The Seattle Kraken have officially hit the 41-game mark of their inaugural season, and just as at the quarter mark, it comes after a win against the Florida Panthers. Although I wrote at the time that the Kraken were on an upswing, their position hasn’t improved, as they currently sit fourth-to-last in the league. On a happier note, now that we’ve reached the halfway point, it is time for the second installment of four in The Hockey Writers’ Kraken Superlatives series.
Most Valuable Player: Jared McCann
Honorable Mentions: Jordan Eberle, Ryan Donato
Jaden Schwartz took the MVP award at the quarter-point of the season, but a long-term injury has him out of the race for now. Jared McCann has picked up the slack, leading the team in points and goals. His points-per-game rate has him just behind Schwartz. He has taken on the number one center role for the NHL’s newest team and has done an excellent job given the rest of the Kraken’s performance.
McCann’s underlying numbers are similarly strong. He sits third on Seattle and second among forwards in both wins above replacement (WAR, per Evolving Hockey) and expected Goals For per 60 (xGF/60). He has established himself as a true top-six NHL player after last year’s breakout season and will no doubt play a big role in Seattle’s ascent.
Best Sniper: McCann
Honorable Mentions: Jordan Eberle, Brandon Tanev
McCann is the first double award winner in the superlatives series, as he once again usurps the mantle from one of his linemates. Since taking the title of top sniper back in November, Eberle has managed only one goal, sitting at 12 on the season. McCann, meanwhile, has gone on a scoring tear. His team-leading 15 goals, five of which have come on the power play, are already a career-high in only 36 games. If he stays healthy and continues to produce, a 30-goal season is completely within reach. That would be a nice highlight in an otherwise dismal season.
Best Defenseman: Mark Giordano
Honorable Mentions: Jamie Oleksiak, Carson Soucy
Vince Dunn took this title at the quarter mark but now falls out of the running completely, as Mark Giordano and Jamie Oleksiak have elevated their play, and Carson Soucy has emerged as a nice top-four option. Giordano takes the award for now, and for good reason. He sits second among Seattle defensemen in both points, with 15, and WAR, with 0.4. Giordano’s true value has come in the defensive zone, where he has been a steadying presence on a leaky club. His expected Goals Against per 60 (xGA/60) leads the Kraken.
Despite Giordano’s importance to Seattle, he appears likely to be dealt to a contender at the trade deadline. Given his age and pending free agent status, he simply can’t provide Seattle more value than the return package for him would. Any trade offer likely starts with a first-round pick. A return to the Calgary Flames, where Giordano spent his entire career before this season, might be in the cards.
Most Surprising Player: Ryan Donato
Honorable Mentions: Soucy, McCann
Our first repeat winner is free agent signing Ryan Donato, who has continued to impress with the opportunity he has been given. Previously, I noted his underlying numbers, which were rock solid despite weaker mainstream production. The latter has caught up to the former, as Donato sits sixth on the Kraken in points with 16 and tied for third in goals with nine. His advanced stats haven’t faltered either, as he now leads all Kraken forwards in WAR.
Related: Kraken Should Extend Ryan Donato
It is worth mentioning that Donato’s GF/60 is quite a bit higher than his xGF/60, suggesting that some regression is likely. Even so, there’s no denying that he has been a worthwhile addition to Seattle and an impressive reclamation project.
Most Disappointing Player: Philipp Grubauer
Honorable Mentions: Morgan Geekie, Adam Larsson
Our second repeat winner is less encouraging, as starting goaltender and lucrative free-agent signing Philipp Grubauer has struggled mightily this season. His save percentage and goals-against average numbers are near league-worst, and his Goals Saved Above expected is dead last by a shockingly wide margin (more than double the next worst, MacKenzie Blackwood). Grubauer continues to be a main reason for how poorly the Kraken has played and will need to perform far better throughout the life of his deal.
Hopefully, Seattle’s outlook won’t be so bleak when the three-quarter mark of the season rolls around. Check back in then for the third installment of the series!