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Prospect Pool Overview: Seattle Kraken

The NHL's newest franchise has built up an impressive prospect pool in a short time. Tony Ferrari looks at the team's future and the top names in the system already.
Matty Beniers

The NHL’s newest franchise has begun building a solid prospect pool -- essentially because they have to. 

They still have a long way to go, but through moves throughout the past two years, they've managed to grab some young prospects that should be key parts of the team's growth in the near future.

Their first-ever draft pick was Matty Beniers, the second overall pick in the 2021 draft. The two-way center out of the University of Michigan made his debut last year after the NCAA season wrapped up and he’s expected to be a full-timer this season. Having Shane Wright fall into their laps at fourth overall secured them a 1-2 punch down the middle of Beniers and Wright, creating one of the more intriguing young forward duos in the game.

On the blueline, Ty Nelson is a short defender but is built stalky and has some incredible strength for his frame. He's a good skater with the offensive instincts that could make him a difference-maker at the next level. Ryker Evans is an impressive transition blueliner, with his passing ability and willingness to activate off the blueline making him noteworthy. Ville Ottavainen is a defense-first blueliner who hit his stride in the Liiga last year. He understands how to cut off routes and quickly break up the play with efficiency.

Ryan Winterton is anotheri interesting prospect. He didn’t play during his draft season, but the Kraken saw something in his tools that could project and he wound up being well over a point-per-game last season. Starting the year injured didn’t help, but Winterton eventually got his season on track.

2022 NHL Draft Class

Round 1 (4 Overall) - Shane Wright, C, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
Round 2 (35 Overall) - Jagger Firkus, RW, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
Round 2 (49 Overall) - Jani Nyman, RW, Ilves Tampere (Liiga)
Round 2 (58 Overall) - Niklas Kokko, G, Karpat (U20 SM-sarja)
Round 2 (61 Overall) - David Goyette, C, Sudbury Wolves (OHL)
Round 3 (68 Overall) - Ty Nelson, D, North Bay Battalion (OHL)
Round 3 (91 Overall) - Ben MacDonald, C, Noble and Greenough (USHS - Mass.)
Round 4 (100 Overall) - Tyson Jugnauth, D, West Kelowna Warriors (BCHL)
Round 4 (123 Overall) - Tucker Robertson, C, Peterborough Petes (OHL)
Round 6 (164 Overall) - Barrett Hall, F, Gentry Academy (USHS - Minn)
Round 7 (196 Overall) - Kyle Jackson, C, North Bay Battalion (OHL)

The Krakens’ draft class was among the most impressive league-wide. They made eight selections in the top 100 picks with several interesting swings and high upside picks. The weekend started with the expected first overall pick, Wright, falling to Seattle at fourth overall. A highly intelligent and tactical center, Wright put up 94 points in 63 games after virtually not playing the year before as the OHL shut down for COVID. Wright improved his scoring rates month by month as the year wore on. His two-way game is predicated on his anticipatory play, quickly turning play around and helping exit the zone with efficiency. Wright could very well turn into a player akin to Jonathan Toews or Ryan O'Reilly, which should excite Kraken fans.

In the second round, the Kraken made four picks, beginning with the human video game that is Jagger Firkus. Firkus combines incredible puck control and hands with a willingness to try things others could only dream of. Whether it’s a puck between the legs move or a windmill deke, the Moose Jaw Warriors winger will embarrass his opponent with it. He also boasts a wicked shot and creative passing ability. If he were a bit taller and stronger, he would have been a top-15 candidate.

Jani Nyman is a hard-working winger with some finishing ability who played at a point-per-game pace at the Mestis level this year. He stands at 6-foot-3 and has  good mobility, although working on his agility would give him more dynamism offensively. Nyman is a shooter at heart, but his playmaking certainly isn’t subpar. 

One of the purest playmakers in the draft class, David Goyette is a filthy passer who can thread the needle all over the offensive zone. He has some sneaky scoring touch but focuses much of his energy on improving teammates. Should the Sudbury Wolves forward decide to shoot more, he could become a more well-rounded player overall.

Sandwiched between Nyman and Goyette, the Kraken drafted Finnish netminder Niklas Kokko. He has good size and a solid track record of junior-level success. Kokko plays with body control and wants to stay within his crease. He isn’t the most athletic netminder but he stays square and covers the net well with his technique.

Ty Nelson is an undersized defenseman that's built like a mini fridge with impressive strength and a booming shot. Nelson isn’t afraid to engage physically and defends hard but will need to continue getting stronger and take better routes defensively. His offensive game is dynamic, and he has game-breaking ability at times.

The Krakens’ second pick of the third round was U.S. high school center Ben MacDonald. He plays a strong two-way game and uses his penchant for physical engagement at both ends of the ice, throwing his body around in his end and lowering his shoulder in the offensive zone to drive the net.

Tyson Jugnauth was one of the BCHL’s best puck movers from the back end, using his skating and passing acumen in transition. Heading to the University of Wisconsin, Jugnauth will have ample time to refine some of his game's defensive aspects while physically maturing.

Tucker Robertson was one of the more intriguing overage players in the class. He missed his draft season because of COVID, but he bounced back with 41 goals with the Peterborough Petes of the OHL. Robertson understands timing and space well, and while he needs to work on his skating to become more efficient, he was a good late-round pickup.

Strengths

The center depth that the Kraken has built up is impressive. They have one of the most impressive groups at the top end of their center pipeline, but because they're new to the league, they still lack depth. Having Beniers and Wright up front is a mix most teams dream they could have.

Weaknesses

The defense position is a weak point in the Kraken system. They have a few higher upside players, but they have largely used their higher picks on forwards. Ryker Evans and Ty Nelson are quality prospects but they're still missing their stud blueliner.

Next Man Up: C Matty Beniers

Beniers jumped into the Kraken lineup last season after his year with the University of Michigan ended and immediately made an impact. Collecting nine points in 10 games, Beniers was among the best players on the ice for the Kraken down that stretch and should start the season as Seattle's No. 1 center. There’s no reason to believe that Beniers won't be in the conversation for next year’s Calder Trophy.

Prospect Depth Chart Notables

LW: Justin Janicke, Ville Petman, Kyle Jackson
C: Matty Beniers, Shane Wright, David Goyette
RW: Jagger Firkus, Jani Nyman, Tucker Roberston, Ryan Winterton
LD: Ryker Evans, Peetro Seppälä, Tyson Jugnauth
RD: Ty Nelson, Ville Ottavainen
G: Niklas Kokko, Semyon Vyazovoy

For a deeper dive into the prospect pool with player rankings, check out the Yearbook and Future Watch editions of the Hockey News print edition

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