Grading Every Seattle Kraken Selection at the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft
A long year of hypotheticals is over. The Seattle Kraken have made their picks in the 2021 NHL expansion draft and officially have a tangible roster to speak of.
Every team (except the Vegas Golden Knights, who were exempt) had to submit a limited list of players to protect over the weekend, with the expansion franchise then able to select one unlisted player from each team. General manager Ron Francis' choices were announced Wednesday night. And it's time to evaluate how he did.
In grading each selection, two main points were considered. First, how valuable is the player? We're evaluating his ability, upside and contract. Second, were there better options available? In some cases, Seattle may have taken a quality player but left an even better one on the board. Or an underwhelming player may nonetheless have been the best available.
Here is how Seattle's expansion draft selections grade out.
Boston Bruins: Jeremy Lauzon
Jeremy Lauzon is a black hole offensively but is solid at suppressing shots. He can play a role as a No. 6 defenseman who kills penalties on a cheap contract. It's not a thrilling selection, but Boston didn't exactly offer a buffet of alternative options, either.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Yanni Gourde
Yanni Gourde is a tremendous two-way center. Despite his size (5'9", 173 pounds), he's one of the better forecheckers in the league and thrives in high-traffic areas. There are some fair questions about whether he will enjoy the same level of success on a team not as stacked as the Tampa Bay Lightning were, but he looks the part of a legitimate top-six center for Seattle.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Jared McCann
Acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins a few days prior, Jared McCann was low-key one of the top players in the league last season. He produced 32 points in 43 games, and his defensive impact was strong. His offensive numbers will likely dip because his on-ice shooting percentage was unsustainably high last season, but even accounting for that, he is a top-six forward who can play either center or wing.
Florida Panthers: Chris Driedger
The Kraken are taking a moderate risk in signing Chris Driedger, a 27-year-old goaltender with just 38 career NHL starts, to a three-year contract, per Sportsnet, but that's the nature of the beast. Driedger was an above-average goaltender for the Florida Panthers the past two seasons and was one the best goaltenders available in the expansion draft.
Montreal Canadiens: Cale Fleury
Carey Price was the most intriguing player available, but his contract ($10.5 million cap hit until 2026) and health issues made him not worth the risk. Brett Kulak is a better defenseman, but Cale Fleury is younger, cheaper and can probably be passed to the AHL through waivers next season. He's unlikely to have a meaningful NHL impact. This pick was likely made with organizational depth in mind.
Buffalo Sabres: Will Borgen
Will Borgen is a 24-year-old defenseman who can skate. In limited NHL time, he's shown decent defensive ability. He could be a capable No. 6/7 defenseman for the Kraken. It's not an inspired selection, but the pickings were slim in Buffalo.
Ottawa Senators: Joey Daccord
Evgenii Dadonov, a top-six offensive winger, was the best player available from the Ottawa Senators. However, Seattle evidently decided that, based on other players acquired, it did not want the 32-year-old's $5 million cap hit through 2023. The Kraken were required to select three goaltenders, and Daccord fits the mold of a third-stringer they will be able to slip through to the AHL.
Detroit Red Wings: Dennis Cholowski
A 2016 first-round pick, Dennis Cholowski has struggled to establish himself at the NHL level as a defenseman. His possession metrics are poor, and it's telling that a team devoid of talent like Detroit would leave him exposed. However, he has produced offensively in the past. It's a little surprising that Seattle didn't prefer defenseman Troy Stecher, but perhaps Seattle sees a potential reclamation project.
Washington Capitals: Vitek Vanecek
Vitek Vanecek posted slightly below-average numbers for the Washington Capitals last season after Ilya Samsonov's subpar season more or less thrust him into a starting role. Still on his entry-level contract at age 25, Vanecek is a good bet to provide competency as Seattle's backup.
Philadelphia Flyers: Carsen Twarynski
A winger, Carsen Twarynski has one goal and no assists in 22 career NHL games and generally struggled to keep up with the level of play. His AHL numbers are also underwhelming (38 points in 107 games). He's unlikely to ever be more than a temporary call-up option. Even with the Kraken's desire to preserve cap space, it's a little surprising that they decided to pass on James van Riemsdyk, Jakub Voracek and Shayne Gostisbehere.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Brandon Tanev
Brandon Tanev is a solid bottom-six winger who is staunch in defensive situations, but the four remaining years on his contract at a $3.5 million cap hit are less than optimal. Zach Aston-Reese and Marcus Pettersson were available, and either would have been a significantly better choice.
Carolina Hurricanes: Morgan Geekie
It's somewhat surprising that Seattle passed on Nino Niederreiter, a bona fide top-six forward. Defenseman Jake Bean was also intriguing but has struggled in the NHL. Morgan Geekie is just 23, put up strong numbers in the AHL and proved capable enough for a bottom-six role last season. He wasn't the optimal pick, but he will be a good depth player in Seattle at a low cost.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Gavin Bayreuther
It's a fairly bizarre pick. Max Domi was the highest-profile player available, but Seattle wanting to pass on his $5.3 million cap hit after a brutal season is understandable. However, Gavin Bayreuther is a career minor leaguer. Kevin Stenlund and Dean Kukan are solid depth NHLers on low salaries and would have been better picks, but Seattle isn't missing out on much.
New York Islanders: Jordan Eberle
Jordan Eberle is a phenomenal driver of offense, and it's easy to imagine him producing even more now that he's out of Barry Trotz's defense-heavy system. His $5.5 million cap hit through 2024 will have to be monitored given that he's 31, but as long as his body holds up, he should be a first-line talent in Seattle for at least the next couple of seasons. Josh Bailey would have been a good pick as well.
New York Rangers: Colin Blackwell
He's not going to shoot at 18.8 percent clip again, but Colin Blackwell proved last season he is a legitimate NHLer who can capitalize on chances in the offensive zone and hold his own defensively. At a $725,000 cap hit next season, he's a quality depth piece and was the best player the Rangers had exposed.
New Jersey Devils: Nathan Bastian
Nathan Bastian is 23 and was competent if unspectacular for the New Jersey Devils last season. He's a big right winger who is decent on the defensive side of the puck. Andreas Johansson and Will Butcher were the bigger names available from New Jersey, but this pick fits a running theme of Seattle preferring to preserve its cap space for the trade and free-agent markets. Bastian has upside as a fourth-liner.
St. Louis Blues: Vince Dunn
All eyes were on Vladimir Tarasenko, but a $7.5 million cap hit through 2023 is prohibitive for a player who struggled immensely last season in the wake of multiple major shoulder surgeries. Vince Dunn is 24 and has done nothing but produce offensively at the NHL level despite falling out of favor in St. Louis. It's easy to envision him as a top-pairing defenseman in Seattle for years to come.
Colorado Avalanche: Joonas Donskoi
There's an argument to be made that forward J.T. Compher would have been a superior choice, and the $3.9 million cap hit is a few-hundred thousand too many, but Joonas Donskoi is signed through only 2023 and has proved his middle-six capabilities with both the San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche. He's a safe bet to be a positive secondary contributor in Seattle's top nine next season.
Dallas Stars: Jamie Oleksiak
Jamie Oleksiak was a pending unrestricted free agent whom the Dallas Stars were prepared to lose regardless, but this is a solid get by Seattle. The 28-year-old is a borderline elite shutdown defenseman. His $4.6 million cap hit over five seasons, per Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman, is a bit rich for a player on his trajectory, but the Kraken do have cap space to burn right now.
Winnipeg Jets: Mason Appleton
Mason Appleton is going to get buried under a number of more name-brand acquisitions, but he is subtly a nice find for Seattle. Appleton posted 25 points in 56 games last season while also providing a great defensive output for the Winnipeg Jets. One could argue that defenseman Dylan DeMelo was the better option, but Seattle is looking good on defense, and Appleton is the kind of cheap third-line talent contending teams need.
Nashville Predators: Calle Jarnkrok
The Nashville Predators dangled centers Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene, talented players on bloated contracts. Seattle didn't take the bait, instead opting for left winger Calle Jarnkrok. The veteran is on a reasonable $2 million contract through 2022 and is a fantastic defensive winger who supplements it with decent enough offense. It's not a game-changing addition, but Jarnkrok's a solid middle-six forward and was the best choice available from Nashville.
Minnesota Wild: Carson Soucy
The Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyouts robbed Seattle of its chance to take a home run swing on Matt Dumba, but Carson Soucy is a credible selection. The late-bloomer is very good in his own end and is signed to a reasonable $2.75 million cap hit through 2023. He will hold his own as a No. 4/5 defenseman. Kaapo Kahkonen holds more upside, but Seattle opted to look elsewhere for goaltending and took a sure thing in Soucy.
Chicago Blackhawks: John Quenneville
John Quenneville is a 25-year-old pending unrestricted free agent. If Seattle signs him, he will be an AHL call-up. The Chicago Blackhawks would have been hoping Seattle would take one of Nikita Zadorov or Calvin de Haan, two overpriced defensemen. The Kraken perhaps left value on the board in depth forwards Ryan Carpenter and Adam Gaudette, who are potentially useful fourth-liners, but effectively opted to punt on Chicago's weak offerings.
Arizona Coyotes: Tyler Pitlick
Tyler Pitlick had a poor 2020-21 season but in the past has proved he can be a capable defensive center with enough offense to make his selection worthwhile. The Arizona Coyotes had little else to offer, and Pitlick could be a cheap fourth-line option in Seattle.
Edmonton Oilers: Adam Larsson
A pending unrestricted free agent, Seattle used its exclusive window to negotiate a four-year, $16 million contract with Adam Larsson, per Sportsnet. The infamous Taylor Hall trade in 2016 gets rightfully panned, but Larsson is no slouch. Although his offense hasn't come along as hoped, he's developed into one of the top defensive defensemen in the NHL. It's a reasonable contract for the 28-year-old, and he will slot in nicely as a top-four defenseman.
Calgary Flames: Mark Giordano
Mark Giordano isn't the Norris-caliber defenseman he was in his prime, but the 37-year-old can still play. He scored nine goals in 56 games last season and still thrives defensively. The one remaining year on his contract means there is little risk despite his age. It was a no-brainer selection.
Vancouver Canucks: Kole Lind
Kole Lind was once a highly regarded prospect, but his development has plateaued since turning pro. He will turn 23 in October and has produced well in the AHL the past two seasons, so there's a chance he figures it out and becomes a depth forward. The only other real option from the Vancouver Canucks was goalie Braden Holtby, but his play has dropped dramatically in recent seasons.
Anaheim Ducks: Haydn Fleury
Haydn Fleury is a former seventh overall pick who hasn't reached his potential. He struggled after being traded to the Anaheim Ducks last season but previously displayed competency with the Carolina Hurricanes. There were other intriguing options in Kevin Shattenkirk and Sonny Milano, but Fleury also has reasonable upside as a third-pairing defensive defenseman.
Los Angeles Kings: Kurtis MacDermid
Kurtis MacDermid is a big, strong defenseman who checks a lot of the boxes that would have made scouts excited in 1990 but that have long been obsolete. His on-ice impact in Los Angeles over the past four seasons has been brutal. Seattle didn't exactly pass over any exciting players, but surely forward Blake Lizotte or defenseman Kale Clague would have at least provided a chance at providing value.
San Jose Sharks: Alexander True
Alexander True has yet to score a goal in 19 NHL games, but the underlying numbers suggest he is capable of driving play forward for his team, and he's produced at the AHL level. He also spent his junior career with the WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds, so that surely played a factor. He will have a chance to establish himself in a depth role in Seattle. Ryan Donato was also an interesting option.
Contract info according to CapFriendly unless otherwise noted.