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Brandon Tanev is Loving Seattle

The Kraken winger reflects on a tough first season that nonetheless had a lot of positives, with more to come in Shane Wright and Matty Beniers.
Brandon Tanev and Spencer Knight. Photo by Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Tanev and Spencer Knight. Photo by Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

To state the obvious, Seattle's first season as an NHL franchise didn't exactly set the hockey world on fire. The Kraken were sunk by spotty goaltending and a lack of elite scorers, putting the expansion team bottom-10 in goals-against (despite an experienced blueline corps) and bottom-five in goals-for.

But there were also injury considerations on top of all that. Yanni Gourde missed the start of the season recovering from shoulder surgery, Jaden Schwartz played just 37 games overall and Brandon Tanev suited up only 30 times for his new team after tearing the ACL in his knee.

Having said that, everything else about the campaign was positive, according to Tanev.

"The expansion year was great," he said. "The season didn't go the way we wanted it to, but the fans, the organization and the city welcomed us with open arms. Moving forward we want to push to be better. We owe that to the city and the fans."

Tanev, who was back in Toronto taking part in the charity ping-pong tournament Smashfest, was very complimentary of his new West Coast locale.

"The food's amazing," he said. "There's a lot to do outdoors between hiking and the water, the people of Seattle are great and I think we have one of the better buildings and some of the loudest fans in the league."

So the mission is clear: Get some more wins for the fans and the city. A healthy Tanev definitely helps, as he has proven throughout his NHL career to be a very capable defensive forward. But if the Kraken are going to rise up from the depths of the Pacific Division, the team is going to need some more offense. Swift off-season moves by GM Ron Francis have helped in that regard, as Seattle added top-six wingers Andre Burakovsky and Oliver Bjorkstrand. And the team's biggest weakness - scoring centers - may have already been addressed, at least in the long-term.

Matty Beniers, the second overall pick in the 2021 draft and the first Kraken selection ever, stormed out of the University of Michigan to pick up nine points in 10 games for Seattle at the end of this past season and he'll be a favorite to win the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in 2022-23. The Kraken also got some incredibly fortuitous draft luck this summer when three teams passed on potential first overall prospect Shane Wright, allowing the Kraken to snap up the OHL Kingston center fourth overall in the 2022 draft.

While you never want to rush prospects or put them into situations they can't handle, it's not hard to forecast Beniers and Wright as Seattle's top two pivots in the near future. And locking down those positions on the depth chart is a tremendous luxury for Francis and the front office. The veteran players have taken notice, too.

"Obviously there is some exciting young talent in Seattle with Matty coming up and us just drafting Shane," Tanev said. "Our goal is to come into the season and be very competitive from the beginning; go out there and push for the playoffs. The goal is to make the playoffs and compete for the Stanley Cup. I don't think any team around the league has any other goal than that."

Other teams weren't just being formed, however, and I was curious as to how the bonding process was for the Kraken during their first season. After all, chemistry in the room is key in sports and this was a case where 23 guys, most of whom had never played together before, were coming together for the first time. Tanev, however, said it wasn't much of a concern.

"In any sport, it's easy for athletes to come together and move together as a group," he said. "You put each other in good positions to learn and become friends as quickly as you can so the season becomes easier. Building confidence as a group is what we want to do and for the second year, I think we'll have a ton of confidence."

They'll need it, as the Pacific Division didn't get any easier over the summer. But from the sounds of it, if the Kraken need to reset, they can always count on their city and their fans to back them up.

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