The immediate success of the Vegas Golden Knights going all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season is a tough act to follow. GM Ron Francis was not able to exploit the trade market the way George McPhee was able to. Perhaps the rest of the league was a little more gun-shy to trade picks and prospects to protect certain players. That left Francis with the expansion draft, entry draft, and free agency as his primary sources of player recruitment.
Francis collected a good team, better than an average expansion team, but a far cry from a Stanley Cup Contender, and closer to a draft lottery than a playoff team.
Seattle is currently sharing an AHL affiliation with Florida and will begin with their own AHL team in Palm Springs for the 2022-23 Season.
With an influx of prospects coming in the 2023 draft and a dedicated AHL development team coming the future looks brighter, but it’s going to be a long road.
- Matty Beniers, C – Michigan University (NCAA)
Drafted: 2021 round one, second overall by Seattle Kraken
Beniers had a tremendous draft season as a freshman with the Wolverines scoring 24 points in 24 games. He really made an impact at the World Junior with USA winning the Gold Medal and scoring three points. Beniers got a preview of pro hockey with USA again at the World Championship after the Wolverines season ended, adding a Bronze Medal to his growing collection of accolades and trophies.
The big three from the 2021 draft all returned to Michigan and will chase a NCAA Championship. Beniers has surpassed the point per game pace as a sophomore and again played for USA this time at the Olympics where he notched two points in four games. Look for Beniers to represent USA again when the rescheduled WJC resumes in August before he begins his pro career.
Beniers may not have been the prospect with the most offensive upside in his draft class, but he is a very reliable bet to be an impactful NHL player in the immediate future. Beniers has a motor that never quits. He is very versatile as he can play an offensive game, shut it down defensively and play physical. Seattle may have drafted their first franchise player as Beniers has Jonathan Toews upside.
- Ryker Evans, D – Regain Pats (WHL)
Drafted: 2021 round two, 35th overall by Seattle Kraken
Seattle selected the overage Evans from the WHL with their second overall selection in their inaugural draft. Evans could have made the move to the AHL this year but rather than let him play in a split affiliate situation he was returned to the WHL for his overage season. He’s been is getting big minutes and dominating the league. For the second season, Evans has surpassed the point per game pace as a defenseman and is on pace for a 70+ point season with over 100 penalty minutes as well.
Evans excels at retrieving pucks and making a quick transition to offense. He is a late bloomer both physically and skill wise. His physical game is an asset as he continues to grow and fill out his frame. Evans should see some pro adjustment and development time next year when the Kraken prospects debut in Palm Springs. The wait time for Evans to be NHL ready will be short and his path to the NHL has fewer obstacles as the Kraken are a young organization.
- Ryan Winterton, RW – Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)
Drafted: 2021 round three, 67th overall by Seattle Kraken
Winterton did not play in any league games in his draft year as the OHL was locked down and he did not find a club in a European league. Winterton played in just seven games for Team Canada at the U-18, where he played well posting four points.
An injury cost him to miss a significant chunk of time in his D+1 season as well but when he has played, he has been outstanding. The big forward has produced 13 goals and 28 points in just 19 games for the Bulldogs.
Winterton is one of the younger, but bigger players in the 2021 draft. He is a very versatile player in that he can play all three forward positions, can drive offense with his skill, and is used defensively as well. He uses his size well and drives the net. The Kraken seem to have a style of player they prefer and Winterton fits that to a tee. His development in his D+1 season is rewarding the Kraken in their faith in selecting him 67th overall with such a small sample size.
- Kole Lind, RW – Charlotte Checkers (AHL)
Drafted: 2017 round two, 33rd overall by Vancouver Canucks
Selected in the expansion draft from the Vancouver Canucks, Lind began the season in the NHL playing five games and recording two assists before being reassigned to the AHL. Drafted back in 2017, Lind now has 169 career games played in the AHL with Utica and the Checkers. The 23-year-old has 103 career points in that span, plays a power forward style of game.
He’s a versatile forward that can play all three positions and is a good defensive player as well. Lind has shown steady and consistent development over his career and is on the cusp of breaking into the NHL on a full-time basis. The concern for Lind has been his skating, he lacks speed at the NHL level.
- Joey Daccord, G – Charlotte Checkers (AHL)
Drafted: 2015 round seven, 199th overall by Ottawa Senators
It has been a long road to the NHL for Daccord, the son of Brain Daccord who is the current Assistant GM for Arizona Coyotes and was the Toronto Maple Leafs Goalie Coach at the time of his draft. Daccord played for the Arizona State Sun Devils in the NCAA for three seasons after his draft and established himself as one of the premier goalies in the NCAA.
After turning pro in 2019 he quickly moved up from the ECHL to the Belleville Senators with a strong 15-6-3 record. Daccord played in eight NHL games during the 2020-21 COVID season on a challenged Ottawa Senators team but played well.
With Philip Grubauer as the starting goalie in Seattle, the Kraken have allowed Daccord more development time in the AHL with Charlotte. The challenge for Daccord to crack the roster is that Driedger is under contract through the 2023-24 season and Daccord is already 25 years old.
- Alexander True, C – Charlotte Checkers (AHL)
Drafted: Signed as a free agent by San Jose Sharks in 2018
The big Danish center played three seasons in the WHL in Seattle for the Thunderbirds but was passed over in drafts due to skating deficiencies. True is a skilled forward and uses his size to muscle opposition off pucks, insulate and protect the puck and get under the skin of the other team.
The Sharks originally signed True out of the WHL to an AHL contract with the Barracuda whereas a rookie, True posted 28 points earning his ELC with the Sharks. True reward them by posting 55 points in his sophomore season and then making his NHL debut the following season.
True has been splitting time between the NHL and AHL and represented Denmark in the 2021 WC with two points in seven games there. True began the season in the AHL after being selected from the Sharks in the expansion draft and was recalled for eight NHL games with the Kraken and has since been returned to the AHL.
True fits the mold of what Seattle is looking for – a big physical and skilled player. If his skating concerns can be improved, he could develop into a solid bottom-six forward, but at 24 years old, the clock is ticking.
- Ty Kartye, C – Soo Greyhounds (OHL)
Drafted: Signed as free agent in 2022 by Seattle Kraken
Seattle dipped into the free agent pool to sign undrafted prospect Ty Kartye from the OHL. The 20-year-old Kingston native posted 53 points in 64 games in his draft season back in 2020 with the Soo but went undrafted. With no OHL play in his D+1 season to showcase himself he was undrafted again in 2021.
Kartye was already on the Kraken radar at this point as he was invited to the Kraken training camp this past September. Now at 20 he has returned to the OHL and sits 5th in the league in scoring with 33 goals through 46 games. His play this season was enough to convince Ron Francis to offer Kartye his ELC. Kartye will turn pro following the conclusion of his OHL career and with such a shallow prospect pool, could be on a short track to the NHL.
- Luke Henman, C – Charlotte Checkers (AHL)
Drafted: 2018 round four, 96th overall by Carolina Hurricanes
Originally drafted by Ron Francis with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2018, Henman went unsigned and became a free agent. Francis made Henman the first player in Seattle Kraken history when he signed him as a free agent to his ELC on May 12 in 2021. Henman played his junior hockey in the QMJHL with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, the final two as team captain and posting well over a point per game production.
Henman is 6-0 but has a slight frame and needs to add some bulk as a rookie at the pro level. He started the season in the AHL and was sent to the ECHL for a brief three-game tour. After scoring six points with the Allen Americans, he was recalled to the AHL where he now has nine points through 34 games. Henman will need to add some strength and find his offensive game at the AHL level to be given serious consideration for the Kraken roster.
- Jacob Melanson, RW – Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL)
Drafted: 2021 round five, 131st overall by Seattle Kraken
Yet another big strong power forward with skill. Melanson is also a versatile forward, capable of fitting into the Titan roster at different positions and in any situation. Melanson was selected 15th overall by the Quebec Ramparts in the 2019 QMJHL Entry Draft.
After a trade demand following his rookie season where he recorded ten points in 39 games, he was limited to just 18 games in his draft year but posted 19 points. Now in his D+1 season, he continues to produce at a point per game pace with 19 goals and 29 points through 32 games, with 51 penalty minutes.
Melanson plays a physical game, has good skill and vision but may have to work on skating skills to be successful at the pro level. Melanson has one more season of junior eligibility before he embarks on his pro career.
- Ville Ottavainen, D – JYP (Liiga)
Drafted: 2021 round four, 99th overall by Seattle Kraken
The towering Finnish defender is a fluid skating defensive defender. Ottavainen is a physical presence at the back end, and somewhat of a throwback to the old school big mean physical defenseman, but his skating is a strength in his game. Ottavainen will likely never run the first unit power play or be a big offensive leader.
Ottavainen played his D-1 season in the OHL with the Kitchener Rangers and had 15 points in 53 games. The OHL did not play the following season, so he spent his draft year in Finland playing pro hockey with JYP in Liiga. Named to the Finnish WJC roster and playing one game before the tournament was canceled and he should be named back when the tournament resumes in August.
With pro experience and size under his belt, the Kraken could be looking to sign him to his ELC for the 2022-23 season and bring him back to North America in the Kraken development system.