The Seattle Kraken enter the 2022-23 season hoping for a better result than their inaugural season. They look to have a stronger roster than the 2021-22 season; now, it is just a matter of if everyone can perform up to their potential. In order for them to make the playoffs in year two, they will need these three players to step up their game and become X-factors for the upcoming season.
There were high expectations for Vince Dunn last season after he was brought in from the St. Louis Blues via the expansion draft last summer. While he had a decent season, tying a career-high with 35 points in 73 games, he will need to step up his game to another level during the 2022-23 season for the Kraken to have success. A defenceman with a lot of potential, Seattle needs to put him in a position to succeed, while he needs to find a way to make the most of the opportunities and become the best defenceman on this team.
In order for Dunn to become an X-factor this season, he needs to become more engaged offensively. While he did put up 28 assists last season, only nine of them were primary assists. When looking at the top defencemen by assists from around the league last season, only one of the top seven had more secondary assists than primary assists. The outlier was Roman Josi, who finished with one more secondary assists than primary assists. If he can become more of a focal point in this offence, there is no question he could finish in the top 25 for points and assists among defencemen.
Related: Kraken’s Dunn Has Room to Grow Before Becoming No. 1 Defender
The other area is his defensive game, with an emphasis on turnovers. During the 2021-22 campaign, Dunn had 48 total turnovers, with 36 of those coming in the defensive zone. For comparison, Adam Larsson, who was the team’s top defenceman for last season, had only 35 total despite playing nine more games. If he can work on his transition game and find a way to limit turnovers, there is no question he can be an X-factor next season.
Jordan Eberle is another player that has the potential to be an X-factor. Projected to play with Matty Beniers and Jaden Schwartz, he should have no problem passing the 50-point plateau and will be put into a position where he could hit 25 goals for the fourth time in his career. There should also be less pressure on him as the additions of André Burakovsky and Oliver Bjorkstrand should make the Kraken a deeper and more offensive team.
One way Eberle can return to form and become an X-factor this season is to shoot the puck more. Over his career, he has never dropped below 7.1 shots per 60 minutes and has a career average of 7.975 over his 12-year career. Last season, he managed 6.9 shots per 60. To be fair, there were plenty of factors that caused this low shot production, including injuries to teammates and getting to know a new system in Seattle. But now that he has had a year to adjust, he should be aiming to shoot the puck on a more consistent basis.
Related: Kraken Hope Eberle Can Keep His Two-Way Play Strong This Season
One area where Eberle should break out is the power play. Although he has never been a massive point producer with the man advantage, the Kraken’s offensive additions should give them a more dynamic power play. He should be on the team’s first unit, which should allow him to rack up the assists. He is a player that has X-factor written all over him, especially if he can become a threat on the power play in 2022-23.
Arguably the most important player on the Kraken next season is Philipp Grubauer. There has been so much negative talk about him for the past few months in regards to his poor play from last season. Going into the 2022-23 season, it feels like he will make it his mission to bounce back in a major way and become a positive for this team.
Grubauer had an awful season in 2021-22. There is no need to hammer home that point more. Instead, let’s look at some positives that he can build off of going into 2022-23. The first is puck freezes. Some may laugh at this statistic, but it shows an ability to slow the play on the ice down and, most importantly, prevent rebounds. He finished 16th overall last season with 351 puck freezes and should build off that success next season. It is an important statistic and one that demonstrates he understands when his team needs a break after being hemmed in their own zone.
Related: 2021-22 Kraken Report Cards: Goaltender Edition
The other is that Grubauer enters the 2022-23 season understanding how difficult it is to be a starter and play 50-plus games per season. Before 2021-22, the most games he had played was 50 if you include playoffs, which happened during the 2020-21 season. He should be more comfortable moving forward, which will hopefully translate to a bounce-back year and him becoming the X-factor Seattle thought they were getting when they signed him in free agency.
Plenty of Opportunity in 2022-23
It is more than just Dunn, Eberle and Grubauer who have a chance to become X-factors as there are a dozen other candidates that could step up during the 2022-23 season. While the prospect of having a poor season and getting a chance to draft players like Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli or Brayden Yager may be tempting, all signs point to Seattle trying to make the playoffs. It will be a tough task as the Pacific Division will be tight this season, but the Kraken should have a chance if their potential X-factors play to their potential.