Welcome back to the first annual Seattle Kraken Report Cards. Although the 2021-22 season did not go as hoped, there were many moments and players who stepped up during the campaign. Now, it is time to review the season that was and determine which letter grade each player deserves from the past season. To qualify for a grade, players must have played a minimum of 10 games and finished the season within the Seattle organization.
Just like the grading system in the US and Canada, we will be using letter grades to determine how well each player did. For example, if a player gets an A grade, they were excellent all season, while if a player receives a C-, they have a lot to work on going into next season. This article will focus on Haydn Fleury, Yanni Gourde and Kole Lind.
After being selected in the Expansion Draft, Fleury finished his first season with the Kraken by playing in 36 games, scoring twice and recording two assists. The defenseman averaged 16:17 of ice time and registered 54 shots on goal. He also added 62 blocked shots and 60 hits. When he got the opportunity, he played well defensively but struggled to produce offensively, which played a factor in why he was scratched for most of the season.
Evaluating Fleury’s performance is difficult because he only played 36 games and mostly as a third-pairing defenceman. He did surpass the 20-minute mark three times this year but, on the flip side, played less than 15 minutes on 11 different occasions. At 25-years-old, this should have been his breakout season, but instead, there are now questions on if he can be an everyday NHLer or if he has developed into a seventh defenseman that can only play a limited number of games per season to be successful.
When diving into Fleury’s advanced stats, there are some clear areas he needs to improve on this offseason. The first is defensive zone giveaways. Over the season, he recorded 19 total giveaways, with 15 being in the defensive zone. If he wants to impress the coaching staff, he needs to find a way to control the puck better in his own zone. The other is getting shots on the net when he has the opportunity. As mentioned, he recorded 54 shots that hit the net this season. He also had 40 shots that were blocked and another 24 that missed the net. If he can improve his shooting, it may lead to more confidence from the coaching staff that they can play him in offensive situations. Overall, it was not a great year for him, and hopefully, the former Carolina Hurricane will bounce back in 2022-23.
Player Grade: C-
Jared McCann gets all the hype as he led the team in goals and points, but Gourde was arguably the team’s best forward overall this season. The two-time Stanley Cup winner scored 21 goals and added 48 points in 74 games for the Kraken this season and can best be described as the Swiss Army knife of the forward group. He played over 100 minutes on both the penalty kill and power play and was one of three players on Seattle to record a goal both shorthanded and with the man advantage.
At even strength, Gourde was mostly used in a matchup role. He posted a 51.03% Corsi and was able to create 58 individual high danger chances. For a player who is listed at 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds, he was never afraid to play a physical brand of hockey, finishing second amongst forwards on the team with 77 hits. What really stood out this season, however, was his ability to steal the puck, as no player on the Kraken had more takeaways than his 54. He was the Kraken’s best two-way forward this season, and it was not even close.
With Matty Beniers projected as the team’s number one center next season, Gourde can easily slide back into the middle-six shutdown role he played in 2021-22. It will be interesting to see who they play him with, as the players he saw the most ice-time with this past season are no longer with the team. Regardless, he showed an ability to play with whoever the coaching staff placed on his wing and should end up being one of the most valuable members of the team once again in 2022-23.
Player Grade: A
After spending most of the season in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Charlotte Checkers, Lind finally got his opportunity after the trade deadline with the Kraken. In 23 games, he scored twice and added six assists averaging 11:55 of ice time. He also finished with 31 shots on goal, 10 blocked shots and 18 hits. In short, he showed he can play an everyday role in an NHL bottom six and, with the right development, could be moved up the lineup if needed.
This season, Lind showed that he can play defensively-sound hockey and won’t cost his team in his own zone. He only had three turnovers in comparison to seven takeaways and registered a 50.90 percent Corsi at five on five. The most impressive part of his defensive game and really, his overall game is that he goes out and gives 100 percent every shift. If there is an opportunity to make a play or throw a hit, he is going to take that opportunity. He understood that this was his chance to prove he belongs in the NHL and took full advantage of it with his play.
Overall, Lind’s play this season showed that the Kraken don’t need to go out in free agency and find another bottom-six player. Barring a collapse in play during the 2022-23 preseason, he deserves a spot in the opening night lineup. If Seattle continues to give him opportunities throughout the season, there is little doubt that he can become an important member of this team on a nightly basis.
Player Grade: B-
While Gourde and Lind should be key contributors to this team in 2022-23, the Kraken will need to decide what is the best move for Fleury. Either the team plays him, or it may be best for both sides to part ways this offseason.
Make sure to stay tuned for more player report cards coming out throughout the summer and let us know if you agree with our grades in the comments below.
Adam is excited to be joining The Hockey Writers as part of the Seattle Kraken and Vancouver Canucks team. His work can also be found at area51sportsnet.com where he covers the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.