Potential Kraken Line Combinations

Seattle has drafted some high-level players and has also made some UFA deals. What can we expect the Kraken’s opening night lineup to look like right now?

Let’s start with the most important additions made by Seattle thus far:

Shane Wright was selected fourth overall in the NHL 2022 Entry Draft. Wright is an excellent center and right shooter. We don’t know if he’ll play in the NHL this season, but he has signed his ELC deal. Wright may play as a center or as a winger.

Justin Schultz: An offensively oriented third pairing defenseman capable of delivering on the power play.

Andre Burakovsky: A skillful top-six forward with a 200-foot game who can score 20+ goals per season.

Here are the lines I would use with them in mind.

Schwartz, Gourde, and Eberle

The Seattle Kraken’s “top line” is more accurately described as the veteran line. This is the statement Seattle should use against the fiercest opponents every night. This allows Beniers and Wright to grow and progress without having to do all of the tough labor. This group of forwards all played for the Kraken previous season and spent a lot of time together, giving the squad a strong sense of familiarity.

Burakovsky – Beniers – Donskoi

The second line offers both intriguing promise and obvious risk. Beniers will be 20 in early November and has already demonstrated his abilities (3-6-9) in 10 games last season. Beniers, who is a year older, will most likely get a shot at center before Wright. Beniers’ greatest worry for now will be faceoffs, thus this line should not be used for defensive zone draws. Along with Burakovsky and Donskoi, this line should strive to take on opposing second lines and obtain the better matchups. Donskoi believes he is the least qualified for this job, but he should recover from his disastrous two-goal season and return to being a 12-15 goal scorer.

McCann – Wennberg – Wright

It’s odd to put last season’s leading scorer on the third line, but it speaks to the depth that the club has added since. McCann, along with defensive specialist Wennberg, could benefit from these minutes. Both of these natural centers should be excellent tutors for the young Wright. Wright can concentrate on his attacking game, taking advantage of more favorable faceoff matchups, while McCann and Wennberg handle the more difficult assignments. As the season goes, McCann may be promoted to the lineup, particularly if Beniers fails, or Wright may be promoted as well, maybe to occupy a center spot in the top six. As I perceive it, this may be considered line 2A rather than the third line.

Tanev – Geekie – Kuhlman/Hayden

Tanev soon became a fan favorite in Seattle following a blistering early goal pace that was cut short by injury. Tanev was playing top six minutes last season due to a lack of other offense, but he is now back in his natural place as a bottom six energy guy. Morgan Geekie is yet to emerge as a real offensive option and will (hopefully) continue to outperform bottom-six opponents. Meanwhile, Kuhlman and Hayden, as well as Kole Lind, will compete for spots in the lineup every night.

Dunn – Larsson

The Kraken have yet to fill the void created by Mark Giordano, a left shot defender capable of playing top four minutes. John Klingberg remains the strongest UFA option available, but the Kraken do not appear to be headed in that direction right now. Dunn is still a hit-or-miss player who looks like a #1 on some nights and a healthy scratch on others. Combining him alongside a defensive veteran like Larsson should help to disguise some of his flaws.

Oleksiak – Schultz

Again, this is a case in which a defensive player is used to cover for a player who commits defensive zone errors. Last season, Schultz averaged roughly 16 minutes per game, although in previous seasons, he played closer to 20. Oleksiak, a right shooter, can play either side and had time on the left flank last season.

Soucy – Borgen/Fleury

Soucy is the next most probable candidate to come up and play top four minutes, but in an ideal scenario, he would be a superb lockdown option on the third pairing. With Borgen or Fleury with him, this pair should be able to keep possession and restrict goals against.

Grubauer – Driedger/Jones

Any hope of the Kraken becoming a danger to make the playoffs will come only if Grubauer has a strong rebound season. Last year, both goalies battled throughout the season. Grubs must start strong, and Jones must give at least some consistent backup duty until Driedger returns, which must also be strong. We won’t know what these goalies look like until they return to action.

This Kraken roster is in desperate need of a top-nine right winger and a top-four left shot defense. This is not to claim that is all that is required to win a Cup or even make the playoffs. Those are merely the most obvious gaps at the present, without taking into account the development and natural problems of young potentially exceptional players like Wright and Beniers. Regardless, this Kraken squad is stronger than in their first season and should win more games.

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