Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft Preview: Pacific Divisionby Carter LaCorte July 10, 2021 0 comments
Later this month, we will have a full roster for the 32nd National Hockey League team. The Seattle Kraken will pick one player from almost every team (more on that later), as they try to build a successful roster. To lead up to the draft, we will be previewing the protected players for each team, and who will most likely go to the Emerald City next year.
Let’s go division-by-division, starting with the teams that will immediately rival the Kraken. The other three divisions will have eight teams to talk about, but the Pacific has just six. For starters, the Kraken will not take a player from themselves. Also, the league decided that a top-three team in hockey, the Vegas Golden Knights, shall be exempt from this draft for… reasons. Let’s look at the other teams in the Pacific Division.
The Ducks honestly may be one of the toughest teams to predict regarding their protected list. The only lock is obviously John Gibson in net. On defense, Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson both have a year left on their contracts. The third defenseman is between Haydn Fleury and Jacob Larsson. Both are young and former top picks, but not exactly top prospects. Fleury has been solid in the NHL with the Ducks and Carolina, but Larsson has struggled. They could protect both, but that would make things harder on the offense.
Adam Henrique and Jakob Silfverberg both have three years left with a cap hit over $5 million. Henrique is a bit more expensive and a year older. He was waived earlier this year and would be a solid leader for the Kraken. Rickard Rakell will obviously be protected. Young forward Troy Terry is signed for two more seasons and had 20 points this season. Former first-rounders Isac Lundestrom, Sam Steel, and Max Jones are all pending RFAs. So is Danton Heinen, a fine third-liner who could have some trade value. Seattle has no shortage of attractions, from young defensemen Larsson and Brendan Guhle, as well as bottom-six forwards Alexander Volkov and Derek Grant. The Ducks could give up one of these players, perhaps Larsson, to persuade Seattle to take Henrique.
Forwards Jakob Silfverberg, Danton Heinen, Rickard Rakell, Isac Lundestrom, Troy Terry, Sam Steel, Max Jones
Defensemen Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson, Haydn Fleury
Goalie John Gibson
Projected Seattle Pick: F Adam Henrique
Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau trade rumors aside, both are going to be protected. So will Sean Monahan, Mikael Backlund, and Elias Lindholm. Unfortunately for the Flames, Milan Lucic‘s no-move clause forces the team to protect him. Finally, it would be wrong to not protect Andrew Mangiapane, who has tons of value and was second on the team in goals this year.
On defense, Chris Tanev was a revelation in his own end, while Rasmus Andersson had a down year. Andersson was still really good the season prior. Noah Hanifin is also a no-brainer to protect. That leaves Mark Giordano. The captain of the Flames is still a productive player. He has just one year left on his contract, with a $6.8 million cap hit. The team would be smarter to keep a young defenseman signed long-term in Andersson than Giordano in his late-30s. While forward Dillon Dube and defenseman Oliver Kylington can be intriguing, Giordano is the pick to be a leader and potential captain for the Kraken. Also, a no-move clause makes the goaltending decision easy.
Forwards Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Milan Lucic, Elias Lindholm, Andrew Mangiapane, Mikael Backlund
Defensemen Noah Hanifin, Rasmus Andersson, Chris Tanev
Goalie Jacob Markstrom
Projected Seattle Pick: D Mark Giordano
The Oilers are an interesting team. Extending Ryan Nugent-Hopkins before the expansion draft could come back to bite them, as now he must be protected. Of course, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl will join him. Jesse Puljujarvi is young and was very good in his return to the NHL this past season. Kailer Yamamoto and Dominik Kahun being protected leaves one extra forward spot. Prospects Tyler Benson and Cooper Marody will be the pick for Edmonton. But who? Both were point-per-game players in the AHL. They could choose to unprotect Kahun as well.
Oscar Klefbom‘s injury complicates things. The defender missed all of 2021 after surgery, and it does not look like he could return anytime soon. Without a great pick from the Oilers, it may be worth it to take a chance if you are Seattle and stash Klefbom on LTIR until he returns. Darnell Nurse and Ethan Bear will be protected, and Caleb Jones should be too. The Oilers could choose to protect Klefbom over Jones, who Seattle would then take. They could also extend Adam Larsson, which would ruin this whole plan. In net, Mike Smith is a UFA, and Mikko Koskinen is on a bad deal. 22-year-old Stuart Skinner has been solid in the AHL.
Forwards Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Jesse Puljujarvi, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Kailer Yamamoto, Dominik Kahun, Cooper Marody
Defensemen Darnell Nurse, Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones
Goalie Stuart Skinner
Projected Seattle Pick: D Oscar Klefbom
Los Angeles Kings
After their recent trade for Viktor Arvidsson, the Kings have a much tougher decision. There’s no way that they don’t protect the player they just traded two draft picks for. It’s reasonable that Anze Kopitar and his $10 million cap hit could go unprotected, but he is still a good player. Franchise icons Dustin Brown and Jonathan Quick will be the ones unprotected for salary reasons. Forwards Alex Iafallo and Adrian Kempe are good to have around, and it wouldn’t make much sense to lose them for nothing. RFAs Andreas Athanasiou and Trevor Moore are the favorites to get taken.
Drew Doughty‘s no-move clause prevents the Kings from protecting three other forwards. Both Sean Walker and Matt Roy are underrated and would be scooped up immediately, especially after since they are under contract for three more seasons. So, it comes down to Olli Maatta versus Athanasiou or Moore. The Kings are much deeper in forward prospects than defensive prospects, although they have an overall great pipeline. The Kings could also protect young Kale Clague. After his great 2021 season, Cal Petersen will be the goaltender.
Forwards Anze Kopitar, Viktor Arvidsson, Adrian Kempe, Alex Iafallo
Defensemen Drew Doughty, Matt Roy, Sean Walker, Olli Maatta
Goalie Cal Petersen
Projected Seattle Pick: F Andreas Athanasiou
San Jose Sharks
Let’s start on defense since that is where the hard decision is. Erik Karlsson and Marc-Edouard Vlasic must be protected, but Brent Burns does not. Burns is signed through 2025 with an $8 million AAV. No way Seattle takes that. If they do, Burns is 36 and that may be a blessing. Radim Simek is signed for three more seasons with a manageable $2.25 million cap hit. He is more valuable to protect from Seattle. Martin Jones could be bought out, and just is not the answer to play goaltender. So, prospect Josef Korenar will be protected by default; no other Shark could be besides Jones.
Evander Kane, Logan Couture, and Kevin Labanc are all on contracts expensive enough to probably act as their own protection against the Kraken, but there’s no real harm in protecting them anyways. Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl are no-brainers. 24-year-old Latvian Rudolfs Balcers was good last year, finishing with 17 points in 41 games. This leaves the last protection to Jonathan Dahlen. He has never played in an NHL game, but Dahlen is 23 and coming to the Sharks after putting up 71 points in 45 games in Sweden last season. Protecting Balcers and Dahlen leaves Ryan Donato to go to the Kraken. He is a fine player but scored just six goals in 2021. Fourth liners Dylan Gambrell and Matt Nieto are also options.
Forwards Logan Couture, Evander Kane, Timo Meier, Tomas Hertl, Kevin Labanc, Rudolfs Balcers, Jonathan Dahlen
Defensemen Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Erik Karlsson, Radim Simek
Goalie Josef Korenar
Projected Seattle Pick: F Ryan Donato
This is tough because the Canucks have the weakest crop for the Kraken to pick from. Only Detroit makes it a contest. That could change if the Kraken want to pick pending UFAs Alexander Edler or Travis Hamonic and try to sign them. Besides that, it is weak. Tyler Myers, Olli Juolevi, and Nate Schmidt will be the defensemen since the only other option is… Guillaume Brisebois? No thanks. The team just extended Tanner Pearson, so he will be protected. Obviously, so will Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, and J.T. Miller. Tyler Motte is a fine bottom-six player.
The last spot depends on how the Canucks feel about the Jake Virtanen situation. It’s best to move on. The remaining players are all fourth-liners on really bad contracts. So, maybe Matthew Highmore gets protected? He isn’t very good, but the best available option. Thatcher Demko is very good, and Braden Holtby is too expensive to take. So, the best option for the Kraken is Zack McEwen, a grinder with six goals in 55 career games. Sure, I guess.
Projected Seattle Pick: F Zack McEwen
Follow Carter LaCorte on Twitter @CarterHudBlog
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