Seattle Kraken Expansion Mock Draft
We are just hours away from learning who Ron Francis and company have chosen to begin their franchise with.
The hockey world spent this past weekend being flipped upside down and turned all around as teams made moves in the dying hours before the roster freeze in anticipation of finalizing their protected lists.
With the release of each team’s protected lists on Sunday, a huge buzz was created. Many teams left big names exposed hoping that contracts would be too large to take a risk of for Seattle or in hopes of Seattle taking those players for their own salary cap relief.
Montreal goaltender Carey Price leads a very strong class of unprotected players. Seattle will have some tough decisions to make when it comes to deciding between talented youth and veteran, proven players.
Lets take a look at where I believe the Seattle Kraken should go with each of their picks.
Anaheim Ducks – Haydn Fleury (Defense):
The Anaheim Ducks kick us off with the first decisions to be made. I see 4 legitimate ways the Kraken could go with the Ducks. If they are looking for a veteran, I think they could look to Kevin Shattenkirk on the back end or Adam Henrique up front. If youth is their path, look for them to take a deep look at Sonny Milano up front or Haydn Fleury on the back end. At age 25 and 1 year remaining before becoming an RFA, I think the best path for the Kraken would be to take the young blue liner, Haydn Fleury.
Arizona Coyotes – Christian Fischer (Forward):
Next up is the Arizona Coyotes. The trend of youth players to develop for the future will continue here when the Kraken select the big bodied, Christian Fischer. The 24-year-old Fischer has one year remaining on his deal with a cap hit of $1 million. Fischer is a big body that has the ability to score goals and would be a good young fit for the Kraken’s bottom six.
Boston Bruins – Nick Ritchie (Forward):
Originally not even on the radar to be selected as I thought he was a shoe in to be protected, I believe the Bruins will lose Nick Ritchie here. My original thought pre-expansion list reveal was that Jeremy Lauzon was the lock to leave Boston, but with Ritchie exposed, he will be too hard for Seattle to pass on. Ritchie’s 6-foot-2, 230lb frame combined with his ability to score goals will have the fans on the edge of their seats each and every night in Seattle.
Buffalo Sabres – Will Borgen (Defense):
The league worst Buffalo Sabres are up next. The best options out of Buffalo all seem the be from the back end. Aside from Jeff Skinner, who is the most talented available player but at a price tag much too high, the Sabres don’t have much worth while up front. Looking at the available defense, 3 names stand out to me as potential options. Jake McCabe would be a great add for the Kraken, but with being a UFA, there is the risk of him not signing and wasting the pick.
My original selection here was Colin Miller, who has 1 year left on his deal with a cap hit of $3.875mil and previous experience with being selected by an expansion team. In the end, I decided to go with my third and final option which is selecting Will Borgen, a 24-year-old defenseman who offers some upside and can be one of the “project players” for the Kraken.
Calgary Flames – Mark Giordano (Defense):
Personally, I believe this is one of the biggest no brainers of the draft. Coming off a Norris Trophy win just two years ago, Mark Giordano to me is an absolute lock to be selected by the Kraken. While some may feel the 38-year-old’s cap hit of $6.75mil could be a deterrent, there is only one year left on the deal, which is what makes it intriguing to me. Giordano would slot into the top pairing and be able to anchor the back end of one of the power-play units. I also believe his leadership to help bring along some of the younger players selected is something you can not put a price tag on. Worst case scenario, if things don’t go as planned, you know there will be teams lined up looking to add a player like Giordano at the deadline.
Carolina Hurricanes – Jake Bean (Defense):
Who doesn’t like a good coming out party? The Carolina Hurricanes may just be offering up the biggest one we see come out of this draft. Enter Jake Bean. The 23-year-old blueliner has a great deal of potential to be a great defenseman in this league. Bean was selected 13th overall at the 2016 NHL Draft by the Carolina Hurricanes, but has been stuck behind a very strong d-core in Carolina the past couple of seasons. Seattle Kraken GM Ron Francis was the one who selected Bean for Carolina and will be very familiar with the high upside he has to offer. I feel this has reunion written all over it and I am excited to see what Bean can make of this opportunity.
Chicago Blackhawks – Calvin De Haan (Defense):
Leading up to the roster freeze, the Chicago Blackhawks went out and acquired Defenseman Caleb Jones from the Edmonton Oilers. With the acquisition of Jones, came an unprotected casualty on the back end. In my eyes, that casualty is Calvin De Haan. I can see the Kraken taking a shot on De Haan here to help anchor their back end. De Haan does come with a pricey cap hit of $4.550mil, but only has one year left on his deal and could be an attractive piece to move to a contending team at the deadline. If the Kraken do look to go elsewhere with their pick from Chicago, look for them to go after an RFA like Nikita Zadorov or Adam Guadette. Both Gaudette and Zadorov are very viable options, but I believe they go for the more experience defenseman here and select De Haan.
Colorado Avalanche – Joonas Donskoi (Forward):
The Colorado Avalanche offer a very sticky situation for the Seattle Kraken. At first glance, the most intriguing option is Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog. There have been many reports lately that Landeskog and the Avalanche are not close in their negotiations. Selecting Landeskog would be a great risk for the Kraken though and risking to end up with no player from the Avs would be too big of a blow for the risk. Brandon Saad is another intriguing name, but again, with being a UFA, it would not be a smart decision.
That leaves me with three names. Erik Johnson, who agreed to waive his no trade clause to be exposed, Joonas Donskoi and JT Compher. In my opinion, the correct move for the Kraken here is Donskoi. Donskoi offers more of an upside then Compher in my opinion and is a player who could slide into the Kraken’s top-nine and also offer some support on the powerplay. Look for Donskoi to head back to the west coast.
Columbus Blue Jackets – Max Domi (Forward):
Next up is the Columbus Blue Jackets. Just like Giordano, I believe Max Domi is a lock for Seattle. Domi has bounced around from team to team over his career, but another fresh start in Seattle could be just what the doctor ordered. Domi will be heading into the final year of his current deal with a cap hit of $5.3mil. The 26-year-old has proven at times that he can be a top-six point producer. A determined Domi playing for his next contract could make for a huge boost to the Kraken lineup. Chalk this up as a no-brainer as well, Domi to Seattle.
Dallas Stars – Jamie Oleksiak (Defense):
The first big risk of the draft arrives with the Dallas Stars selection. Dallas offers a very under-whelming list of unprotected players and a list that many would probably say pass on if it was an option. With that said, only two names are worth a look in my eyes. First is goaltender Ben Bishop. After agreeing to waive his no movement clause to be exposed, there is potential that Bishop could be called to duty for Seattle. With two years left on his deal and his inability to stay healthy, I think Seattle passes on him.
This is where I think they take some risk and select Jamie Oleksiak. The 28-year-old UFA will certainly draw alot of attention on the free agent market, but selecting him to get in some early negotiations is worth it in my eyes. The 6-foot-7, 255lb Oleksiak has proven to be a more than capable Top-4 Defender and with the lack of options in Dallas, I think you take the risk and select Oleksiak.
Detroit Red Wings – Troy Stecher (Defense):
Next up we got the Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings offer a couple viable options up front with depth forward Vladislav Namestnikov and youngster Evgeny Svechnikov, but in the end, I believe the Kraken look to the Wings blue line and select Troy Stecher. Stecher has proven to be very responsible defensively and the right-handed defender only has one year left on his deal with a cheap cap hit of only $1.7mil. Stecher is coming off a strong performance for Canada at the Men’s World Hockey Championships and will look to continue that play on opening night in Seattle.
Edmonton Oilers – Dominik Kahun (Forward):
I will be the first to admit, the Edmonton Oilers are one team that I have absolutely no idea where Seattle goes. At just 26-years-old, Dominik Kahun would be a great selection here. Last season, Kahun recorded 9 goals and 6 assists for 15 points in 48 games played. Kahun has bounced around a bit early in his career, but has the potential to be a contributing bottom six piece. If it is not Kahun, I believe Tyler Benson returns to the NHL and heads to Seattle.
Florida Panthers – Chris Driedger (Goalie):
The worst kept “secret” is the Kraken’s selection of goaltender Chris Driedger. Reports out of Seattle are that the Kraken will select the UFA goaltender and sign him to a 3 year deal with an AAV of $3.5mil. Driedger put up solid numbers for the Panthers during the 2020-21 campaign. In 23 games, Driedger finished with a 2.07 GAA and .927 SV%. Look for Driedger to split starts with a veteran netminder for the first read on his path to eventually taking over the Kraken net in the future.
Los Angeles Kings – Cale Klague (Defense):
When we talk about teams who are loaded with young talent, you have to immediately talk about the Los Angeles Kings. After a good stretch where the Kings were able to win 2 Stanley Cups, the rebuild begun. The Kings have built one of the best prospect pools in the game. For me, this decision came down to two players in their early 20s that both offer a high upside. Austin Wagner’s speed is exciting to watch and a huge asset, but I just couldn’t ignore the ceiling potential that Clague has to develop into a top-four defenseman in this league. I would not be surprised to see either name called, but if I’m Ron Francis, Clague is my guy.
Minnesota Wild – Carson Soucy (Defense):
The decision for the Minnesota Wild selection comes down to two players for me. Carson Soucy on the back end and Kaapo Kahkonen between the pipes. Kahkonen was brilliant to begin his rookie season for the Wild. At one point, I had written my case for Kahkonen to be considered for the Calder Trophy. Unfortunately his numbers tailed off a bit and Cam Talbot took his net back. With a cheap cap hit of $725k, Kahkonen selection here would not surprise me. With that said, I had 3 other goalies I felt fit into the system better and have gone with defenseman Carson Soucy. Soucy has 2 years remaining with a cap hit of $2.75mil. Soucy would be a nice piece on the left side, slotting in on the second or third d-pairing.
Montreal Canadiens – Jonathan Drouin (Forward):
With every expansion draft comes some level of drama and the Montreal Canadiens have provided just that. After a miraculous run to the Stanley Cup Finals, the Habs have left goaltender Carey Price unprotected. There are alot of question marks surrounding Price’s health and whether his price tag is worth the selection, but unlike many others, I am not willing to spend it on him. There are many benefits of selecting him. He is loved around the league, he is from the west coast and he could be the face of your franchise. To me, the risks heavily outweigh the reward. Price’s availability is already in question for next season due to knee and hip injuries. Aside from the playoff run where he was fantastic until the finals, we have seen a decline over the past years as Price approaches the end of his career.
I believe the smart decision for the Kraken is the scoop up Jonathan Drouin. Like Price, there are questions around Drouin as well. Drouin was not part of the Habs playoff run to the cup finals as he stepped away from the team with personal issues. Francis and company will do their homework on Drouin and if he is ready to return, a fresh start in Seattle could be the best case scenario for both player and team.
Nashville Predators – Calle Jarnkrok (Forward):
The Nashville Predators offer a tough decision for Francis and his group. With the hopes of shedding some salary from their cap, the Predators left both Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen exposed. Duchene and Johansen both come with a large cap hit of $8mil, which many believe is not worth picking up.
That leads me to my decision of selecting Calle Jarnkrok. With one year left on his deal and a $2mil cap hit, I feel like this is a no brainer. The fact the Predators left Jarnkrok exposed and protected Tanner Jeannot is mind boggling. Jarnkrok tied for the team lead in goals last season (13) and has the ability to play on both sides of special teams. The Kraken will happily leave those big contracts in Nashville and run off with Jarnkrok.
New Jersey Devils – Will Butcher (Defense):
Like the Edmonton Oilers, I just do not have a great read on the New Jersey Devils selection. The Devils offer a good group of young forwards. Andreas Johnsson, Nick Merkley and Nathan Bastian are all viable options for the Kraken. Looking at the blueline, P.K. Subban is a guy who I considered selecting here to help be a face of the franchise in the community. Although he only has one year remaining on his deal, I just feel that Subban’s decline in play does not warrant taking on that $9mil cap hit.
That leaves me with a good young defender, Will Butcher. Butcher has fallen off the map a bit with Devils brass, only getting into 23 games last season. A change of scenery could do Butcher a world of good and could prove to be a good move for the Kraken to give him that opportunity.
New York Islanders – Kieffer Bellows (Forward):
Heading into the weekend, Bellows was looking like a popular selection, but then the Isles protection list was unveiled. It was no surprise to see Jordan Eberle exposed as talks of trading him have been heating up lately. The biggest surprise left exposed was by far, Josh Bailey. Not many would have ever predicted that Bailey would be exposed for Clutterbuck and Matt Martin to be protected.
Kieffer Bellows is a young player who will offer a high upside to the future of the Kraken. Bellows only got into 14 games with the Islanders during the 2020-21 season, scoring 3 goals while averaging only 11:01 TOI. The 6-foot-1, 195lb forward was selected by the Isles 19th overall at the 2016 NHL Draft. It will be hard for the Kraken to look past Josh Bailey, but I believe the best long term solution is to select Bellows and let him continue to develop. He is one player who could really blossom into a great player with an increased role and opportunity to play in bigger situations in Seattle.
New York Rangers – Colin Blackwell (Forward):
Another one of the bigger surprises to some on the exposed players list is Colin Blackwell. Blackwell is a very appealing option for the Kraken after putting together a strong 2020-21 campaign with the Rangers. Colin Blackwell played most of the season alongside Ryan Strome and Artemi Panarin and showed he was more than capable of being a complimentary piece to two studs. Blackwell comes with a very team friendly cap hit of just $725k. Blackwell’s upside at that price is way too difficult to overlook. Expect to see Blackwell’s name called by the Kraken.
Ottawa Senators – Chris Tierney (Forward):
Although the thought of taking a young talent from Ottawa like Vitaly Abramov is intriguing, I believe Chris Tierney is the right play here. Tierney only has one year left on his deal at $3.5mil. Tierney would fit in nicely in a middle six role with the Kraken. As the trade deadline approaches, a player like Tierney would fetch a nice return for a partial season of service.
Philadelphia Flyers – James van Riemsdyk (Forward):
While there may be some cheaper options available, I feel that the $7mil price tag should not scare the Kraken away from selecting James van Riemsdyk. At age 32, JVR is still a very productive NHLer. In 56 games last season, JVR put up 43 points, tying him for the team lead. There are spots the Kraken will need to spend a little higher and even at $7mil, this should be one of those spots. JVR could be a big contributor on the top line heading into Seattle’s inaugural season.
Pittsburgh Penguins – Zach Aston-Reese (Forward):
When you think of building a team, the first thing that comes to mind is role players. Penguins RFA forward Zach Aston-Reese is just that. Aston-Reece is not a flashy player who will score a ton of points, but his hard working style of play and ability to shut others down make him a perfect selection for the Kraken.
San Jose Sharks – Dylan Gambrell (Forward):
One of, if not the most under-whelming list of exposed players comes from the San Jose Sharks. With not much talent up for grabs, I basically narrowed it down to two potential players. Ryan Donato and Dylan Gambrell being the only ones who offer any value. If I am Seattle, I am selecting Dylan Gambrell based solely on his cheap $700k price tag and his guaranteed 1 year left on his deal.
St. Louis Blues – Vince Dunn (Defense):
Like Montreal, the St. Louis Blues have created quite the stir over the past week. The tension between Tarasenko and the Blues continued to grow as the roster freeze came and he wasn’t dealt yet. It is only a matter of time until Tarasenko finds a new home. Rumours have surfaced that some teams have asked Seattle to select Tarasenko and flip him to them for compensation. While I wouldn’t be surprised to see Vladdy’s name called, I do not believe it is the right decision.
Vince Dunn is the man I want if I am Ron Francis. Dunn’s an RFA, coming off a disappointing season with the Blues, which could play into Seattle’s favour with contract negotiations. Dunn has a huge upside and could develop into something special in the future for the Kraken. Unless I know I have a side deal in place to flip Tarasenko, I don’t think twice about taking Dunn.
Tampa Bay Lightning – Yanni Gourde (Forward):
One of the most loaded exposed lineups comes from the two time defending Stanley Cup Champs. Many big names, with comparable contracts and term could make this a tough decision. In my opinion, the decision is easier than it may appear and unless a side deal is made asking to take on some cap by selecting a player like Tyler Johnson, the simple and best solution here is to select Yanni Gourde.
Gourde has been a vital part to the Lightning’s recent success. Unfortunately for Gourde, he found himself “buried” at times because of the depth of Tampa’s lineup. If Seattle were to select Gourde, there is a great chance he could fill that number two center role. Gourde is only 29 years-old and still has 4 years remaining on a very fair deal at $5.2mil.
Toronto Maple Leafs – Alex Kerfoot (Forward):
The Toronto Maple Leafs have a good feeling of what’s to come. The Leafs were proactive in addressing their depth forward group as the roster freeze deadline approached. The Leafs went out and acquired Jared McCann from the Pittsburgh Penguins. While McCann could also be used as a smoke screen, I think the best choice here is Alex Kerfoot.
Kerfoot is a versatile forward who can play both wing and center. Alex comes with a very manageable contract with a cap hit of $3.5mil for 2 more years. Kerfoot is coming off a good playoff performance that saw him put up six points in the Leafs seven games. While leaving the likes of McCann and even Travis Dermott behind, Seattle will be happy to insert Kerfoot into their opening night lineup.
Kraken fish their wish and select Alexander Kerfoot from the Maple Leafs? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/AGnfNRbQMP
— The Hockey News (@TheHockeyNews) July 20, 2021
Vancouver Canucks – Braden Holtby (Goalie):
The Vancouver Canucks will provide the Kraken with their leader between the pipes. While it’s clear that Holtby’s career is on a downslide, there is still good value in selecting him. I see Holtby being a good mentor for the other two young goalies the Kraken will select. Holtby only has one year remaining on his current deal with a cap hit of $4.3mil. Being in the final year of his deal, Holtby could also be a trade chip at the deadline. With a price tag lower then most the other veterans, Holtby is my choice to be the mentor.
Washington Capitals – Vitek Vanecek (Goalie):
Vitek Vanecek burst onto the scene for the Capitals last season and would be a wise pick for Seattle. The 25-year-old goalie would be a solid backup with a high upside to potentially become a future starter. Vanecek finished his rookie season with 21 wins in 36 starts. He posted a GAA of 2.69 and a .908 SV%. Passing up on a defender like Dillon or Schultz may be twice, but the young netminder is worth the risk.
Winnipeg Jets – Mason Appleton (Forward):
Like many other teams, I feel that the Winnipeg Jets pick comes down to two players. I believe it is Mason Appleton or Dylan DeMelo heading to Seattle. Dylan DeMelo is an intriguing piece for the blue line. The right shot defenseman has a team-friendly deal with a cap hit of $3mil. DeMelo is still under contract for another 3 seasons making him very appealing. DeMelo is a proven competitor who could step right in and make an impact for the Kraken.
With that said, I still believe the younger, cheaper Mason Appleton is the right selection here. With some snipers already selected above, Appleton’s playmaking ability could provide a boost to the Kraken offense. Appleton put up a career high 25 points in 56 games during the 2020-21 season. The 6-foot-2 youngster is still developing and could become a big part of the Kraken’s future if selected.
In conclusion, I have the Seattle Kraken selecting 16 Forwards, 11 Defensemen and 3 Goalies. I believe a good mix of young talent & veteran presence will prove to be a winning combination for the Kraken. Some of the selections above could prove to be great trade pieces at the deadline. These deals would help the Kraken continue to build for their future.
With the Kraken playing in the weakest division in hockey, I think them making the playoffs is a reasonable expectation. Can they repeat the same success as the Vegas Golden Knights? Personally I do not believe so, but time will tell. Everyone will compare the two for years to come. The pressure is on for Ron and his group and we can only hope for the same excitement that Vegas gave us in their inaugural season.