Expecting an expansion franchise to have an abundance of draft picks in the team’s first-ever entry draft is not uncommon. But in the case of the Seattle Kraken, only seven players were selected across the seven rounds. General manager Ron Francis wanted to find at least one player that was ready to slot into any NHL lineup, and he may have gotten his wish in the aftermath of the team’s first-ever amateur draft.
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Matthew Beniers, C, University of Michigan (Round 1, Pick 2)
Ryker Evans, D, Regina Pats- WHL (Round 2, Pick 35)
Ryan Winterton, C, Hamilton Bulldogs- OHL (Round 3, Pick 67)
Ville Ottavainen, D, JYP- Liiga (Round 4, Pick 99)
Jacob Melanson, RW, Acadie-Bathurst Titan- QMJHL (Round 5, Pick 131)
Semyon Vyazovoi, G, Tolpar Ufa- MHL (Round 6, Pick 163)
Justin Janicke, LW, United States NTDP (Round 7, Pick 195)
The Kraken shocked absolutely nobody with their No. 2 overall pick. Beniers played the role of a checking forward at the most recent World Junior Hockey Championship for the United States and thrived. When Francis addressed the idea of taking a player who’s NHL-ready before the draft, Beniers must have been on his mind.
Seattle was in a position of strength before the expansion draft. However, the lack of trade activity prevented the Kraken from collecting picks and being the story of the entry draft. Still, Francis’ club approached the two-night affair from a rebuilding standpoint. The team chose seven players across five different positions, and no two picks made by the Kraken came from the same league around the world.
Best Pick: Matthew Beniers
The Michigan forward can have an impact on the game in so many different ways. In other words, he does just about everything right. And from the perspective of an expansion franchise particularly, drafting those traits is a no-brainer. Beniers’ on-ice maturity and experience at the World Hockey Championships in June makes him an intriguing rookie to watch when the season kicks off in October.
Worst Pick: Ryan Winterton
The Kraken’s third-round pick in 2021 hasn’t played a regular-season junior hockey game since March of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on the OHL. Of course, that’s not his fault. But Winterton plays a similar game to Beniers, just without the track record of a consistent offensive game. In his rookie campaign with the Bulldogs, the two-way center scored 23 points in 53 games.
Sleeper Pick: Semyon Vyazovoi
Among European goaltenders, Vyazovoi was pinned eighth in this year’s entry draft according to the NHL Central Scouting rankings. Drafting goalies in the NHL Draft has often been referred to by pundits as “taking a shot in the dark”. In the MHL, Vyazovoi posted a .939 save percentage in 26 games played during the 2020-2021 season. The goaltender could very well be somebody that gets consideration for the Russian National Team at the upcoming World Juniors in Edmonton.
It’s been a busy week for Francis and the rest of the Kraken’s brass. The hockey world has learned over the last five days that Seattle did not take the initial expansion path of the Vegas Golden Knights from 2017. Francis didn’t have the benefit of collecting picks from other teams and thus owning an abundance of assets. Instead, the Kraken have officially made their presence felt by selecting cap-friendly players in the expansion draft and then choosing versatile youngsters in the entry draft shortly after.
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