Protection lists are out, the player pool solidified, and the Seattle Kraken are working overtime to figure out who will populate their first-ever roster. It’s an exciting time for the NHL’s newest franchise, and since there won’t be much actual news over the next few days I figured I’d have a little fun with the expansion draft and pick my own team from the available player pool.
It’s a fun thought exercise that should be, at a minimum, entertaining to pick apart afterward. There are no ground rules for this exercise, I could in theory pick a pending free agent and follow that by predicting Seattle would sign that player to a new contract (admittedly, I will likely avoid that as often as possible). We’ll see how this ends up.
Here is the team I created using JFreshHockey’s builder. If you want to try it yourself, his subscription fee is only $5 for this kind of access. If you’re anything like me and thoroughly enjoy piecing things together and seeing what works and doesn’t work, sub to JFresh:
The players not shown on this roster, but I picked in my expansion draft were:
Nathan Bastian - NJD
Carl Grundstrom - LAK
Anthony Angello - PIT
Adam Gaudette - CHI
Connor Clifton - BOS
William Borgen - BUF
Nicolas Meloche - SJS
Madison Bowey - VAN
Kaapo Kahkonen - MIN
Anton Forsberg - OTT
My entire philosophy when drafting this team was to ensure a team that would be competitive, doesn’t have a lot of dead money, some useful trade pieces in case things go awry during the season, and has some building blocks for the future.
The cap hit for this roster was 74.4 million (once accounting for projected contracts for a few RFAs and UFAs selected), which leaves 7 million to play with for trades, signings, or whatever else comes to mind. That said, I went through at least 15 different versions before settling on this due to how the team looks, the cap situation, and the future. I wouldn’t put it past myself to tweak this more because I’m still not totally happy with the defense.
Honestly, the forwards were pretty cut and dry for the most part. I did have quite a few drafts without James van Riemsdyk but ultimately came back to him in the end. He’s overpaid, but his contract is for two more years and his scoring ability will come in handy. Most of my redrafts came from the fourth line trying to find players with roughly equal impact for less cost. Which, ultimately, gave me the bottom line you see here.
I do feel the projected standings points are high for this group, but not overly. The top line is good but doesn’t compete with some of the premier top lines in the league. The second line is solid while the third line grades as one of the better units in relation to league average. It’s not a forward corps that is going to wow anyone, but it should still have some semblance of a balanced attack.
Before anyone asks, I didn’t pick Vladimir Tarasenko because his whole injury situation, to me, isn’t worth the risk when Dunn is available at a much lower cost. If I knew for a fact Tarasenko would be healthy and back to how he was before his injury, he’d absolutely be on the roster.
The forwards not on the roster were more projects in my eyes. They are young-ish players that could fill in for injury if need be, but would likely be in the AHL.
I essentially went with the idea of “I’m not going to have an especially explosive blue line, so let’s just get something solid.” Dylan DeMelo, Vince Dun, and Haydn Fleury were the core pieces of most of my drafts with Troy Stetcher, Brett Kulak, and Nick Jensen being the more sensible picks to round out the defensive corps. I had Mark Giordano and Kevin Shattenkirk in a few drafts but ultimately swapped them out for younger better players (albeit not by much).
Again, this defensive unit isn’t going to push offensive play that well, but given how well-rounded the forward group is, and how DeMelo, Dunn, and Fleury are the better puck movers of the group I feel it could work out.
Outside of Connor Clifton (and possibly Madison Bowey), the remaining defensemen on my roster are younger players who are likely tweeners but could fill a depth position in a pinch. They provide depth into the AHL and low costs overall.
Taking Ben Bishop is a risk, a big one. When healthy he is a clear top-10 goaltender in the league. However, his injury history is worrisome, but I wasn’t about to take Carey Price’s ridiculous cap hit when that would’ve handcuffed other choices upfront. Given Bishop’s injury history, I also chose Chris Driedger to be the 1B if the former Lightning goaltender can’t stay healthy.
If that becomes the case then Driedger takes over as a reliable starter, not a great one, but reliable while Anton Forsberg takes the backup spot (which is essentially what he is at this point). If Bishop stays healthy, then I have a strong goaltending tandem that should be among the upper half of the league.
This is likely the biggest weak point of my roster. The power-play really only has one definitive shooter in van Riemsdyk. Jordan Eberle could also be a shooting threat, but he’s been more of a playmaker in recent years. Yanni Gourde and Nino Niederreiter both play in front of the net, so, the strategy could be lobbing shots from the point from DeMelo or Dunn and just create chaos in front of opposing goaltenders. Still, the roster overall doesn’t lend itself to purely outshooting other teams.
The penalty kill, in theory, should be adequate. They won’t be a power-kill by any stretch of the imagination, but that unit shouldn’t be a huge problem. Then again, it could all just be a tire fire.
I like this group overall. It’s missing high-end talent, but there’s still cap space to add one top-line forward and another depth piece to clean some things up. This draft also doesn’t take into account any trades or side deals Seattle might have in place. This is just my fantasy version of it.
Feel free to throw different ideas or questions about my thought process in the comments. I definitely think this can still be tweaked more.