Jaden Schwartz’s first season with the Seattle Kraken was a disappointment. After signing a five-year deal that carries a cap hit of $5.5 million per season, the former Stanley Cup Champion only appeared in 37 games last season due to injury. He also only produced eight goals and 23 points during that span, leading to debates on whether or not the signing was a mistake. This season, he is proving doubters wrong, thanks to a strong first seven games with three goals and three assists.
Schwartz’s Even Strength Dominance
At even strength, Schwartz has been everything the Kraken hoped he would be when they signed him to his massive free-agent contract. He has three primary assists and boasts a 58.14% Corsi for rating. The Kraken have also outshot the opposition 53-35 while he is on the ice and generated 22 high-danger scoring chances compared to 16 given up. Individually, he has 17 shots on goal and has created six high-danger scoring chances, showing that last season’s struggles are behind him.
Schwartz’s one less glamorous stat is his plus/minus. After seven games, he is a minus-5 on the season, but it isn’t necessarily his fault. His goaltenders have only produced an 80% save percentage, which is a massive reason why he has been outscored seven to three at even strength. The hope is the on-ice save percentage will even out, which should lead to a more balanced plus/minus by the end of the season.
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Schwartz’s start to the season is also impressive, considering he hasn’t had consistent linemates. He has spent over 30 minutes of even-strength ice time on a line with Matty Beniers and Oliver Bjorkstrand, as well as with Alex Wennberg and Jordan Eberle. Despite his inconsistent linemates, both have a Corsi percentage above 60. The same can be said about both lines’ expected goals percentage, which are above 60%. What this means is that although the Kraken may not be scoring a ton of goals, when Schwartz is on the ice, Seattle is generating offensive scoring chances while also keeping the puck out of the defensive zone. Not only is he making his linemates better, but he is also having a positive impact on the game.
Kraken’s Power-Play Sniper
A surprising development this season has been Schwartz’s contribution to the power play. After finishing with just one goal last season, he has tripled his output with three on just four shots in his first seven games – tied with Connor McDavid, Nick Ritchie, Mika Zibanejad, Mats Zuccarello, and John Tavares for third in the league.
It would not be unreasonable for him to be shooting at a 75% clip for the rest of the season. The important part, though, is that he has built up some confidence and is getting the puck on the net rather than always looking for teammates. The power play is one of the few positives for this Kraken team so far, and he is a big reason why it is clicking at 25%.
Schwartz Back on the Penalty Kill
While he hasn’t been a regular penalty killer throughout his career, Schwartz has been given some extra shorthanded time already. During the 2021-22 campaign, he played a total of 5:19 but is already up to 2:33 this season. During that time, the Kraken have conceded two shots and one goal but have recorded two shorthanded shots and scored a shorthanded goal. They have also not given up a high-danger chance against, while he has generated one high-danger chance.
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As an experienced veteran who is a strong two-way player, it is great to see him getting more opportunities to kill penalties. Last season, the Kraken finished 31st on the penalty kill with a 74.9% success rate. He has already had a positive influence on this unit and will hopefully continue to be featured as the season progresses.
Coming back from a major hand injury is always tough, but it’s been all systems go for Schwartz this season. Most importantly, he resembles what a $5.5 million player should look like. It is early, but if he can keep up this strong play and stay relatively healthy, he could once again find himself above 50 points on the season.