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Kraken season preview: Beniers, Burakovsky bring bright future

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The 2022-23 NHL season starts Oct. 7. With training camps open, NHL.com is taking a look at the three keys, the inside scoop on roster questions, and the projected lineup for each of the 32 teams. Today, the Seattle Kraken.

Coach: Dave Hakstol (second season)

Last season: 27-49-6, eighth in Pacific Division; did not qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs

3 KEYS

1. Be elite

The 2021 NHL Expansion Draft was not designed to stock the Kraken with elite talent. They were left to find that via trade, free agency and especially the NHL Draft. So perhaps the most exciting and important things entering Seattle’s second NHL season — in both the short and long terms — are top prospects. Matty Beniers and Shane Wright.

Beniers, the No. 2 pick of the 2021 NHL Draft, had nine points (three goals, six assists) in 10 games with the Kraken at the end of last season. The 19-year-old could be the center on the top line. Wright, the no. 4 pick of the 2022 NHL Draft, had 94 points (32 goals, 62 assists) with Kingston of the Ontario Hockey League last season. Does the 18-year-old go back to Kingston or stay in Seattle?

2. Score more

Seattle tied for 28th in goals per game (2.60) and ranked 29th on the power play (14.6 percent) last season. Three free agent additions should help: Forward Andrey Burakovsky Set NHL career highs in goals (22), assists (39) and points (61) with the Colorado Avalanche last season. Forward Oliver Bjorkstrand Set NHL career highs in goals (28) and points (57) with the Columbus Blue Jackets while tying his NHL career high in assists (29). Defenseman Justin Schultz had 23 points (four goals, 19 assists) for the Washington Capitals.

Video: Burakovsky joins Seattle

3. Stop the puck

The hope was that Philipp Grubauer would mask some of the Kraken’s shortcomings last season, but he went 18-31-5 with a 3.16 goals-against average, .889 save percentage and two shutouts. No goalie who played more than 22 games had a lower save percentage.

Backup Chris Driedger went 9-14-1 with a 2.96 GAA, .899 save percentage and one shutout. While the skaters must do more to help out their goalies, Grubauer must bounce back. Martin Jones must fill in well as the backup while Driedger misses the first three months to recover from knee surgery.

ROSTER RUNDOWN

Making the cut

With the goalies and defense all but set, all eyes will be on the forward group in Seattle. There are questions surrounding who will make the roster on opening night. General manager Ron Francis is on record saying Beniers is ready to be in the NHL, and coach Dave Hakstol has said Wright is an outstanding fit and will be given every opportunity to prove he belongs in the League.

If they are both in the lineup as the top two centers, who will take the remaining spots? Could Yanni Gourde be moved to the wing? And where will Ryan Donatowho signed for one year on July 27, fit in the retooled lineup that now includes Burakovsky and Bjorkstrand?

Most intriguing addition

NHL Central Scouting ranked Wright the No. 1 North American skater entering the draft, and many thought the Montreal Canadiens would select him No. 1. At least one fan wore a Wright No. 51 Canadiens jersey to the draft at Bell Centre; at least three wore T-shirts that said “WRIGHT CHOICE” with the “C” made of the Canadiens logo. But not only did the Canadiens pass on Wright, so did the New Jersey Devils at No. 2 and the Arizona Coyotes at No. 3. How does he respond?

Biggest potential surprise

Alex Wennberg, who was the No. 14 pick of the 2013 NHL Draft, had 59 points in 80 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2016-17 and had 17 goals in 56 games with the Florida Panthers in 2020-21. But he had 37 points (11 goals, 26 assists) in 80 games with the Kraken last season, and now all the attention is on Beniers and Wright. The 27-year-old center has the potential to be more of an impact player. The Kraken could use a surprise season from him.

Ready to break through

Beniers had 43 points (20 goals, 23 assists) in 37 games at the University of Michigan last season and played for the United States at the IIHF World Junior Championship and the Beijing Olympics. When he arrived in the NHL, he didn’t just get his feet wet. He made an impact. After all the hockey he played last season at different levels, he might have an easier transition to the grind of an 82-game schedule than most rookies coming straight out of college.

Fantasy sleeper

Vince DunnD (fantasy average draft position: 156.5) — Last season, he had an NHL career high in points-per-game average (0.48; 35 in 73 games) and was second on Seattle in power-play points (11) behind forwards. Jared McCann (17). Dunn is a fantasy deep sleeper candidate who should play on the first power-play unit and benefit from new talent around him in wings Oliver Bjorkstrand and Andre Burakovsky and, should they make the roster out of training camp, rookie centers Matty Beniers and Shane Wright. . — Anna Dua

PROJECTED LINEUP

Andre Burakovsky — Matty Beniers — Oliver Bjorkstrand

Jaden Schwartz — Alex Wennberg — Jordan Eberle

Jared McCann — Yanni Gourde — Karson Kuhlman

Brandon TanevMorgan GeekieJoonas Donskoi

Vince Dunn — Adam Larsson

Jamie Oleksiak — Justin Schultz

Carson SoucyWill Borgen

Philipp Grubauer

Martin Jones

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