Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft Selections Analysis

After years of anticipation, the Seattle Kraken finally have their initial roster intact, as they selected thirty total players in last night’s NHL expansion draft. Last night was the product of work years in the making, as Seattle was granted the right to become the NHL’s 32nd team in December of 2018. We were so happy to conduct our research for this highly anticipated event with the data we’ve accumulated since the Vegas expansion draft in 2017, and it showed us truly how far we’ve come in just a few short years. We were successfully able to predict 11/30 (36%) of the Kraken’s selections, and we think that number could have been higher based on the players they ended up selecting in relation to AB. With that being said, we will now discuss the Kraken’s selections from each of the thirty participating teams.

Anaheim Ducks- Haydn Fleury

This selection was one of the eleven picks we were successfully able to predict. As we wrote in previous articles, Haydn Fleury is a former 7th overall pick in the 2014 NHL draft by the Carolina Hurricanes, and was traded to the Ducks at the 2021 trade deadline in exchange for Jani Hakanpaa. At twenty-five years of age, Fleury has four individual AB seasons to his name, in which he has a -1.92 career AB score. He has registered two individual positive and two individual negative AB seasons, as he is coming off a -7.11 individual score this season. In forty-seven games last season, Fleury scored three goals, and registered one assist for four points averaging 16:17 TOI. We believe, under the right coaching, and with an adequate defense partner, we believe Fleury’s high upside can be unlocked. In addition to this, we believe Fleury will be one of the most talented Canadian defensemen Dave Hakstol has ever coached, and we would be very excited to see the progress Fleury can make under Hakstol and his staff. Again, we didn’t think it was possible at all for Fleury to be exposed given the Ducks just traded for him. Ron Francis was the GM in Carolina when Fleury was selected 7th overall, so the reunion makes sense.

Arizona Coyotes- Tyler Pitlick

This was another one of the eleven picks we were successfully able to predict. As we wrote in previous articles, Tyler Pitlick has been one of the more underrated players in the league AB wise, as he has a career AB score of +1.83 in a seven-year span. He has even registered a +7.17 score in 2019-20 with the Philadelphia Flyers, and a +4.08 score with the Dallas Stars. Dave Hakstol’s second best nationality position group according to our coach’s study was American born forwards, and Pitlick is from Minneapolis Minnesota. Pitlick has a year left at $1.75 million AAV before he becomes a UFA at age twenty-nine. Pitlick was just traded to the Calgary Flames by the Seattle Kraken for a 4th round pick in 2022.

Boston Bruins- Jeremy Lauzon

We predicted the Kraken would select fellow defenseman Jakub Zboril from the Bruins, however the Kraken opted to go with another defenseman on the roster in Jeremy Lauzon. Lauzon is a twenty-four year old, left-shot defenseman from Canada who is under contract until the end of the 2021-22 season making 850k. His +2.77 AB score with the Boston Bruins was his best individual AB score of his career, and his first positive score as well. Lauzon played in forty-one games for the Bruins this season scoring one goal and registering seven assists for eight points averaging 18:42 per game. Kraken assistant coach Jay Leach was the Bruins’ assistant coach this past season and played a key role in this selection of Lauzon. We expect him to play on either side of the Kraken’s 2nd or 3rd defense pairing this season.

Buffalo Sabres- Will Borgen

This was our third of eleven picks we were able to successfully predict. As we wrote in our previous articles, Will Borgen was a twenty-four year old defenseman who played on one of the worst AB hockey teams in the history of the metric. Borgen played in ten games for the Sabres, in which he did not score a point, registering a -6.20 AB score.

Calgary Flames- Mark Giordano

This was the fourth of eleven picks we were able to successfully predict. As we wrote in previous articles, Mark Giordano had a quality 2020-21 campaign, as he scored nine goals and registered seventeen assists for twenty-six points in a full fifty-six game season for the Flames. On top of this, he was playing 22:57 per game, his +2.09 AB score was the 2nd highest of any Flames defenseman (behind only Chris Tanev’s +6.81), and he had the 7th highest AB score of anyone on the team. Yes, Mark Giordano is thirty-seven years old, however, he is on the final year of his $6.75 million AAV contract and could easily be flipped at the trade deadline to a contender with salary retention if Seattle doesn’t do as well as we think they will.

Carolina Hurricanes- Morgan Geekie

This one was very surprising to us, as we fully expected Seattle to take Jake Bean due to the Ron Francis connection. However, Morgan Geekie had the better AB season in 2020-21, and had the 2nd highest score of any player exposed by the Carolina Hurricanes (+1.3), trailing only Nino Niederreiter’s +9.27. Geekie played in thirty-six games with the Hurricanes this season, scoring three goals with six assists for nine points averaging under ten minutes of ice time per game. Geekie is a career positive AB player, as his +1.3 score from this year is the only data, we have on him. With an increased role in Seattle, he could be one of the more underrated selections in this draft.

Chicago Blackhawks- John Quenneville

Chicago didn’t have very much to offer Seattle, and any team that relies heavily on analytics like the Kraken would have passed on Nikita Zadorov as well. We have very little data on John Quenneville, as he has only played forty-two NHL games in his career. In these games, he scored two goals with three assists for five points. Quenneville was a former first round pick in the 2014 NHL draft by the New Jersey Devils. He was eligible for an individual AB score in 2018-29, as he received a +0.61 score in his nineteen games played with New Jersey. If Seattle thinks there’s some upside to Quenneville, we think there’s a better shot at solid AB performance with Quenneville than any other player the Kraken could have selected from Chicago, so we think it’s a solid selection.

Colorado Avalanche- Joonas Donskoi  

This is a selection we believe we should have predicted. Prior to the expansion draft, we saw the Kraken’s selection from Colorado as a toss-up between Donskoi and J.T. Compher. We believe now that the Kraken made the right selection with Donskoi, as he had the best individual 2020-21 AB score of any player exposed by the Colorado Avalanche with a +7.49. He is also a very positive career AB player, as he has a +4.57 career AB score in a six-year period. He has only registered one individually negative season in his career with a slightly negative -0.26 score in 2016-17 with the San Jose Sharks. This season, in fifty-one games, Donskoi scored seventeen goals and fourteen assists for thirty-one points averaging just under fifteen minutes per game with a +14 +/- rating. He will be one of Seattle’s biggest offensive threats, and we believe he is poised for a career-year under Dave Hakstol and the Kraken coaching staff.

Columbus Blue Jackets- Gavin Bayreuther

This was one of the biggest surprises to us, as Seattle didn’t get any assets for this pick, and selected Bayreuther willingly. He has played a total of twenty-eight NHL games as a twenty-seven year old, left-shot defenseman, and scored three goals with three assists for six points in those twenty-eight games. Bayreuther played nineteen games with the Dallas Stars in 2018-19, in which he earned an individual AB score of -2.38. Bayreuther most likely will not be in the Kraken lineup next season unless there are a series of injuries, as he will most likely spend significant time in Charlotte, Seattle’s AHL affiliate.

Dallas Stars- Jamie Oleksiak

Jamie Oleksiak signed a massive five-year, $4.6 million AAV contract with the Seattle Kraken causing him to be the pick from the Dallas Stars. Oleksiak played in all fifty-six games for the Stars in 2020-21, as he scored six goals with eight assists for fourteen points in those games, averaging just above twenty minutes of ice time. Oleksiak had a -3.47 individual AB score in 2020-21 and has a -3.21 career AB score in an eight-year span. Oleksiak will play a similar role on the Kraken as he did in Dallas, and we expect him to be on their first or second defense pairing.

Detroit Red Wings- Denis Cholowski

This was another instance where we got the right position predicted but picked the wrong player. Denis Cholowski was the 20th overall pick in the 2016 NHL draft by the Red Wings and has had a lackluster start to his NHL career, going back-and-forth from the NHL down to the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins. In his 104 career NHL games, Cholowski has scored ten goals and registered seventeen assists for twenty seven points. Cholowski has a career AB score of -10.43 but had the best individual AB score of his career this season at -3.83. This was a near ten point swing in the right direction for Cholowski, as he registered a -13.41 score in the 2019-20 season. We will find out if he can stay in the NHL consistently this year, as the Kraken will probably give him the opportunity to do so.

Edmonton Oilers- Adam Larsson  

Adam Larsson was probably the best player the Edmonton Oilers had to offer in this expansion process. He signed a four-year, four million dollar AAV contract with the Seattle Kraken prior to the expansion draft, allowing him to be the pick from Edmonton. This season with the Oilers, Larsson played in all fifty-six games, registering four goals and six assists for ten points. He had a -2.07 individual AB score in 2020-21, which was his best individual score since his +5.23 score in 2017-18. There was a three-year stretch where Adam Larsson registered a +4.71, +5.84, and +5.23 individual AB scores, and perhaps with the Kraken he can return to that form. He will most likely be playing on Seattle’s first or second defense pairing, and likely will average over twenty minutes per game.

Florida Panthers- Chris Driedger

This is another selection we wish we could have predicted, as Driedger was rumored to have a deal in place with the Kraken in the days leading up to the expansion draft. Florida was one of the biggest winners in the expansion process in our opinion, as 1st round goaltender Spencer Knight proved in 2020-21 that he is ready to become a legitimate NHL goaltender, meaning they could afford to lose Driedger here. In a perfect world, they probably would’ve preferred to keep Driedger instead of Sergei Bobrovsky and his massive 10+ million dollar contract. However, a tandem of Bob and Spencer Knight is hardly the worst in the league. Chris Driedger posted an outstanding 14-6-3 record with the Panthers this season, registering a .927 save percentage and a 2.07 goals against average which included three shutouts. Driedger is expected to become Seattle’s first #1 goaltender, as he signed a three-year, 3.5 million AAV contract with the Kraken allowing him to be the selection from Florida.

Los Angeles Kings- Kurtis MacDermid

This is the only selection by the Kraken we were really against, as MacDermid has always been one of the worst AB players in the NHL since the creation of our metric. If it wasn’t for Austin Strand’s abysmal -38.76 individual score in the 2020-21 season, MacDermid’s -11.70 would have been the lowest of any Los Angeles Kings player. In the four years of data we have on him, Kurtis MacDermid has a career AB score of -8.98, including three seasons of -9 or lower individual AB scores. The fact that Seattle willingly took MacDermid over younger, more upside defensemen such as Kale Clague, without getting an asset in return was incredibly surprising to us. Due to the large number of defenseman Seattle has, perhaps MacDermid doesn’t make the team, in which case the AB numbers are irrelevant.

Minnesota Wild- Carson Soucy

This was our fifth of eleven picks we were able to successfully predict, as we believe Carson Soucy was the best selection the Kraken could have made from the Minnesota Wild. As we wrote in previous articles, in the two NHL seasons of data we have on him, Soucy’s career AB score is an impressive +7.62. He registered a +8.27 in 2019-20, and a +6.96 in his first year under coach Dean Evason. Soucy was by far the best player Minnesota has to offer Seattle here, and Kraken management should be thrilled to get a player of his caliber at such a cheap cap hit. Our coverage of the Minnesota Wild during this expansion draft process is something we are very proud of, as we were able to predict their entire protection list, as well as the player Seattle would select. They were the only team we were able to do both for, as we missed the Bruins’ selection of Jeremy Lauzon despite having a perfect protection list there too.  

Montreal Canadiens- Cale Fleury

The Seattle Kraken opted to pass on Carey Price and his $10.5 million AAV cap hit to select twenty-two year old defenseman Cale Fleury. Cale Fleury is the brother of fellow Kraken expansion draft selection Haydn Fleury from the Anaheim Ducks, and we think it’s really cool that the brothers are now able to join forces in Seattle. Fleury has only played one season in the NHL, as he played in forty-one games with the Montreal Canadiens in 2019-20, in which he scored one goal for his only point. Fleury had a -4.45 individual AB score in that 2019-20 season, which is his only AB data to date.

Nashville Predators- Calle Jarnkrok

In our opinion, this was Seattle’s smartest selection in their entire draft. Despite us saying in both mock drafts the Kraken would select Ryan Johansen and his $8 million AAV contract as a part of an expansion related trade, Jarnkrok has consistently been one of Nashville’s best players in terms of AB at a fraction of the cost. Jarnkrok had the highest individual AB score of any Predators player in 2020-21 with a +7.73, as he played in forty-nine games for the team helping them slightly clinch a playoff spot. In these forty-nine games, Jarnkrok scored thirteen goals and registered fifteen assists for twenty-eight points. Jarnkrok is part of a select group of players who have never registered a negative individual AB score. His career AB score is an impressive +4.41 over an eight year span. Like Joonas Donskoi, we believe that Jarnkrok is in for a career-year with an increased role in Seattle, and we expect another individually positive AB season from him as well.

New Jersey Devils- Nathan Bastian

Nathan Bastian had a solid rookie season with the New Jersey Devils in 2020-21, as he scored three goals with seven assists for ten points in forty-one games played. A 2nd round pick in the 2016 NHL draft by the Devils, Bastian threw 136 hits this season, tied for 26th among all NHL players with Carolina’s Cedric Paquette. Bastian also led the Devils in that category as a rookie, and his grit and toughness will surely be missed. AB wise, his -2.70 AB score was 12th highest amongst all Devils players this season. We think he will improve upon that -2.70 individual score under Dave Hakstol and his staff in 2021-22 with an increased role, as he is one of the players we will be closely watching as one of the steals of this draft.

New York Islanders- Jordan Eberle

We love this pick for the Seattle Kraken despite the fact we took Kiefer Bellows in both of our previous mock draft articles. Jordan Eberle had the best individual AB score in 2020-21 of any player left exposed by the New York Islanders with a +5.31. He played in fifty-five games for the Islanders this season, in which he scored sixteen goals with seventeen assists for thirty-three points, averaging just under seventeen minutes per game. He will most likely be on Seattle’s first line, a role we believe he will excel in. He is coming off four individually positive AB seasons out of his last five played, registering a career AB score of a slightly negative -0.23 over an eleven year span. Eberle is one of the players on this Kraken team that we could see having an incredible 2021-22 season, as we think he could be Seattle’s version of James Neal. We’ll have to see how it plays out, but with Eberle under contract at 5.5 million AAV until 2024-25, we expect him to be a part of Seattle’s core for the foreseeable future.

New York Rangers- Colin Blackwell

This was our sixth of eleven picks we correctly predicted. As we discussed in our previous articles, we were somewhat surprised by the Rangers decision to protect Kevin Rooney over Colin Blackwell. We believe he had a solid first-year with the Rangers, as in forty-seven games, Blackwell scored twelve goals, and registered ten assists for twenty-two points, and a solid +1.83 individual AB score. This score was the 9th highest of any Rangers player, and 6th of any Rangers forward. He had an outstanding +5.24 individual score with the Nashville Predators during the 2019-20 season, and his career AB score of +3.53 is extremely impressive given he plays less than fifteen minutes per game. This could be a very good addition to Seattle’s forward group, and we believe Blackwell could be another candidate for steal of the draft.

Ottawa Senators- Joey Daccord

This was our seventh of eleven picks we correctly predicted. As we discussed in our previous articles Daccord will be a solid third or fourth string option for the Kraken, as he is still twenty-four years old, with a few games of NHL experience under his belt. Ottawa is another team we believe didn’t lose a lot here, as they have a top-10 pick in the 2021 NHL draft, with two very talented goaltending prospects available there, as well as Filip Gustavsson, who we believe has serious potential. Daccord has played in nine NHL games during the last two NHL seasons, in which he has a 1-4-1 record with a .894 save percentage and a 3.50 GAA.

Philadelphia Flyers- Carsen Twarynski

The Philadelphia Flyers were definitely a team that could have lost some significant players in this expansion process but avoided this by Seattle selecting Carsen Twarynski without any side deal in place. We have only one season of AB data on Twarynski, as he registered a -2.44 score in 2019-20 with the Flyers. He played in fifteen games that season, scoring one goal for his only point. He is still only twenty-three years old, and perhaps he could benefit from a change of scenery with a potential bigger opportunity in Seattle.

Pittsburgh Penguins- Brandon Tanev

This was our eighth of eleven correctly predicted selections. As we wrote in previous articles, Brandon Tanev is an incredibly underrated player, and one of the better players according to AB since the creation of the metric. Despite the fact he makes $3.5 million until the conclusion of the 2025-26 season, we believe he is a terrific addition to the Kraken’s bottom-six forward group. Tanev has only registered one individually negative AB season in 2016-17 with the Winnipeg Jets at -0.16. Since then, he has registered more scores above +6 than scores below +6 (+11.30, +8.17, +1.11, +6.96 in each year following 16-17). Tanev had the 5th highest score of any Penguins player this season, and the 2nd highest of any Penguins forward, trailing only Kasperi Kapanen’s +8.47. Production wise, Tanev scored seven goals and registered nine assists for sixteen points in thirty-two games this season, while averaging about 14:30 minutes per game.

San Jose Sharks- Alexander True

We love this selection from the Kraken, as we believe it was one of the most underrated picks in this draft for the sheer reason that True hasn’t had the opportunity to play in as many games as he deserved too. True played in twelve games for the San Jose Sharks in 2019-20 as a twenty-three year old center, in which he had four assists for four points, earning a +1.79 individual AB score as well. That +1.79 would have been the best individual score on the 2020-21 San Jose Sharks, as Tomas Hertl’s +0.86 score was the team’s highest individual score this year. We believe True will make the Kraken team out of camp, and we are very excited to see what he does with this opportunity.

St. Louis Blues- Vince Dunn

While we had the Kraken selecting superstar Vladimir Tarasenko to be the immediate face of the franchise for the club as part of an expansion draft related trade, Vince Dunn is another quality pick. He had a disgruntled 2020-21 season in St. Louis which led to his name being a major part in trade rumors for over a year. In forty-three games played with the Blues in 2020-21, Dunn scored six goals with fourteen assists for twenty points, which was still solid production for a player having to deal with uncertainty about his playing future. Dunn’s -5.35 individual AB score in 2020-21 was the 3rd lowest of any Blues player, ahead of only Zach Sanford’s -6.37 and Robert Bortuzzo’s -7.25. Despite this, Dunn is still a positive career AB player at +1.30, as he had a +4.29 score in 2018-19 and a +6.32 score in 2019-20. We believe Dunn could be Seattle’s version of Shea Theodore, and we love the fact they were able to select him without any side deal.

Tampa Bay Lightning- Yanni Gourde

Yanni Gourde is a tremendous player, and the Kraken should be incredibly happy with this selection. Everyone knew Seattle was going to get an elite caliber player from Tampa Bay, and Yanni Gourde easily becomes their best forward. In a full, fifty-six game season, Gourde scored seventeen goals with nineteen assists for the Lightning this season playing just above seventeen minutes per game. Gourde was also a key contributor in Tampa Bay’s back-to-back Stanley Cup Championships, as he scored the only goal in Game 7 against the New York Islanders to send the Lightning to the finals. His +5.83 individual AB score in 2020-21 was 2nd among all Lightning players, behind only Blake Coleman. Gourde has only registered one individually negative season in 2019-20 with a-2.74 score, but registered a +18.63 score in 2017-18, which was among the best in the league. Gourde has four years remaining at a 5.16 million dollar AAV contract, and we expect him to be one of Seattle’s core players for the foreseeable future with Jordan Eberle on his wing.

Toronto Maple Leafs- Jared McCann

This was the ninth of eleven picks we were able to successfully predict. As we discussed in previous articles, we believe Jared McCann has the opportunity to be Seattle’s version of William Karlsson. Like Karlsson, McCann also had an insanely high individual season AB score heading into the expansion draft, as he registered an outstanding +11.74 score in 2020-21, to Karlsson’s +6.64 in 2016-17. Jared McCann also had the highest AB score on the Pittsburgh Penguins team this season with the +11.74, and even contributed 14 goals and 18 assists for 32 points in 43 games. McCann would’ve been a nice add for the Maple Leafs’ 2021-22 team, but the fact Kyle Dubas gave up Fillip Hallander and a 7th to ensure he keeps his roster intact through the expansion draft makes sense to us.

Vancouver Canucks- Kole Lind

This was the tenth of eleven picks we were able to successfully predict. As we discussed in previous articles, Vancouver’s 2nd round selection in the 2017 NHL draft, Kole Lind, is another player we believe has extremely high upside at a low cost. In one-hundred-twenty-six games with the Utica Comets of the AHL, Lind scored twenty-two goals, and registered forty-six assists for seventy points. We don’t have any AB data available for Lind, as he has yet to play enough games in the NHL. In our opinion, he was the most intriguing option available of Vancouver’s exposed list of primarily bad contracts, and we are interested to see what Lind can do if given an opportunity to play in Seattle.

Washington Capitals- Vitek Vanecek

This was the last of eleven picks we were able to successfully predict. Seattle gets their backup goaltender with this pick, and in our opinion, one of the best goaltenders available in expansion. In 37 games as the Capitals starter this season, Vanecek posted a 21-10-4 record with 2 shutouts and a .908 save percentage, leading the Capitals to a playoff berth where they were eliminated by the Boston Bruins in the first round. He is a restricted free agent, and at twenty-five years old, has a chance to be a quality starter for the Kraken from day one. This choice also allowed Seattle to reach the minimum number of goaltenders selected (3) in the expansion draft.

Winnipeg Jets- Mason Appleton

This was a selection we believe we should have predicted, as Appleton has extremely high upside in our opinion. Appleton played a full fifty-six games for the Winnipeg Jets this season, scoring twelve goals with thirteen assists for twenty-five points, averaging just shy of fifteen minutes per game. Appleton’s +6.48 individual AB score in 2020-21 was the 2nd highest of any player on the Winnipeg Jets, behind only Nikolaj Ehlers’ +12.15. Career AB wise, Appleton has a +1.73 career AB score in three years of data. He has only registered one individually negative AB season in 2019-20 with a -3.69 score. Appleton has serious potential, as he is only twenty-five years old. We love this pick for the Kraken, and we believe Appleton will flourish with the opportunity he is poised to get in Seattle.

Now that the expansion draft is complete, we focus our attention to the 2021 NHL draft and Free Agency. The Kraken are expected to be very active in both events, as they have the 2nd overall selection in tomorrow’s draft, in addition to thirty million dollars in available cap space as a result of their expansion draft decisions. We were extremely surprised with the lack of expansion related trades during the draft, as Vegas made ten deals involving picks and prospects in exchange for agreeing to select certain players. To this point, the Kraken have only made one deal, trading Tyler Pitlick to Calgary for a 4th rounder as we previously mentioned. In both of our mock drafts, we had Seattle projected to finish 2nd in the Pacific Division in 2021-22, and we projected that they would have finished 2nd in the Pacific Division behind only Vegas in 2020-21. With the team currently assembled by Ron Francis and his management team in Seattle, we had them finishing with a +22.83 team AB score for 2020-21 (2nd in Pacific), and a +9.39 score in 2021-22 if Twarynski, Bayreuther, and Cale Fleury do not make the team out of camp. We believe the Seattle Kraken are a playoff team, despite them passing on certain, costly talent in this draft, and we are looking forward to their first regular season game against the Vegas Golden Knights. These are certainly not the last moves the Kraken will make this offseason, and we can’t wait to see what else they have in store for us. Much more to come.

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