The Seattle Kraken have had a strong offseason that rivals any from across the NHL. From the additions of Shane Wright, André Burakovsky, Oliver Bjorkstrand and Justin Schultz, to multiple new additions to the coaching and front office staff, there is optimism the Kraken will have a stronger season than their inaugural 2021-22 campaign. There are a lot of storylines to follow for the upcoming season, but here are four of the hottest takes for the 2022-23 season.
Beniers, Wright Finish Top 5 in Voting For Calder
Rarely do two teammates make the top five when it comes to Calder Trophy voting. In fact, before last season when Detroit’s Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond both found their way there, the previous time it happened was during the 2016-17 season, when Austin Matthews and Mitch Marner finished first and fifth. That being said, if Wright makes the team, it is possible he and Matty Beniers both find a way into the top five.
For both Beniers and Wright to find their way into the top five for voting, a few things need to happen. First, based on the results from the last few seasons, they both need to have at least 50 points. If either one wants to win it, they will most likely need to exceed the 60-point threshold, which is doable considering both players’ offensively-gifted skill sets.
The other may seem very straightforward, but they need to outplay the rest of the stacked rookie class. Because of the pandemic, more players went back to school after being drafted than expected, which will make this year’s Calder race one of the toughest in recent years. As a result, Beniers and Wright will need to outperform players like Owen Power, Kent Johnson, Jake Sanderson, William Eklund and Mason McTavish, just to name a few. It will be a tough race, but both should be considered front runners for the award.
At Least 4 Players Will Score 25-Plus Goals
It is not a secret that the Kraken struggled to put the puck in the net last season. Jared McCann was the only player to eclipse 25 goals while also being the only player to hit 50 points. This year feels different though. With the additions of Burakovsky, Wright, Bjorkstrand, and Schultz combined with a full year of Beniers, they should have more than one 25-plus goal scorer in their lineup next season.
As for the candidates, there are four that come to mind. First is McCann, who, if given power play time, should be able to have a repeat performance in the goal category. Next up is Jordan Eberle, who is coming off a 21-goal year with Seattle. He has hit the 25-goal mark four times in his career and also has a 24-goal season to his name. While he did have a tough season in 2021-22, injuries to teammates as well as the general play of the Kraken did play a factor in his performance. Look for him to bounce back and once again pass that 25-goal mark.
Bjorkstrand is a new addition that should hit it next season after coming over from the Blue Jackets this offseason. The former Portland Winterhawks star hit a career-high 28 goals last season, and fans should expect him to be close to, if not exceed, that number next season. The final selection is tricky, but Burakovsky is the name that sticks out. He has never hit 25 goals in a season but came close in 2021-22 with 22. While he was given some great opportunities in Colorado, he will get more chances, whether it be first unit power play or 18-20 minutes a game in Seattle, which should push the Austrian winger over the edge.
Kraken Will Finish With More Points Than the Golden Knights
While it will be a difficult task for the Kraken to make the playoffs, one task they can focus on is being better than the Vegas Golden Knights. There have been constant comparisons between the two organizations as they are the two most recent expansion teams, so Seattle passing them in year two of their existence would be a massive win for the organization and fan base.
The biggest question mark for both teams will be goaltending. Robin Lehner being out for the season is a massive blow for Vegas as they are now without a bonafide starting goalie. If Philipp Grubauer can bounce back and give the Kraken solid goaltending, it should go a long way in pushing Seattle past the Golden Knights.
The other advantage for the Kraken is they do not have cap issues and skaters with long-term injuries. While Vegas has to rely heavily on their top-six, Seattle has set themselves up nicely with offensively gifted players throughout the lineup. The two teams will be close, but they look like the better overall team entering the 2022-23 season.
Kraken Trade a Left-Shot Defeceman
While Seattle’s defensive depth still needs some work, the depth on their right side needs to be addressed. The organization only has one right-shot defenceman 25 years or younger signed and enter the season with only four total. Adam Larsson and Schultz are solid NHL defencemen, but the organization needs to find a way to add to their right-shot depth.
With not many options left on the free agency market, the best way to do this is via trade. The Kraken have a plethora of left-shot defencemen, including Vince Dunn and Carson Soucy, that could be used as a trade piece to beef up their right-shot defensive depth. With the signing of Michal Kempný along with American Hockey League-bound Ryker Evans and Gustav Olofsson, it could open the door for a trade as Seattle could replace the traded player from within the organization.
The name Seattle should be looking at is Ethan Bear. The former Seattle Thunderbirds defenceman looks to be the odd man out in Carolina and could be available for the right price. The Hurricanes also need to improve their left-shot defensive depth, which is why this switch makes sense for both parties. Something to monitor as the season inches closer to puck drop.
Exciting Year Ahead For Seattle
Kraken fans should be excited as all roads point to a better year in the Emerald City. While their improvements may push them out of the Connor Bedard sweepstakes, this upcoming season will be an important step for this young Seattle team.
Do you see any of these hot takes becoming a reality? Do you have any hot takes of your own? Let us know in the comments!
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.