The NHL’s preseason is coming to a close. Rosters are being finalized, lines and pairings set, which leaves a vital facet of the game still to be determined: special teams.
The Seattle Kraken coverage team at The Hockey Writers have given us their opening night forward lines and defensive pair projections. In this edition, Adam Kierszenblat, Sean Raggio, and Jake Zrihen project the Kraken’s first and second power play (PP) and penalty killing (PK) units, as well as top-five shootout (SO) participants.
|PP1: Jaden Schwartz, Jared McCann, Jordan Eberle, Joonas Donskoi, Mark Giordano|
|PP2: Calle Järnkrok, Alexander Wennberg, Mason Appleton, Morgan Geekie, Vince Dunn|
|PK1: Riley Sheahan, Donskoi, Adam Larsson, Carson Soucy|
|PK2: Appleton, Brandon Tanev, Giordano, Jamie Oleksiak|
|SO: Eberle, Donskoi, McCann, Schwartz, Geekie|
|*Extra: Yanni Gourde|
Special teams are going to be a huge factor for the Kraken. Watch for players like Giordano, Appleton, and Donskoi to play big roles on both units. Players like Gourde, Eberle, and Schwartz should get a chance on the penalty kill throughout the season, but head coach Dave Hakstol may want to spread out the minutes early on.
|PP1: Schwartz, McCann, Ryan Donato, Eberle, Giordano|
|PP2: Donskoi, Wennberg, Marcus Johansson, Geekie, Dunn|
|PK1: Sheahan, Tanev, Oleksiak, Soucy|
|PK2: Donskoi, Appleton, Giordano, Larsson|
|SO: Eberle, McCann, Donato, Schwartz, Giordano|
|*Extra: Gourde, Colin Blackwell|
Despite the school of thought that would find McCann on the wing, he will be best utilized at center on the Kraken’s top power-play unit. Donato on the top pair would be bold, but he has the skill and just needs the opportunity to prove himself as an NHL-caliber goalscorer. This is his shot. This top unit should carry most of the workload, but the second unit offers Dunn, Geekie, and Appleton if he earns the promotion, the opportunity to build confidence and get more reps.
Despite the school of thought that would find McCann on the wing, he will be best used at center on the Kraken’s top power-play unit. Donato on the top pair would be bold, but he has the skill and just needs the opportunity to prove himself as an NHL-caliber goalscorer. This is his shot. This top unit should carry most of the workload, but the second unit offers Dunn, Geekie, and Appleton – if he earns the promotion – the opportunity to build confidence and get more reps.
Many anticipate that Giordano will become the first Kraken captain, and they have noticed his leadership at training camp. It’s debatable whether or not the team should name a captain ahead of their inaugural season, but being a leader on both special teams units will help build his case.
|PP1: Donskoi, McCann, Schwartz, Eberle, Giordano|
|PP2: Järnkrok, Johansson, Wennberg, Donato, Dunn|
|PK1: Schwartz, Järnkrok, Giordano, Oleksiak|
|PK2: Sheahan, Appleton, Soucy, Larsson|
|SO: Eberle, Donato, McCann, Schwartz, Donskoi|
Both power-play units would operate in umbrella formats, with Eberle and Donato sliding down to the top of the circles and Donskoi and Wennberg shifting to the net front. Giordano and Dunn would quarterback the units, while McCann and Johansson would station themselves in the high slot. Each unit has a solid mix of passers and snipers and could likely put up some solid numbers with the man advantage. The proposed PP2 is a bit low on raw skill but could do damage with a proper game plan.
These penalty kill units make use of the best defensive players on the team. Schwartz and Jarnkrok have been among the best defensive forwards in the league for several seasons, and Sheahan and Appleton are no slouches in their own zone either. Oleksiak, Soucy, and Larsson are all excellent shut-down defensemen, and Giordano can also function in that capacity despite his offensive talent. These units will be difficult to score on.
Our Consensus Kraken Special Teams Units
The projections have been cast, and the results are in. This lineup came to life based on the number of times each player appeared in that position. The power-play units were generally similar. On the penalty kill, Tanev and Donskoi tied for who should get the nod and land on the first unit. However, because Tanev spent more time killing penalties despite playing fewer games last season, that breaks the tie and gives him the spot.
You’ll notice that the consensus and Sean’s penalty-killing units are identical. That is pure coincidence based on the construction of everyone’s units, respectively.
|PP1: Schwartz, McCann, Donskoi, Eberle, Giordano|
|PP2: Järnkrok, Wennberg, Johansson, Geekie, Dunn|
|PK1: Sheahan, Tanev, Oleksiak, Soucy|
|PK2: Appleton, Donskoi, Giordano, Larsson|
|SO: Eberle, McCann, Donato, Schwartz, Geekie/Donskoi/Giordano|
|*Extra: Gourde, Blackwell|
Gourde and Blackwell are slated to fit in once they’re healthy. Gourde is following shoulder surgery, and Blackwell has a lower-body injury. Gourde will be on the power play and should see some penalty-killing time. Blackwell also earned time on both units last season with the New York Rangers. However, it may be harder for him to break into special teams when he returns if those already slated start the season strong.
Offensively, the Kraken have some weapons but may have trouble lighting the lamp given the defense-heavy makeup of the team. Players like Geekie, who impressed during the preseason, will get more of an opportunity to prove themselves at the NHL level. Special teams are going to be vital to the Kraken sinking or swimming during their inaugural season.
Sean Raggio lives for hockey. He will be covering the Seattle Kraken, and is a co-host of “What’s Kraken” for THW. Sean gained experience in writing for television, print and radio while studying journalism at Quinnipiac University and being an active member in the student media organizations there. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out on Twitter! A link can be found at the bottom of his articles, such as this one.