Seven games into the regular season, the Seattle Kraken are already seeing the benefit of adding two impact wingers. In adding both Andre Burakovsky and Oliver Bjorkstrand in the offseason, they have addressed a major concern from 2021-22.
On and off the scoresheet, both wingers have been making a major impact early on and should continue to do so as the season moves forward.
Burakovsky & Bjorkstrand Scoring Early & Often
While their contributions aren’t limited to the box score, Burakovsky and Bjorkstrand have been featured heavily on the scoresheet early this season, as Burakovsky sits tied atop the Kraken leaderboard with seven points in eight games. His three goals are also tied for first on the team with Jared McCann and Matty Beniers.
The Austrian forward is also averaging 16:23 of ice time, which is ranked sixth among Kraken forwards. His impact is growing too, as he has earned a spot on the top line and has proven valuable in his elevated role.
Bjorkstrand, Burakovsky’s linemate, is also proving to be a handful for opponents. While he has only recorded four points through eight games, he has been hit with a bad case of poor puck luck. The Danish forward is coming off a career year where he potted 28 goals for the Columbus Blue Jackets, but has yet to find his scoring touch with the Kraken.
Despite recording 32 shots through eight games, Bjorkstrand has only tallied one goal. His 3.1% shooting percentage indicates that he might break through in due time. The 27-year-old recording another 25-plus goal season would be a huge boost for the Kraken after their inaugural season was full of offensive struggles.
Inside the Numbers
Both players have been notable contributors for several seasons, but their strong play also extends into their underlying statistics. Their individual numbers are notable, and the production of their line indicates that they thrive together.
According to MoneyPuck, the Kraken’s top line of Burakovsky, Bjorkstrand, and Alexander Wennberg dominate the shot attempts when they’re on the ice. In nearly 44 minutes this season, that line has a 62.5% shot attempts for percentage (Corsi), which ranks second on the team among forward lines with a minimum of 30 minutes together.
In addition to their dominant shot attempt percentages, the line is also creating dangerous chances at a high rate. Their 64.7% expected goals percentage (xG%) is very strong, displaying their ability to create more chances than their opponent.
Burakovsky Looking To Build on a Strong 2021-22
After recording a career-high 61 points last season with the Colorado Avalanche, Burakovsky entered 2022-23 with a chance to build off a highly successful year.
Burakovsky’s 2021-22 season was bolstered by playing with Avalanche superstars Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, helping his value as he looked toward free agency. While his linemates likely added a level of inflation to his point totals, his skill complemented their game as well. The line itself controlled both the Corsi and expected goal battles, which makes sense given the amount of offense the three players create.
Individually, Burakovsky had a Corsi of 55% and an on-ice xG% of 51.9%, which appears to be carrying over to his early tenure with the Kraken. While the sample size is small, his underlying numbers in 2022-23 have almost mirrored his season totals from his 2021-22 season with the Avalanche.
With Burakovsky already finding the scoresheet this much, he looks primed to have another big year. His contract, which pays him $5.5 million through the 2026-27 season, will look like a value deal for the Kraken if he continues to play at a high level.
The Kraken signing Burakovsky to a five-year deal is a real vote of confidence after his career year, and early this season it appears he’s already living up to his end of the bargain.
Bjorkstrand Proving to Be a Dominant Player
After establishing himself with the Blue Jackets, Bjorkstrand was traded to the Kraken in exchange for two draft picks. Now, the 27-year-old Dane gets a fresh start after an up-and-down tenure in Columbus.
Finding himself on the top line, Bjorkstrand has a chance to make a massive impact on a team desperate for scoring help. His 57 points in 2021-22 was a career-high, but his offensive game isn’t the only thing that he brings with him.
As shown in his WAR Player Card, Bjorkstrand brings elite value to the Kraken in nearly all situations. His defensive game drastically improved in his last season with the Blue Jackets, making him a genuine 200-foot player. He also has developed his finishing talent over the past several years and his 28 goals in 2021-22 were a career-high, all while shooting a reasonable 13%. This is why his 3.1% shooting percentage to begin the season will likely be short-lived, as he has carried an average shooting percentage of 11.7% over his seven-year NHL career.
The Kraken are already seeing Bjorkstrand’s all-around game prove valuable, as he has dazzling underlying numbers early in the season. His 61% Corsi ranks second among forwards on the team, which carries over from the style of game he played earlier in his career.
Bjorkstrand also creates scoring chances at an elite level, benefiting both him and his teammates. His 64% xG% ranks first on the team, which is indicative of how much he creates when he is on the ice. Having a player like him play such a complete game on your top line allows for linemates to feel more comfortable. While you don’t want to put all the responsibility on him, he can certainly shoulder a heavy load.
Both Bjorkstrand and Burakovsky are looking like key pieces of the Kraken’s vision moving forward. With the two of them being 27 and signed for under $6 million, they should feature heavily alongside the young talent over the next several years.
Having two elite offensive contributors on your top line is a luxury that only competitors can seem to afford. Once Bjorkstrand starts burying the puck as he has in the past, the two of them should provide a massive boost for the revamped forward group.
Brian Finlayson is a lifelong hockey fan, and has spent recent years writing for hockey-based websites and blogs. Now, Brian joins THW as a Seattle Kraken contributor and is very excited to help cover the NHL’s newest team.
Brian spends most of his time as a student, working towards a communications & media degree at Canadian Mennonite University. He hopes to combine his loves of sports and storytelling to find a career in sports media.