Grading the Seattle Kraken position groups in 1st half of season
The Kraken ended their January schedule last weekend with an impressive 11-3-2 record while outscoring their opponents 60-37. It was an impressive month and the perfect exclamation point to an impressive way to enter the All-Star break which gives the team a much-needed week off.
Wennberg scores against former team, Kraken top Blue Jackets 3-1
“If you look at that on the schedule, if you look at the travel, the number of games you’d expect a little bit of fatigue in this dressing room,” Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said. “To finish the month that you know (11-2-3) coming out, so it’s pretty good. This group should be proud of that.”
As the Kraken players spread to worldwide locales – many spending the week in Mexico – the break is a good time to look back over the first ‘half’ of the season. Here is a report card for the Kraken’s position groups.
Forwards – A
The strength of the Seattle group is up front. This past summer, general manager Ron Francis looked to add offense and he did that, and Seattle leads the league in 5-on-5 goals per 60 minutes at 3.33 and team shooting percentage at 10.81.
Andre Burakovsky was the big free agent addition this summer and the former Colorado Avalanche has delivered. He leads the Kraken in scoring with 39 points. He brings size and skill to the Seattle attack. The 27-year-old commands the puck and attention, leading to scoring chances and ultimately goals for Seattle.
Oliver Bjorkstrand was brought in via a trade with Columbus and although he’s yet to catch fire, is showing signs that goals are coming. Armed with a top-notch shot, the winger has nine goals but has been snake-bitten for the first part of the season. After a series of near misses, look for him to have a strong stretch drive.
While not technically a new player, the Kraken have benefited from a full season of Matty Beniers who led all rookies in goals and points over the first half of the season. Playing the tough center position, the second overall pick in 2021 plays years above his age and is just scratching the surface.
Matty Beniers? Dog. pic.twitter.com/L6q3fMN17e
— Seattle Kraken (@SeattleKraken) January 11, 2023
Jared McCann had some pressure on him coming into this season. He was the team’s top scorer last year and for the additions to really pay off, they needed a repeat performance. They’ve got that so far. Finally getting the opportunity he didn’t get in his former NHL stops, McCann, and his amazing shot, have potted a team-best 23 goals, which is only four off the 27 he scored last season.
The strength of this forward group, and why they get an A, is the depth. Seattle has eight forwards who have hit double digits in goals so far and they’ve been able to roll four lines, each with the ability to score.
Playing limited minutes mostly on the fourth line, Daniel Sprong has been a revelation for Seattle. He has 15 goals and is one of the better stories in the NHL. Right behind him is Eeli Tolvanen who the Kraken claimed off waivers in December from the Nashville Predators and since then has eight goals and 10 points in the 15 games he’s played for Seattle. Not bad for a guy that the Kraken picked off the street.
Defense – B
Any discussion of the Kraken blue line must start with the season that Vince Dunn is in the middle of. Through 49 games, Dunn, 26, had already set a new career high in points with 36, leads Seattle’s defensemen in scoring, and feels like he’s just now reaching his potential.
Dunn plays on the Kraken’s top pairing with Adam Larsson and the duo not only provides offense but is shutting down the opposition as well. They’ve played in every game together and have been on the ice for 56 five-on-five goals for and only 30 against. Seattle gets just under 54 percent of the shot attempts and Kraken goalies have over a .920 save percentage while they’re on the ice.
hit the LIKE button if you want to join the Dunner fan club 😎 pic.twitter.com/mI3EoJve6i
— Seattle Kraken (@SeattleKraken) January 8, 2023
Justin Schultz was brought in during the offseason to add a veteran presence on defense and help with the power play. He has been a solid, if not under the radar, addition. A solid two-way defenseman, Schultz was recently placed on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury which will test the overall depth of the Kraken back end.
Jamie Oleksiak, Will Borgen, Carson Soucy, and Cale Fleury will need to step up. They’ve all had decent years but could be a little more consistent.
Defense is a position to watch at the trade deadline.
Will Francis look to add some depth here?
Goaltending – C+
Goaltending was an issue for last year’s Kraken. It’s been improved this season but could also use a dose of consistency.
When the Kraken lost Chris Driedger to injury this summer, they brought in veteran Martin Jones as a one-year fill-in. Then Philipp Grubauer got hurt and they turned to Jones to be the No. 1 goalie.
He filled in remarkably and has won 23 games with a 2.79 goals-against average.
Jonesy 🤝 @wafdbank
Save of the Game pic.twitter.com/8d65c83V0F
— Seattle Kraken (@SeattleKraken) November 28, 2022
Both goalies have a save percentage under the goalie Mendoza mark of 900 although both trended the right way in January. Jones has had most of the starts of late but Grubuaer could soon be the main guy again.
In five of his last six starts, he’s been well over a .900 save percentage and in his last four games, Grubauer has a .944 percentage and allowed just seven goals. Is he getting hot?
Driedger is progressing and if he gets healthy, could complicate the goalie situation a bit since Seattle won’t want to carry three guys.
ESPN’s Buccigross: Kraken are a playoff team, but they have one big issue