With the NHL Draft and free agency in the rearview mirror, it is time to look ahead to the start of the 2023-24 season. For the Seattle Kraken, expectations will be high after a 2022-23 campaign that saw them not only qualify for the playoffs but beat the defending Stanley Cup Champions in the first round. It was also a big season for their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate as the Coachella Valley Firebirds made it all the way to the Calder Cup Final, losing in overtime of Game 7. The question now is, what will this organization do as an encore in Year 3?
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One of the storylines to watch during training camp and the preseason will be which rookies step up and make the team. Despite the Kraken losing Carson Soucy and Morgan Geekie, Seattle filled those roles with experienced players making it difficult for some of the younger players to earn spots on the 2023-24 team. With that in mind, here are three prospects that could see NHL time this coming season.
Just like last season, the majority of focus will be on what the Kraken decide to do with Shane Wright. Based on the current roster construction, it does not look like there is a space for the former fourth-overall pick, which could force him to the press box most nights. As for potentially being sent down to the AHL, that may not be an option due to the way the NHL-CHL Transfer Agreement is set up. This is a complex situation, and one Seattle needs to manage properly to ensure he continues developing and, most importantly, play games, as he has only played just over 200 games since the start of the 2019-20 campaign.
If Wright does make the team, the Kraken also need to give him opportunities to succeed. While every player needs to earn their ice time, playing him under 10 minutes a night on the fourth line with virtually no special teams play can not be the plan again this season. By all accounts, he is one of the future stars of this organization, and Seattle needs to ensure they do what is best for his future development.
Ryker Evans had a phenomenal rookie year in the AHL last season. Not only was he named to the AHL’s All-Rookie Team, he became the Firebirds’ No. 1 defenceman, posting 26 points in 26 playoff games. The 2021 second-rounder is showing just how dangerous he can be with the puck, as he also led the AHL in assists by a rookie with 38 during the regular season.
The issue with Evans earning a spot on the 2023-24 Kraken is that there is no space whatsoever on the blue line. In order for him to make the team on the left side, he would have to beat out one of Vince Dunn, Jamie Oleksiak or Brian Dumoulin, which would be shocking considering they are three of the top four paid defenders on the roster. Expect the young defenceman to once again start in the AHL but be the first defender called up if injuries or trades occurs during the season.
Heading into the 2022-23 season, it is safe to say that not many were talking about Tye Kartye. In fact, on The Hockey Writers‘ Kraken prospect list that was published prior to the season, he was ranked eighth as there were questions on how his overall game would adjust going from the Ontario Hockey League to the AHL. A year later, it is clear that he has proved most wrong as he looks to build off a successful rookie campaign that included being named AHL Rookie of the Year.
It is odd to say, but it may be easier for Kartye to make the opening-night roster than Wright. Although he is listed as a center, he can play all three forward positions and showed some chemistry with Matty Beniers and Jordan Eberle during his 10 playoff games. Even if he does not make the team out of the preseason, it is hard to imagine a scenario where he does not get any NHL games during the 2023-24 season.
Kraken Have Plenty Of Prospects To Get Excited About
Seattle has done a great job of drafting and signing prospects; now, they need to start finding spaces for them on the main roster. Having experienced players is great, but at the same time, there need to be opportunities for these young players at the NHL level. This season should once again provide plenty of excitement for Kraken fans as they look to build off a 2022-23 campaign few in Seattle will soon forget.