Projecting the Seattle Kraken Opening Night Forward Lines

The Seattle Kraken are ready to play after constructing their roster through the expansion draft, entry draft, and free agency. With mere weeks until training camp, management has some big decisions to make in constructing a lineup that can deliver from day one. The team will spend the next month getting familiar with each other and preparing to play for the NHL’s 32nd franchise.

2021 NHL Expansion Draft Seattle Kraken
Seattle Kraken forwards Jordan Eberle and Brandon Tanev with their new teammates following the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, July 21, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Christopher Mast/NHLI via Getty Images)

As Seattle’s inaugural season draws near, THW’s Kraken coverage team will take a look at potential lineups for opening night. In this edition, the crew of Jonathan Amatulli, Adam Kierszenblat, Nick Pinkerton, Sean Raggio, and Jake Zrihen take a ‘Krak’ at predicting the forward lines for Seattle when they open up against the Vegas Golden Knights.

Jonathan Amatulli

LWCRW
Jaden SchwartzAlexander WennbergJordan Eberle
Jared McCannCalle JärnkrokJoonas Donskoi
Brandon TanevMarcus JohanssonMason Appleton
Colin BlackwellMorgan GeekieNathan Bastian
Extras: Yanni Gourde (IR), Kole Lind, Alexander True, Carsen Twarynski

Seattle had a clear weakness at forward after the expansion draft and addressed it through free agency by picking up Jaden Schwartz and Alex Wennberg on Day 1. They also made a late addition to the forward group by signing Marcus Johansson after the height of free agency had passed. The top-nine looks solid, and the fourth line will allow youngsters Morgan Geekie and Nathan Bastian to earn valuable playing time on a consistent basis. Colin Blackwell earned a larger role last season with the New York Rangers, and could use his experience to guide the young forwards as their responsibilities grow.

The Kraken should have no problem preventing goals, but they may be hard-pressed for offense out of the gate. Putting Schwartz, Calle Järnkrok, and Mason Appleton on three separate lines ensures that there will be defensive responsibility throughout the lineup, while also providing the potential for offensive breakouts. Starting Wennberg on the top line could raise some eyebrows, but he nearly had a 60-point campaign in the past and could return to form playing with Schwartz and Eberle.

Adam Kierszenblat

LWCRW
Jaden SchwartzAlexander WennbergJordan Eberle
Brandon TanevJared McCannMason Appleton
Calle JärnkrokMarcus JohanssonJoonas Donskoi
Alexander TrueColin BlackwellNathan Bastian
Extras: Morgan Geekie, Yanni Gourde (IR), Kole Lind, Carsen Twarynski

This forward group is going to be extremely difficult to play against. Once Yanni Gourde is back in the mix, you can expect some changes, but this team is no slouch with him sidelined. Every line can score, can play a two-way game, and can bring physicality. All things that are needed in the heavy Pacific division.

The most intriguing line is Tanev-McCann-Appleton. That could end up being Seattle’s shutdown line that can also contribute offensively. This team should be exciting to watch come as this forward group is very dangerous.

Nick Pinkerton

LWCRW
Jaden SchwartzAlexander WennbergJordan Eberle
Marcus JohanssonCalle JärnkrokJoonas Donskoi
Brandon TanevJared McCannMason Appleton
Nathan BastianColin BlackwellMorgan Geekie
Extras: Yanni Gourde (IR), Kole Lind, Alexander True, Carsen Twarynski

I think the top line of Schwartz, Wennberg, and Eberle is fairly locked. Gourde’s absence leads me to place Järnkrok at second-line center; although he did not take many faceoffs the previous two seasons, he recorded a respectable 50.1 percent on draws the previous three years. Marcus Johansson has recently bounced around a few teams, but still has plenty to offer. The 30-year-old recorded 30 points in 60 games with the hapless Buffalo Sabres in 2019-20, so he could regain that touch on a second line. 

Marcus Johansson Minnesota Wild
Marcus Johansson, former Minnesota Wild (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)

The third line reunites two teammates from the Pittsburgh Penguins, Jared McCann and Brandon Tanev. I placed McCann, not Appleton, at center due to his faceoff experience. This line is perhaps the most versatile for Seattle, as its group demonstrates offensive upside and defensive discipline. On one hand, Tanev lays out to block shots and sets the tone physically — 33 blocks, 139 hits in 32 games last year. On the other hand, the 25-year-olds, McCann and Appleton, are coming off career years offensively. Prorated to an 82-game season, they would have finished last year with 61 and 37 points, respectively. That’s rather deadly for a third line. 

The fourth line features a trio of right-handed skaters. I considered adding a left-handed shot like Carsen Twarynski, but I sided with more experienced talent. All three players are capable of centering a line, but Blackwell has the most NHL experience. That said, Geekie, who won 74 of 141 faceoffs (52.5 percent) last season, may take draws. Blackwell has recorded respectable efficiency numbers at both ends of the ice, while Bastian did an excellent job of blocking shots to eliminate opponents’ scoring chances. Alternatively, I could see Blackwell sliding up to the third line so that Tanev could comprise a more physical, defensive-minded bottom group.

Sean Raggio

LWCRW
Jaden SchwartzAlexander WennbergJordan Eberle
Jared McCannMarcus JohanssonMason Appleton
Brandon TanevCalle JärnkrokJoonas Donskoi
Colin BlackwellMorgan GeekieNathan Bastian/Kole Lind
Extras: Yanni Gourde (IR), Alexander True, Carsen Twarynski

Schwartz, Wennberg and Eberle are looking to make offensive strides this upcoming season. Putting them together as a line could be the way to make it happen. It may not rival other top lines in the NHL, such as Boston’s or Colorado’s, but they could hold their own and provide a bulk of the offensive production for the Kraken. 

McCann was on pace to have a career year this past season, and he did so playing mostly as a winger. Appleton is looking to build on a career year and Johansson is looking to get back to the point-producing form he enjoyed with Washington. This line has a lot of potential and the increased ice time should aid in their development. 

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

The bottom-six is going to lack offensive firepower but should help provide defensive stability. There’s positional flexibility which will be key if the Kraken gets hit by the injury bug. Once Gourde makes his debut, it would be centering one of the top-two lines. Geekie, Bastian, or Lind are likely the ones to be scratched upon his return.  

Jake Zrihen

LWCRW
Jaden SchwartzJared McCannJordan Eberle
Yanni GourdeCalle JärnkrokJoonas Donskoi
Marcus JohanssonAlexander WennbergMason Appleton
Brandon TanevColin BlackwellMorgan Geekie
Extras: Nathan Bastian, Kole Lind, Alexander True, Carsen Twarynski

Each of these four lines carries the same theme: Questionable offense. Although the Kraken have plenty of forwards who can chip in modestly on the scoreboard, none of their players is an explosive offensive force. Fortunately for Seattle, it appears set on the other side of the rink. The Kraken have two of the best defensive forwards in the league in Schwartz and Järnkrok, along with several other players with strong underlying numbers in the defensive zone. This team will not struggle to keep the puck out of its own net, especially with a strong defensive corps and excellent goaltending.

The challenge for the Kraken in their inaugural season will be scoring goals. Although the outlook appears bleak at the moment, the Vegas Golden Knights had similar concerns before a number of forwards exploded for career years. There is definite untapped offensive potential on Seattle, and if a player such as McCann experiences a William Karlsson-Esque breakout, offense may not be an issue at all.

Our Consensus

After our five writers gave their opinions, here is the consensus lineup based on the number of times each player appeared in that position. The top line was the same in four of five writers’ projections, while the second and third lines were mostly the same in terms of personnel.

LWCRW
SchwartzWennbergEberle
McCannJärnkrokDonskoi
TanevJohanssonAppleton
Blackwell/Geekie/Bastian/TrueBlackwell/GeekieGeekie/Bastian/Lind

The emergence of Gourde after a month or two will mix up the lines, but the Kraken shouldn’t be underestimated going into the season. The forward group has plenty of flexibility, and a good number of these players can play in all situations. With the defense and goaltending looking like sure things, the forward group could surprise people and push Seattle into serious contention.


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