Kraken’s Best Inaugural Roster

Now that the NHL has released the expansion protection lists from each team, The Hockey Writers’ Seattle Kraken team sat down to create what we think would be the best roster for next season. Here you can find a list of all the players exposed and protected, and below is our projected expansion draft roster.

Writers and Teams Selecting From:

  • Jake Zrihen: Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota Wild, Vancouver Canucks
  • Tom Pepper: Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple LeafsSenators
  • Sean Raggio: New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadephia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins
  • Sean Mallon: Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Dallas Stars, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks
  • Nick Pinkerton: Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Winnipeg Jets, Washington Capitals
  • Adam Kierszenblat: Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues

Roster Construct:

Our roster construction was as follows:

  • Four Goalies
  • 11 Defencemen
  • 15 Forwards
  • Five Restricted Free Agents (RFAs)
  • Two Unrestricted Free Agents (UFAs)
  • Average Age as of July 18, 2021: 27.13

Anaheim Ducks- Hayden Fleury- LD

2020-21 Season Stats: 47 games played (GP), three goals, one assist, four points

Haydn Fleury Anaheim Ducks
Haydn Fleury, Anaheim Ducks (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

Hayden Fleury has the potential to be a special player in this league. The former seventh overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft is still developing but could become a star for the Kraken for years to come. He was also Ron Francis’ first-ever selection when he was general manager of the Carolina Hurricanes. Fleury can play both sides and contribute to the power play if given the opportunity. He should become a fan-favourite quickly in Seattle.

Arizona Coyotes- Antti Raanta- G

2020-21 Season Stats: 12 GP, five Wins (W), .905% save percentage (SV%), 3.36 goals-against average (GAA)

Calgary Flames Mark Jankowski Arizona Coyotes Antti Raanta
Calgary Flames center Mark Jankowski and Antti Raanta (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Injuries plagued Antti Raanta last season, but he still posted a decent save percentage (SV%) despite being on a team that finished 22nd in the league. However, he’s shown the ability to bounce back after a down season. In 2018-19, he posted a .906 SV% in 12 games. The following season, he posted a .921 SV% in 33 games. If this pattern holds, then he is in for a big season. Worse comes to worst, he could be flipped for additional assets if Seattle feels they are set in goal because teams will be interested in the UFA goaltender. It is also good to have three NHL-quality goaltenders available in case of injuries.

Boston Bruins- Connor Clifton- RD

2020-21 Season Stats: 44 GP, one goal, six assists, seven points

Connor Clifton Boston Bruins
Connor Clifton, Boston Bruins (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Connor Clifton really impressed last season, showing he can play on both the right and left sides with success. He is mostly used as a shutdown defenseman and could prove he can also kill penalties. He has a connection to Seattle in his former coach from the AHL, Jay Leach, who will be the Kraken’s assistant coach this season. Clifton will not put up big offensive numbers, but he can be the defensive anchor for a more offensively-minded partner. He has shown improvement every season and should contribute to Seattle’s defence core next season.

Buffalo Sabres- William Borgen- RD

2020-21 Season Stats: 10 GP, zero points

William Borgen Rochester Americans
William Borgen, Rochester Americans (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Some may not be familiar with William Borgen, but he is an excellent prospect from St. Cloud State University. He is a defensive defenceman who has had some offensive success in the AHL the last few seasons. He will not get many points in the NHL, but he is a big body and isn’t afraid to play physical or block shots. The Sabres gave him a chance on the penalty kill where he was only on the ice for one goal in 14 minutes of ice time. In a worst-case scenario, he can be part of the Kraken’s AHL team and develop for the future as he is only 24.

Calgary Flames- Oliver Kylington- LD

2020-21 Season Stats: eight GP, one assist, one point

Oliver Kylington Calgary Flames
Oliver Kylington, Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Oliver Kylington is a smart, two-way defenceman who needs a change of scenery. After playing 43 games with the Flames in 2019-20, he was a healthy scratch most of the season and only made it into eight games. He is still developing, which makes this a great opportunity for the Kraken. He is a great player who, if groomed properly, could be the steal of the expansion draft. Most may want the Kraken to select a more experienced player in Mark Giordano, but with Kylington, you will have a defenceman on your roster for many years rather than a single season. He will become a good player, and Seattle has the chance to benefit from that.

Carolina Hurricanes- Jake Bean- LD

2020-21 Season Stats: 42 GP, one goal, 11 assists, 12 points

Jake Bean Carolina Hurricanes
Jake Bean, Carolina Hurricanes (Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)


Ron Francis selected Bean 13th-overall in the 2016 Draft and will likely want to reclaim the 23-year-old defenseman. An RFA, Bean has appeared in just 44 NHL games but may have a promising future ahead. He thrived in his two full AHL seasons, amassing 23 goals and 69 assists in 129 games with the Charlotte Checkers. He won the Calder Cup with the Checkers in 2019 and followed that up by leading all AHL defensemen in scoring. He should strengthen his defensive play under Kraken assistant coach Jay Leach, whose Providence Bruins finished second in GAA twice during his tenure.

Chicago Blackhawks- Nikita Zadorov- LD

2020-21 Season Stats: 55 GP, one goal, seven assists, eight points

Nikita Zadorov Chicago Blackhawks
Nikita Zadorov, Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Nikita Zadorov proved to be a versatile player last season when he was forced to play with eight different partners. He was among the league leaders in hits and ranked 10th among all players from the last three seasons. Despite bouncing around the league, he is a handy player who is only 26 years old. He can be used in a shutdown role and has shown he can be a very good penalty killer. Kraken fans should be excited as the big Russian is sure to bring the crowd to their feet with his willingness to do whatever it takes to win.

Colorado Avalanche- Jacob MacDonald – RD

2020-21 Season Stats: 33 GP, one goal, eight assists, nine points

Jacob MacDonald Colorado Avalanche
Jacob MacDonald, Colorado Avalanche (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Jacob MacDonald finally got his opportunity in the NHL and proved he has what it takes to compete on a nightly basis. He did play both sides, but most of his success came from playing on the right, partnered with Samuel Girard. In their 156 minutes together last season, they had an expected goals for per 60 of 3.3 combined with an expected goals against per 60 of 1.27. This tandem shut down the opposition during the regular season and helped Colorado claim the Presidents’ Trophy. Some may be looking at the exposed Avalanche forwards, but the real diamond in the rough is on the blue line with MacDonald.

Columbus Blue Jackets- Max Domi- C

2020-21 Season Stats: 51 GP, nine goals, 15 assists, 24 points

Max Domi Columbus Blue Jackets
Max Domi, Columbus Blue Jackets (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Every team needs a number one center, and Max Domi can be that guy for the Kraken. There is some risk as he is expected to miss the first few months of the season with an injury. He also doesn’t have a contract after this season, so if it doesn’t work out, the Kraken could either trade him at the deadline or choose to let him walk in free agency. Despite that, he is worth the risk. Under a more offensively minded coach like Dave Hakstol, Domi should thrive in Seattle. A change of scenery is exactly what the former 12th-overall pick needs to regain his scoring touch from 2018-19 when he put up 72 points in 82 games.

Dallas Stars- Andrej Sekera- LD

2020-21 Season Stats: 46 GP, three goals, two assists, five points

Andrej Sekera Dallas Stars
threeAndrej Sekera, Dallas Stars (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Andrej Sekera brings leadership to a young group as the only defenseman on the roster over 29. He has had a successful career that includes captaining Slovakia on multiple occasions at the World Championships. During the Stars’ run to the Cup Final in 2020, he played a huge role on the penalty kill. He continued that dominance last season as he was only on the ice for one goal against in 122 minutes shorthanded. The team needs leaders, and Sekera could be wearing an “A” during their inaugural season.

Detroit Red Wings- Troy Stecher- RD

2020-21 Season Stats: 44 GP, three goals, eight assists, 11 points

Troy Stecher Detroit Red Wings
Troy Stecher, Detroit Red Wings (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Troy Stecher plays with his heart on his sleeve. He never takes a shift off and isn’t afraid to challenge players who are bigger than him. He also has some offensive upside and isn’t afraid to fire the puck on the net. There may be a bonus to selecting Stecher if Owen Power falls to the Kraken at second overall. The two had a dynamic partnership during the World Championship and were a big reason Canada won gold. Although he’s not the biggest guy on the ice, he will give you everything he has and be a solid third-pairing defenseman who can mentor the younger players.

Edmonton Oilers- Tyler Benson- LW

2020-21 Season Stats: Bakersfield (AHL) 36 GP, 10 goals, 26 assists, 36 points

Tyler Benson Vancouver Giants
Tyler Benson of the Vancouver Giants (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

Tyler Benson’s career has been plagued by injuries since his days in junior. The good news is he has shown he can produce. He has 141 points in 156 career games in the AHL and has shown he is durable despite an injury-plagued past. Unfortunately, Benson was never given an extended chance with the Oilers, with only seven NHL games since he was drafted. Regardless, he is developing into a decent playmaker and should be given a chance to succeed in Seattle.

Florida Panthers- Chris Driedger- G

2020-21 Season Stats: 23 GP, 14 W, .927 SV%, 2.07 GAA

Chris Driedger Florida Panthers
Chris Driedger, Florida Panthers (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

Pierre LeBrun has tweeted that he expects the Kraken to draft and sign the 27-year-old goaltender. Driedger, a UFA, is coming off a breakout 2020-21 regular season in which he recorded a .927 SV%, a 2.07 GAA, and three shutouts over 23 starts. He struggled a little in the 2021 Playoffs against the Tampa Bay Lightning (.871 SV%, 3.70 GAA in three games), but then again, so did the entire Panthers’ defence. We don’t know if Driedger would serve as a backup or split the starting role, but either way, he should continue his strong play for the Kraken next season.

LA Kings- Austin Wagner- LW

2020-21 Season Stats: 44 GP, four goals, four assists, eight points

Austin Wagner Los Angeles Kings
Austin Wagner, Los Angeles Kings (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

There is a lot to like about 24-year-old Austin Wagner. He has become a fixture in LA’s bottom-six since his NHL debut and is under contract for the next two seasons. A hitting machine, Wagner has 384 in 171 games and is a thorn in the side of the opposition’s top players. Another advantage is he has played his entire NHL career in the Pacific Divison, so he understands what travel is like and the physicality the division requires. He is a great fit and should be able to contribute to the Kraken’s third line.

Minnesota Wild- Kaapo Kähkönen- G

2020-21 Season Stats: 24 GP, 16 W, .902 SV%, 2.88 GAA

Kaapo Kahkonen Minnesota Wild
Kaapo Kahkonen, Minnesota Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

A year after being named the AHL of the year, Kaapo Kähkönen dominated his first full NHL season posting 16 wins and two shutouts. The 24-year-old is waiver exempt which means he can continue to develop in the AHL next season while still being called up if needed. He is a home run for Seattle. They get a young goaltender who is developing at a great rate and is under their control for the next couple of seasons – he will be an RFA after 2021-22. This is a great selection and should help the Kraken establish themselves as one of the best goaltending groups in the NHL.

Montreal Canadiens- Carey Price- G

2020-21 Season Stats: 25 GP, 12 W, .901 SV%, 2.64 GAA

Blake Wheeler Winnipeg Jets Carey Price Montreal Canadiens
Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets and Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Jason Halstead/Getty Images)

When news broke that Carey Price waived his no-movement clause and was exposed, everyone was shocked. Then we heard reports that he may be out for the season but will only know for sure after the expansion draft lists are submitted. It is an extremely complicated situation but should not deter the Kraken from selecting him. This is Carey Price. He is still one of the best goaltenders in the league and worth the risk. Not to mention the marketability of bringing in a future Hall-of-Famer who played junior four hours away from Seattle for the Tri-City Americans. This would be a major win for Seattle as he would instantly become the face of the franchise.

Nashville Predators- Calle Järnkrok- RW

2020-21 Season Stats: 49 GP, 13 goals, 15 assists, 28 points

Calle Jarnkrok Nashville Predators
Calle Jarnkrok, Nashville Predators (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

Because Nashville decided to protect five defensemen, they had to expose Calle Järnkrok. He is a dynamic winger who can put up 30-35 points a season and would look great on Seattle’s second line. An added benefit is he can play on special teams as he has been part of Nashville’s special teams since his second season in the league. There may be bigger names out there like Matt Duchene or Ryan Johansen, but Järnkrok is a better fit and does not carry a huge cap hit. Expect him to get more opportunity on the power play with the Kraken, which could lead to a breakout season offensively.

New Jersey Devils- Will Butcher- LD

2020-21 Season Stats: 23 GP, one goal, 10 assists, 11 points

Will Butcher New Jersey Devils
Will Butcher, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Will Butcher stepped into the NHL after a successful college career and surpassed 40 points in his rookie season. Since then, he has seen his point production decline because the 26-year-old has been on some underperforming New Jersey Devils teams. A change of scenery could be just what he needs to boost those offensive numbers. Hakstol has had success maximizing the offensive potential of puck-moving defensemen before and may be able to help Butcher bounce back from a career-low one-goal and 11-point season.

New York Islanders- Josh Bailey- RW

2020-21 Season Stats: 54 GP, eight goals, 27 assists, 35 points

Josh Bailey New York Islanders
Josh Bailey, New York Islanders (Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s sometimes easy to forget about Josh Bailey when the New York Islanders have stars like Mathew Barzal, Anthony Beauvillier and Anders Lee. However, he’s been one of their most consistent players over the last five seasons when the team has had a run of playoff successes. The 31-year-old can be an asset on the power play, penalty kill, and in the locker room, especially if the team attempts to make a deep playoff push in their inaugural season. He had 12 goals and 39 points in 49 games over the last three postseasons. He’d bring flexibility to the lineup as a top-nine winger.  

New York Rangers- Colin Blackwell- RW

2020-21 Season Stats: 47 GP, 12 goals, 10 assists, 22 points

Colin Blackwell New York Rangers
Colin Blackwell, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Despite the speculation, Colin Blackwell was exposed by the New York Rangers. Blackwell is coming off a breakout season, scoring 12 goals and 22 points in 47 games. He worked his way off the taxi squad and became an invaluable part of the Rangers lineup. He can play both center and the wing on the fourth line or with Artemi Panarin. Following the season, he scored four goals for Team USA at the World Championship. The flexibility and depth Blackwell brings could be invaluable to a team looking to make a run.  

Ottawa Senators- Chris Tierney- C

2020-21 Season Stats: 55 GP, six goals, 13 assists, 19 points

Chris Tierney Ottawa Senators
Chris Tierney, Ottawa Senators (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Chris Tierney’s offensive production has been slowly regressing, but he is still a useful depth piece. He could center either the third or fourth line and help shut down the opposition. One asset to his game is the penalty kill. He played over two minutes a game last season shorthanded and helped the Senators move from 28th in the league to 20th in penalty kill percentage. The days of him getting close to 50 points may be over, but he can still make an impact every night.

Philadephia Flyers- Shayne Gostisbehere- LD

2020-21 Season Stats: 41 GP, nine goals, 11 assists, 20 points

Shayne Gostisbehere Philadelphia Flyers
Shayne Gostisbehere, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Shayne Gostisbehere has had a tough run the last several seasons, and it started when the Philadelphia Flyers fired head coach Hakstol. In three full seasons under Hakstol, Gostisbehere scored 37 goals and 150 points and was runner-up in Calder Trophy voting. In two seasons without Hakstol, Gostisbehere only scored 14 goals and 32 points in 83 games. The best stretch of his career was under Hakstol. A reunion could rejuvenate the 28-year-old’s career and help lead the Kraken’s back-end.

Pittsburgh Penguins- Mark Jankowski- C

2020-21 Season Stats: 45 GP, four goals, seven assists, 11 points

Mark Jankowski Pittsburgh Penguins
Mark Jankowski, Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Mark Jankowski has scored at every level. That includes his time in college, the AHL and the NHL. That’s decent for a player who has averaged under 13 minutes of ice time in his career. The 6-foot-4, 26-year-old pivot moves well for his size and can threaten the penalty kill. In 2018-19 with the Flames, Jankowski scored five goals and eight points while shorthanded. He had a minor role with the Penguins last season, and a new home could help him rediscover his offensive touch. He’s still young and would be a cost-efficient depth piece for Francis.

San Jose Sharks- Matt Nieto- LW

2020-21 Season Stats: 28 GP, five goals, two assists, seven points

Matt Nieto Colorado Avalanche
Matt Nieto with the Colorado Avalanche (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Matt Nieto faced some injury problems last season, but the speedy winger still has a lot to give. He can produce at a 20-25-point range and was a key member of the Sharks’ penalty kill in 2020-21. He had a good shooting percentage at 11.1% and isn’t afraid to block shots. If you are looking for a good depth piece, Nieto is your guy. Kraken fans will love the energy he brings to every shift as he is not afraid to sacrifice the body.

St. Louis Blues- Vladimir Tarasenko- RW

2020-21 Season Stats: 24 GP, four goals, 10 assists, 14 points

Vladimir Tarasenko St. Louis Blues
Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues (Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

When you get the chance to add a dynamic sniper without trading an asset, you take it. Yes, Vladimir Tarasenko has faced major injury issues the last few seasons with his shoulder, but his performance at the World Championships may be a reason for optimism. He had two assists in three games, but more importantly, he played after the Blues were eliminated from the playoffs. If he weren’t 100% healthy, he would not have travelled to the tournament. He is only two seasons removed from a 33-goal campaign and a Stanley Cup victory. He is a risk worth taking as he could easily rediscover his game and become one of the deadliest players in the league.

Tampa Bay Lightning- Ondřej Palát- LW

2020-21 Season Stats: 55 GP, 15 goals, 31 assists, 46 points

Ondrej Palat Tampa Bay Lightning
Ondrej Palat, Tampa Bay Lightning (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

The two-time defending champions have exposed a handful of key players from their Stanley Cup wins, including Alex Killorn, Yanni Gourde, and Ryan McDonagh. However, Ondřej Palát offers the best value among the group, as he is still in his prime and comes with a one-year, $5.3 million cap hit. The 30-year-old put up an impressive 15 goals and 31 assists in 55 games last season, which nearly tied for the best scoring average of his career. He also finished second on the team in both power-play goals and power-play assists. He is a special player and should be a key member of the Kraken’s first line next season.

Toronto Maple Leafs- Alexander Kerfoot- C

2020-21 Season Stats: 56 GP, eight goals, 15 assists, 23 points

Alexander Kerfoot Toronto Maple Leafs
Alexander Kerfoot, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The decision to pick Alexander Kerfoot or Jared McCann was a tough one. While McCann may be the more offensive player, Kerfoot is the better overall player, and that’s why he was selected. He plays in all situations and can be that second-line center whose job is to provide secondary scoring while being defensively responsible. There is a physicality to his game, and you know he will be looking to impress playing close to his hometown across the border, Vancouver.

Vancouver Canucks- Matthew Highmore- LW

2020-21 Season Stats: 42 GP, three goals, four assists, seven points

Matthew Highmore Chicago Blackhawks
Matthew Highmore with the Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Matthew Highmore is a fourth-liner who would make a great 13th forward. He can jump in when needed and provide energy with every shift. He has killed penalties in the past and has proven to be defensively responsible. He will not put up points for the Kraken, but it’s fair to expect a 10-15-point season from him. He is a good depth piece who may come in handy if the Kraken experience some injuries down the line.

Washington Capitals- Garnet Hathaway- LW

2020-21 Season Stats: 56 GP, six goals, 12 assists, 18 points

Garnet Hathaway Washington Capitals
Garnet Hathaway, Washington Capitals (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Garnet Hathaway instantly reminded us of William Carrier on the 2017-18 Vegas Golden Knights. Carrier helped foster a bruising Vegas work ethic that made them one of the most intimidating teams in the league. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Hathaway punished opponents with 179 hits in 2020-21 and turned in another strong defensive season. He started a staggering 82.2 percent of faceoffs in the defensive zone (dZS%) and was still able to record a plus-7 rating and a .921 on-ice save percentage (oiSV%). He comes with a $1.5 million cap hit for the next two seasons, which may be a bit pricey for a fourth-liner, but he plays with an intensity that could quickly become contagious.

Winnipeg Jets- Mason Appleton- RW

2020-21 Season Stats: 56 GP, 12 goals, 13 assists, 25 points

Mason Appleton Winnipeg Jets
Mason Appleton, Winnipeg Jets (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

The 25-year-old Appleton is the most attractive and affordable Jet for Seattle. He broke out with Winnipeg in 2020-21, scoring 12 goals and 13 assists — earning him a 3:15 increase in time on ice from the previous season. He can also play on a second penalty-kill unit, as he finished fifth among Jets forwards in shorthanded ice time. Appleton has one year remaining at a bargain of $900,000 before becoming an RFA.

Potential Lines

Forwards

Ondřej PalátMax DomiVladimir Tarasenko
Calle JärnkrokAlexander KerfootJosh Bailey
Colin BlackwellChris TierneyMason Appleton
Garnet HathawayMark JankowskiAustin Wagner
Matt NietoTyler BensonMatthew Highmore

Defence

Shayne GostisbehereConnor Clifton
Jake BeanTroy Stecher
Will ButcherAndrej Sekera
Hayden FleuryNikita Zadarov
Oliver KylingtonJoey MacDonald
William Borgen 

Goaltenders

Carey Price
Chris Driedger
Antti Raanta
Kaapo Kähkönen

How Our Team Stacks Up

We strongly believe that this is a playoff team. Not only do we have a top-six that can compete with anyone, but our goaltending is potentially the deepest in the league. The bottom-six will cause problems for opponents because of their speed and willingness to throw the body. Then we come to the defence, which is so deep that players like Fleury and Zadorov don’t even make our opening night lineup. Seattle will be an excellent team in their inaugural season, especially if they draft a lineup similar to ours.


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