This past National Hockey League season was interrupted by COVID-19. With the virus continuing to limit travel and likely shortening the 2020-21 season as well, the Seattle Kraken will be faced with a problem they likely didn’t expect when the league’s board of governors originally granted them a franchise. Not only will they have difficulty getting their scouts into NHL arenas to watch their prospective picks, the schedule may only include divisional games, meaning they won’t be able to see prospective players live against certain opposition.
That’s not to say it’s all bad news. They got to watch 24 teams battle it out this summer in the Stanley Cup Playoffs — eight more teams than any other year — where players’ best attributes often shine through. Also, the upcoming season having fewer games makes it less likely that a future expansion draft pick gets injured and is suddenly no longer an option for the Kraken. The team, led by general manager Ron Francis, will just have to do the same thing we all did when the pandemic first hit, adjust to the new normal and find the ways they can benefit.
Expansion Teams Have More Tools Available Today Than Ever Before
Francis and his impressive scouting team won’t be starting from zero when the protected lists are announced and, along with their own internal methods, may be using tools like this expansion draft simulator, which you and I can access as well. A couple of attempts using that tool gives us an idea of just how many moving pieces the team has to consider as they identify and narrow down their choices.
One of those ways they’re preparing is connected to a recent hire by the team, Tim Ohashi, formerly of the Washington Capitals. Ohashi was brought on board as the Kraken’s head video analyst. For an existing team, much of the analysis happens on game days, with the team quickly capturing and replaying video for the coaches and players on the bench, who then use it to adjust tactics or in potential challenge situations.
With the Kraken, his initial role will be much different in the early days. There will be less urgency but the film reviews will be of utmost importance as they may be the only method of viewing certain players. Finding and analyzing film on every potentially unprotected player in the league will be a massive job, and that’s likely the reason Ohashi was brought on at this stage, even before important hires such as head coach.
Kraken Will Have a Short Window to Select Their Players
When the 30 other teams release their protected player lists (only 30 because the Vegas Golden Knights are exempt), the Kraken will have a very short period of time to go through the available list of players and discuss their options prior to the draft. When the Golden Knights got their chance to pick their roster back in 2017, the protected lists were released on July 18 and their selections were announced on July 21, a three-day turnaround. It’s clear that a lot of work needs to be done ahead of time if Francis and his management team don’t want to be overwhelmed.
Given that a portion of the protected lists are obvious, with top players like Connor McDavid in Edmonton and Auston Matthews in Toronto being guaranteed spots on their respective team’s list, Kraken management can narrow down the number of players to those who will definitely be available, those who might be available, and a few pie-in-the-sky options. Ohashi is no doubt utilizing the time period between now and the expansion draft to create short highlight videos on as many of these players as he can, to be viewed upon the release of these lists.
No general manager is an expert on every player in the league. So, while Francis will know some of the skaters and goalies the Kraken are considering, he will depend on the knowledge of his scouts, and the information his team provides him. Stat lines can be very misleading, but by taking in all the information on a player’s goals, assists, advanced metrics and adding video highlights of their strengths and weaknesses, a much more complete profile can be built. It worked for the Golden Knights, and with preparation, there’s a good chance it will work in Seattle as well.