The Seattle Kraken have been active on the waiver wire to start 2022. In Janurary, they claimed Boston Bruins forward Karson Kuhlman. This week, they claimed New York Islanders forward Austin Czarnik and reclaimed Washington Capitals defenseman Dennis Cholowski.
Kuhlman had already gotten into games with the Kraken prior to getting injured. The others could very well see some NHL ice too, whether due to injuries, players in COVID-19 protocol or earning a shot themselves. All three will be free agents in the offseason. Until then, let’s dive into the three newest Kraken.
Kuhlman, Czarnik & Cholowski Before the Kraken
Before joining the Bruins, Kuhlman played in the United States Hockey League (USHL), and then spent four years playing college hockey for the University of Minnesota-Duluth. In his time with the Bulldogs, he helped them win the first of back-to-back championships, opening up scoring in the championship game. Following the title win in his senior season, he made the jump to professional hockey.
In parts of four NHL seasons with the Bruins, the 26-year-old put up just 15 points in 75 games, while averaging 11:23 time on ice. He was rarely seen on the power play, and only received minimal penalty killing time. He’s played a handful of games with the Kraken since being claimed and has averaged under eight minutes per game and has no points.
Czarnik is the oldest of the trio of new Kraken at 29 years old. Like Kuhlman, he also played in the USHL. He then enjoyed an exceptional collegiate career, where he lit up the college hockey landscape to the tune of 169 points in 159 games. Despite this, and four points in six 2012 World Junior Championship games, he went undrafted.
He’s been a really strong AHL player throughout his career. He’s tallied 203 points in 209 games with three different teams. His NHL career hasn’t seen the same success in more limited action. He’s scored 15 goals and 43 points in 136 games over parts of six seasons with the Bruins, Calgary Flames and Islanders.
Is it fair to say that this is Cholowski’s second stint with the Kraken, considering he never played a game for them? He played in three different leagues prior to turning pro, and was drafted 20th-overall by the Detroit Red Wings in 2016.
Related: What the Seattle Kraken are Getting in Dennis Cholowski
He’s struggled to stay in the NHL for a full season. In 104 games over parts of three seasons with Detroit, he scored 10 goals and 27 points. In seven games with Washington this season, he’s tallied a lone assist. He’d shown offensive promise in juniors, but it hasn’t consistently transferred over to the pros yet.
Kuhlman, Czarnik & Cholowski’s Fit With the Kraken
Kuhlman hasn’t had much opportunity outside of five-on-five play in the NHL. He has seen minimal ice time from head coach Dave Hakstol, and may find himself in and out of the lineup upon returning from injury. Evidently, if he’s in the lineup, it’ll be in a limited, bottom-six role.
Kuhlman will be a restricted free agent (RFA) this offseason, general manager Ron Francis should consider extending him. Given the right opportunity, he could fit in with the Kraken bottom-six. However, he will likely be kept out of the lineup with the return of Brandon Tanev and the assumed promotion of current prospects.
Czarnik is a proven scorer, he just hasn’t been able to fully translate it to the NHL level. He scored five points in 11 tilts with the Islanders prior to being claimed. He has seen some secondary power play and penalty-killing time in the NHL, so he could be a valuable depth piece if he can stick in the lineup.
Related: Kraken Prospect Report: Cale Fleury, Beniers, Winterton & More
Being UFA this summer, there’s a chance that Francis could move him ahead of the deadline, but he’s someone that Kraken brass should definitely consider extending. They’ll have their own farm team, the Coachella Valley Firebirds, next season, and he could be a valuable asset and potential leader on that team. If things really click for him, he could even find himself as a call-up or cracking the lineup on a more regular basis.
Cholowski is interesting. The Kraken have used nine defensemen so far this season, whether it be as injury/COVID replacements, or just to try and find something that clicks. He’ll likely be seeing the ice with the Charlotte Checkers in the AHL, but could end up getting into some games down the stretch.
He’ll be an RFA after this season, so it’ll be interesting to see what Francis does. He’s still young, so there’s a lot of time to groom him and round his game enough to where he becomes a consistent NHLer, even if it’s not as someone who’s driving the offense.
Francis Thinking ‘Low Risk, High Reward’ With Wavier Wire Additions
The Kraken are in a position where they should be looking to sell for assets, but acquiring three low-risk assets for no cost is a big victory. These players can be flipped for picks, or possibly extended at a low cost. Everyone wants to grab a star player, but building a team starts from the bottom up to the top, and these additions are very low risk, with potentially high rewards.