The Seattle Kraken will have the opportunity to acquire a foundational piece of their roster from the Nashville Predators during the Expansion Draft. Due to Nashville’s depth on defence, they will be forced to expose some of their top forwards. Whichever forward Seattle selects should be able to slide into their top-six without any issues and contribute right away.
Baring any trades or signings, Nashville should go with the eight players total option, so they can protect four defenceman.
Filip Forsberg, Victor Arvidsson, Colton Scissons, Luke Kunin, Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, Dante Fabbro, Ryan Ellis
Goaltender: Juuse Saros
Matt Duchene, Ryan Johansen, Calle Järnkrok, Rocco Grimaldi, Nick Cousins, Yakov Trenin, Mark Borowiecki, Matthew Benning, Ben Harpur, Connor Ingram
The exposed list is long, but there are only three players Seattle should select — Johansen, Järnkrok or Duchene. Here is why each player is worth picking and how they can be a foundational piece for the Kraken.
In Johansen, Seattle gets a No. 1 center who can contribute on the power play. He can generate chances and knows how to get the puck on net. He also brings leadership and can help grow the brand through his name recognition as fans may remember him from his Portland Winterhawks days. His contract is not great at $8 million average annual value (AAV) until 2024-25, but Johansen is an investment Seattle should consider.
Johansen is a player that will contribute between 40-60 points depending on the scheme he is placed in. This season, his point totals have dipped a bit, but that could have to do with players like Josi, Forsberg and Eeli Tolvanen all missing time due to injury. Nashville is also a more defensive team — only averaging 2.65 goals per game while playing in a division that hosts three of the top-10 best defensive teams in the league in goals against per game. Despite all of these factors, Johansen can still produce when given the opportunity. He is not going to be near the top of the scoring leaders in the NHL, but he can still provide the Kraken with steady point production along with a strong on and off the ice presence.
Järnkrok has improved every season to the point where he can be relied upon to get 35-40 points a season. He can play special teams and is a player that has become a key part to the success of the Predators. He may not be a flashy player, but could turn into the William Karlsson-type player for the Kraken if selected in the Expansion Draft.
What makes Järnkrok intriguing is his ability to play center and wing. Early in his career with Nashville, he had some success as a center putting up 30-35 points consistently. Recently, the Predators have moved him to the wing and he is currently playing with Mikael Granlund. The reason for the switch is due to the team’s abundance of talent at center.
Despite the switch to the wing, Järnkrok is still contributing at a pace that makes him a top-line option for the Kraken. If he does move back to center, he will have to work on his faceoff percentage. This is a player that has a career 47.7 percent faceoff percentage, and has never eclipsed 51.5 percent in his career. In comparison, Karlsson never eclipsed 48.8 percent before moving to Vegas. This season, however, Karlsson has a 53.7 percent faceoff percentage and has never dropped below 47.6 percent since joining the Vegas Golden Knights. Like Karlsson, a change of scenery and added responsibility may be what is needed to unlock Järnkrok’s full potential.
The Duchene situation is tricky. He has not had a good season from a statistical point of view, but his analytics are still good enough for him to be a consideration for the Kraken. His low scoring this season could be chalked up to his 5.7 percent shooting percentage, but also due to a lower-body injury that kept him out of the lineup for a few weeks. A change of scenery might be what’s needed for Duchene to recapture his scoring touch and get him back to the 60-70 point range he is capable of.
The first thing people will point to when it comes to Duchene is his contract. He has a $8 million cap hit until 2026 and does posses a modified no-trade clause for the last three seasons of his contract. This could hamper Seattle in the long run, but with a new TV deal coming in, the cap may go up despite the original agreement put in place due to COVID-19.
However, Duchene can still produce in other ways. He has a 54.2 percent faceoff percentage and a 54.1 percent Corsi for percentage. He has become a more balanced player that can be relied upon in his own zone. His lack of production may be a product of this bizarre season as he has never dropped below 40 points in a season where he was not injured. He is still a good player and may be worth a look depending on if he can step up in the playoffs this year against the Carolina Hurricanes.
A Win-Win Situation
Regardless of who Seattle selects, they will be getting a player who can contribute right away to the organization. Unless a major trade happens where multiple roster players are moved out by the Predators, Seattle will acquire a foundational piece to their lineup. If they can get one of these three players, it could be a similar outcome to when Karlsson was selected by Vegas.
Adam is excited to be joining The Hockey Writers as part of the Seattle Kraken team. His work can also be found at dubnetwork.ca where he covers the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League. Adam is excited to be part of the Kraken’s inaugural season and ready to bring you in depth coverage of the NHL’s 32nd team.