Seattle Kraken GM Ron Francis team will participate in his first NHL Draft Lottery on Wednesday. (AP)
The Seattle Kraken officially became an NHL team last month, but their first roster building milestone officially began with the NHL Draft Lottery on Wednesday night.
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Seattle landed No. 2 in the overall standings. The Kraken was the team with the third best chance of taking the top pick home – a chance of 10.3% – and was guaranteed to be fifth in the first round at the latest. Only the Buffalo Sabers (16.6%) and the Anaheim Ducks (12.1%) had better odds than the Kraken. The Sabers won the lottery and the first overall pick.
Of course, this was only the first of a few big nights for roster building. The Kraken’s Expansion Draft will take place on July 21, and the NHL Draft itself will take place on July 23-24.
But the lottery is our first chance to talk about who, or rather, what the franchise will be built on.
Who Should Be the First Seattle Kraken Draft Pick?
If you want to get to know the top perspectives in design, a lot has been written. Defender Owen Power seems like the most consensus player to go number 1, but this isn’t a year where a prospect or two stand out as the clearest and most obvious. And since I don’t want to pretend I saw any of these players, let alone explored them, I can’t tell you who the Kraken should pick. But the real fun is in what kind of player they want.
Your first choice will be to look into the future of what kind of team you would like to be.
If the Kraken go with a defender – and this design seems tough on them – will they be looking for a shutdown, physical strain, or puck-moving game starter that can trigger their offensive? Defenders fall into these two categories for the most part, although the best of the best can do everything.
If you’re going with a striker, are you looking for a two-way center, distributor, or winger with direct scoring? Two-way centers are invaluable – they’re equally effective on both offense and defense, and the last handful of Stanley Cup winners have had at least one, if not two. But, like the catchers in baseball, the position can take some time to develop, and they’re generally not sexy for a fan base largely new to the sport. Centers that collect points with assists and snipers that can get the puck into the net are much easier for the new fan.
And while goalkeepers can be the most important position in all sports (along with quarterbacks), they are cranky. Many have good and bad years. And like running backs, while it’s easy to spot the best and the worst, the vast majority tend to be in between, depending on either their immune system or their current mental state. The top goalkeeper in this draft, Jesper Wallstedt, barely cracks the top 10 of most leaderboards, and the Las Vegas Golden Knights found theirs in the expansion draft, so I think Seattle would hardly vote in that direction with their first .
“And the choice is …”
I would start with a deactivated defender. Someone who can set a physical tone for the long term direction of the team.
Offense is fun and important, but so many scoring opportunities come from great defensive play in your own end. And nothing is more fun than digging for the (metaphorical) tyrant. Seattle fans have experience with that. This town was crazy about the Legion of Boom and was pretty comfortable supporting their physical, intimidating style. Power sure fits, but when he’s gone Simon Edvinsson drew comparisons to Victor Hedman and Chris Pronger, two extraordinary models to build around.
Good NHL teams always seem to be on the lookout for puck-moving defenders who can help them break out of their own zone (see Brandt Clarke in this class). But many of these teams already have their shutdown man, and choosing at or near the top of the draft should attract a multi-skill player. It is likely that a top pick can not only do business in front of their own net, but can also occupy the point in the power game and run a locker room.
Those I have asked in the NHL world have been split between the disabled defender and the two-way center to be the Kraken’s first choice, and I understand the counter-argument: such high quality centers can affect the game, whenever they do, they are on the ice. Additionally, they are generally less blamed for opposing goals, which can boost a young player’s confidence and support new fans.
While there is nothing like a top scorer (Dylan Guenther and Kent Johnson may be the best in this class), I fear the position is too dependent on others around him. It would be like starting a soccer team with a wide receiver.
Regardless of position, these are some adjectives I would love to hear to describe the Kraken’s first choice: relentless, physical, smart, and tough. Hopefully at some point we’ll use the same terms to describe this franchise.
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