expectations for Beniers, who is kicking off his first full NHL season. No, he’s never played 82 games in a year before, and yes, the opposition will be ready for him when maybe they weren’t during the 10 games he played last year. All that is true, but he scored goals in all four preseason games he played and looks like he’s raised his game a notch already.

Still a rookie, Beniers is one of the favorites to win the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year. He’ll get to face one the top competitors for the trophy Wednesday in Anaheim’s Mason McTavish. The future might just be now.

Will the Seattle Kraken goaltending be better?

It’s no secret that the Kraken struggled to keep the puck out of their net last year. Philipp Grubauer made 55 starts, the most in his career, and struggled. It wasn’t all Grubauer’s fault as the defense in front of him took some time to start caring for the puck but that should be cleared up.

the offseason additions at forward, Seattle stands to be a better puck-possession team that will keep the puck at the other end of the ice a bit more. Veteran Martin Jones has been brought in to fill in for the injured Chris Driedger and spell Grubauer. We could see what Jones looks like Thursday when the Kraken play their second game in Los Angeles after opening on Wednesday.

Grubauer looked comfortable and poised in camp and didn’t allow a goal until the fourth preseason game. Is that a good sign? The Kraken hope so.

The killer B’s up front

It was a productive summer for the Kraken and general manager Ron Francis. He upgraded his forward group with the free agent signing of Andre Burakovsky from Colorado and a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets that netted Oliver Bjorkstrand. The two new forwards are expected to add to the offensive attack and add goals, something the Kraken lacked last season. They will help the entire forward group slot into more appropriate roles and get better matchups. Look for both of the B’s on the power play, as well.

Speaking of power plays

Seattle’s power play was at the bottom of the list last season, and if the Kraken want more wins and to get into the playoff picture, they’ll need a drastic improvement. Burakovsky and Bjorkstrand will help, and they have been playing on the top power-play unit in training camp. A third ‘B’, Beniers, has looked good with the man advantage. He scored a power-play goal in the preseason from the right faceoff circle which is becoming his favorite spot on the ice and may soon need a nickname.

The addition of free-agent Justin Schultz on the blueline should also help. A veteran defenseman who has spent time on the power play in the past, he’ll quarterback the first unit with Vince Dunn taking the duties on the second. If Schultz and the ‘B’s’ play as expected, the Kraken could become deadly when they have the man advantage.

What to expect from Shane Wright

He’s young, talented, and going to try and stick in the NHL at 18. As much skill as the No. 4 overall pick from the 2022 NHL Draft has, it will be a learning and development season for him and the expectations should be low. Making the jump he’s making is hard and Wright may experience trouble scoring. There will be mistakes and bad games, but he’ll learn from them and become a better player in the long run.

Who will be the Seattle Kraken captain?

Head coach Dave Hakstol announced after Monday’s practice that the plan is to not have a designated captain but rather stick with the alternate captains to handle the leadership duties for the team this season. The alternate captains include Yanni Gourde, Jordan Eberle, Adam Larsson and Jaden Schwartz.

Will this be Geekie’s year?

Morgan Geekie has a ton of talent, skill, youth, and a top-notch work ethic. It has yet to manifest itself into a monster year statistically, although he did set career highs in goals, assists, and points last season. Geekie is projected to center the fourth line and if he can put it all together, Seattle will have a distinct advantage at the bottom of the lineup.

The versatility of Ryan Donato

There was a time this summer when it looked like Donato was not going to be returning to the Kraken lineup. Seattle declined to give him a qualifying contract and he became an unrestricted free agent. As the Kraken added players, the room in the lineup for Donato was getting squeezed. The Kraken eventually re-signed him, and he scored a couple of goals in the preseason.

Donato is not the most important player on the team, but he can and is willing to play up and down the lineup wherever he’s needed. He’s projected to start the season on a line with Wright and Eberle for opening night. Eberle and Donato played with Beniers during his 10-game run last year and the rookie mentioned that both helped him. Can they do the same with Wright?

Will the Seattle Kraken make the Stanley Cup Playoffs?

They’ll be better, but will it be enough to sneak into the postseason? They’ll have to improve their play against the Pacific Division (Seattle was 6-20 against the Pacific last year) and get a few bounces. There are a lot of teams that finished ahead of them last year, so they’ll have to jump over some clubs.

While it seems far-fetched to improve that much, there is a chance if the Kraken all play to their potential and get better goaltending, they just might find themselves in contention. Playing meaningful games at the end of the season was the goal last year, but it feels more attainable this season.

A healthy Schwartz may be great match for Seattle Kraken with Beniers

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