Seattle Kraken seeing great success and production from 4th line this year
Traditionally, the fourth line on a hockey team is made up of pluggers. Players with little skill who are tasked with playing little minutes so the top lines can rest up. Not much is expected and the hope has always been that they don’t screw up and at best get the puck in the offensive zone. But this season, the Seattle Kraken have used a fourth line that has been productive. They’ve scored some goals and played solid defense, finding a way to contribute in limited time on the ice.
“For our success, when we’ve been successful, we’ve had contributions from each and every one of our lines,” Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said. “The roles are a little bit different. The minutes are different. If you look at the underlying numbers, [Daniel] Sprong and [Morgan] Geekie, in terms of points produced and in terms of the minutes that they’re playing, they’re in the upper portion of the league… You’ve got to list your lines in some way. So 1,2,3,4 and everybody puts a label on everything, but those guys will be very, very important to our success.”
Geekie centers the line is an underrated part of the Kraken’s success.
Coming off a year where he set career highs, Geekie, 24, has four goals and six assists this year in 24 games. He’s accomplished that while averaging just under eight minutes of 5-on-5 ice time. As a right-handed center, he can win faceoffs and is often brought in to win key draws late in games.
“We kind of go in, we know our role coming into the game,” Geekie said about his line. “We might not play the most minutes but I think it’s about the quality of those minutes. Kind of everything in between. We’re trying to kind of set the tone and I think we’ve been playing really well and got rewarded for it as of late.”
Geekie’s value to the team is increased by being one of the team’s top penalty killers. When he was out injured for three games, the Kraken’s penalty kill struggled.
His ascension and skill in killing penalties is a new aspect of his game.
“I hadn’t killed penalties before like, for real till this year,” Geekie said. “I was trying to think last time I was on the penalty kill and I don’t think I’ve ever been on the penalty kill. Not in juniors no minor hockey, nothing. It’s definitely a change of pace and there’s a learning curve. I just try to go out there and I might not be the fastest player but I think really well and I am offensively minded too. I just try to figure out what they’re thinking and what their game plan is and try to go out there and do my best to prevent what they’re trying.’
Sprong has been a consistent winger on the Kraken fourth line.
He almost didn’t make the roster and was invited to camp with no promise he’d make it. But with a strong training camp where he showed marked improvement and that he could be an all-around player, he ended up earning a contract and has been a pleasant surprise for Seattle.
“Obviously, you guys have noticed, he’s got a rocket,” Geekie said. “I’m just trying to give him the puck in spots where he can shoot the puck and with a shot like that, you’re just looking to get it to him and get to the net, and more times than not, it’s a quality shot and if it doesn’t go in, you’re getting a grade A chance rebound around the net for sure.”
Sprong, who was originally acquired by the Kraken from the Washington Capitals at last spring’s NHL Trade Deadline, has had an offensive impact.
He has scored seven goals with nine assists for 16 points and like Geekie, has done it in limited minutes on the ice at 5-on-5. His heavy shot has earned him time on the power play, increasing the opportunity to impact a game.
“I think we have some good chemistry going on,” Sprong said. “Whoever’s jumped in on that other side, we’ve connected right away and we’ve scored important goals and now we’re doing our role. But I think the biggest thing is we’re not getting scored on and we’re creating a lot of ozone chances.”
Seattle’s fourth line has scored some big goals and had momentum-generating shifts in the offensive zone, but they’ve allowed little to nothing against. Geekie has only been on the ice for three 5-on-5 goals against and 14 for.
It’s hard to ask for much better.
“Our job necessarily isn’t to go and score goals,” Geekie said. “But I think anytime you can help on that side of the score sheet and not let up too many goals. I think we’ve only been out there for like, three goals [against] this year. That’s honestly what we take more pride in.”
The addition of Branden Tanev
Geekie and Sprong have been the two constants on Seattle’s fourth line but Tanev was recently added to the other wing. Ryan Donato had played there for a spell, as had Karson Kuhlman prior to him being released, but now it’s Tanev’s turn.
A relentless energetic player, Tanev is an additive to the line, providing speed and an extra dose of tenacity.
“He brings a lot of energy and he skates hard and works his butt off every shift,” Sprong said about Tanev. “Against Florida, we had some good looks, against Tampa we had a couple here and there, and then even in Carolina you know, we got rewarded for the one in Carolina but I think throughout the game we had a couple of really good looks already there and you keep getting looks, we’re gonna bury one of them.”
The Kraken are off to a good start and if they wish to be serious playoff contenders it won’t be in spite of a fourth line, it will be partly because of it. It’s three guys who have the skill to pop in some goals, win draws, and play a solid two-way game.
Not a plugger in sight.