For months fans have been looking forward to the Seattle Kraken’s first game of their inaugural season, but unfortunate news has put a damper on Tuesday’s opening matchup against the Vegas Golden Knights. On the eve of the 2021-22 NHL season, five prominent Kraken players have landed on the COVID-19 protocol list.
Based on The Hockey Writers’ forward-line projections, the absence of these players will hurt Seattle offensively. McCann has been centering the top line in the preseason, and Jarnkrok, Johansson, and Donskoi have all been top-nine fixtures. Oleksiak was also slated to have a significant role on defense and will leave a hole in the top four.
Consequences for the Kraken
The most pressing concern will be their opening-night roster. The forwards, in particular, are now severely depleted. Head coach Dave Hakstol will now have to shuffle his lines, breaking up the chemistry that was built throughout training camp. Seattle’s top-line wingers Jordan Eberle and Jaden Schwartz will have to adjust to a new center quickly. For a team lacking in any established chemistry, that is a tough setback.
Depending on how long each player is absent, the consequences could stretch into weeks. Per the NHL’s COVID Protocol release, each player will have to self-isolate for at least ten days, while the Kraken will play their first five games. The earliest that they can return will be for Seattle’s home opener against the Vancouver Canucks on Oct. 23, assuming that they tested COVID-positive, and this was not due to contact tracing. Only Jarnkrok can return earlier, as he has been under protocol since late last week.
Kraken’s Shuffled Lineup
Here is what the Kraken’s forward lines might look like for opening night without McCann, Jarnkrok, Johansson, and Donskoi (Yanni Gourde and Colin Blackwell are also out with unrelated injuries):
|Jaden Schwartz||Alexander Wennberg||Jordan Eberle|
|Alex Barré-Boulet||Morgan Geekie||Mason Appleton|
|Brandon Tanev||Riley Sheahan||Nathan Bastian|
|Ryan Donato||Alexander True||Kole Lind|
These lines are a significant downgrade. Hakstol will have to make the best of a bad situation, and he will be in tough to be successful through the first few games. Seattle was already expected to struggle offensively, and the COVID news will only exacerbate the situation. Their goaltenders will have to shine through the beginning of the season.
The addition of Alex Barré-Boulet, who was claimed off waivers from the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday, should help offset some of the offensive issues. He only has 15 games of NHL experience, but he has been a prolific scorer in the American Hockey League and should be ready to bring some of that scoring to the next level. He could blossom given this opportunity.
Here is what the team’s defense corps could look like without Oleksiak:
|Mark Giordano||Adam Larsson|
|Dennis Cholowski||Vince Dunn|
|Carson Soucy||Haydn Fleury|
Here, Dennis Cholowski draws in for Oleksiak. The 2016 first-round pick played 104 NHL games with the Detroit Red Wings before being claimed in the expansion draft. Though he is a downgrade from Oleksiak, he should be capable of playing top-four minutes if called upon.
The Kraken have been dealt a tough blow to start the season. However, if the team can mesh well under Hakstol’s guidance, they may be able to hang on until their key players return, and the playoffs will remain a real possibility.
Jake is a reliable source for the Seattle Kraken here at The Hockey Writers. Hailing from New York City, he is an avid fan of all things hockey and is always involved with the sport, whether that means writing, watching, or playing. An enthusiastic advocate for sports analytics, Jake will often weave them into his posts to support his ideas. More of his work can be found on his Substack page, and he is a contributor with @hky_tapetalk on Instagram. For any questions or inquiries, Jake can be contacted on his Twitter, @jakezrihen.