This blog was written by Jeff Veillette
The start of the NHL season is fast approaching, and with that comes the debut of the league’s 32nd franchise, the Seattle Kraken! Just four years after the debut of the Vegas Golden Knights, the Cascadian squad brings balance to the league’s divisions, and impressively spiffy new uniforms.
Uniforms, by the way, which you can buy here on this very website right now! Both the navy blue home and white road jerseys are now on sale, with the option for an inaugural season patch and featuring Adidas’ new Primegreen technology, which is made with recyclable materials and has more “pop” in its embroidery than ever before.
But what if you’re sold on picking one up, but can’t choose which player you’d like on the back of your newest threads? Here are my Top 10 picks from this year’s roster:
10. Riley Sheahan
Sheahan will more than likely be a depth player who doesn’t spend a lot of time in the organization, but he does have a piece of history attached to him now! He scored the Kraken’s first preseason goal on September 26th, exciting the crowd in nearby Spokane, WA.
Sheahan has a funny history when it comes to goal milestones. Famously, the 29-year-old almost went the entire 2016-17 season without a single tally, before finally getting a pair in his 80th, and the Red Wings’ 82nd and final game of the season. It was also the last game ever at Joe Louis Arena, and his second goal was the last scored – talk about timing. This one is a pick for famous firsts.
9. Brandon Tanev
When Tanev signed a six-year contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2019, many were left confused at why a team would make such a commitment to a role player who doesn’t produce much in anywhere but the hit column. Granted, he hasn’t quite lived up to his $3.5 million annual salary since, but his hard work has made him a fan favourite everywhere he goes. Seattle claimed him in the expansion draft and will likely ride out all four remaining years of his contract.
Other benefits of placing him on your back include having your jersey double as a Halloween Costume if you want to mimic his famous headshots, and reminding Vancouver Canucks fans that he’s the only Tanev brother in the region now.
8. Jaden Schwartz
Of the forwards that the Kraken picked up in this year’s expansion draft, few generated as much excitement around the league than Jaden Schwartz.
The Wilcox, Saskatchewan native has put together 5 seasons in excess of 55 points over the course of his career, four of which included him scoring 20+ goals without being the Blues’ primary scoring threat. He produced 12 goals and 20 points in 26 games as a pivotal member of the 2019 playoff run that earned St. Louis their first Stanley Cup. He’s a positive driver of play and manages to produce most of his points without requiring special teams usage. His role in Seattle will be substantial, and he has the potential to fit in like someone along the lines of Jonathan Marchessault did in Vegas.
7. Adam Larsson
Known by some as the “bad” side of the return in an infamous 1-for-1 trade involving him and Taylor Hall back in 2016, the Swedish defenceman has long been a legitimate player in his own right, with his own history. Previously seen as a can’t miss-prospect ahead of his 2011 draft selection, the 28-year-old hasn’t quite contributed to Norris Trophy races, but has put together a steady, 10-year, 600+ game career to date – half spent with New Jersey, half spent with Edmonton.
In fact, many in Oilers land wanted to see him return to the team this summer, as he was a positive defensive contributor to a team that doesn’t have a lot of help in that department and a member of their leadership group. Several factors ultimately came into play for Larsson to choose to leave, some personal and unavoidable, but Kraken fans will no doubt be pleased by the fact that he was one of the highest profile players to choose them. With a five-year term on his new deal, his sweater is a safe bet for years to come.
6. Vince Dunn
If there’s a player on this roster to bet on as your breakout bet, Vince Dunn is your guy. Picked off the Blues despite Vladimir Tarasenko being on the table, it’s not hard to see why the Kraken would like to bet on the 24-year-old defenceman’s upside over the big name with injury concerns.
Dunn has played in a mid-range role with the Blues for four seasons now, picking up 102 points in 267 games while averaging 17:23 a night. Dunn has routinely contributed to his team’s puck possession in a positive way, has been a more than adept, mobile puck carrier, and isn’t shy about joining his forward teammates up front. At just the right age to really establish himself, Seattle is hoping for Dunn to be a similar find to Devon Toews in Colorado.
5. Yanni Gourde
This one is my personal pick, going on the back of my first Kraken jersey. Gourde is about as easy of a player to root for as any in the NHL. Standing at just 5’9, 173lbs, Gourde was unsurprisingly not drafted into the league, even as he put up fantastic junior numbers in the QMJHL. He was eventually signed by the San Jose Sharks’ AHL affiliate, and played chunks of three seasons with them, but was eventually allowed to sign an NHL deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning. They kept him in the minors for three more years, where he was a routine near point-per-game scorer, but the best was yet to come.
After a decent show-me-stint to close 2016/17 in Tampa, Gourde exploded for 25 goals and 64 points as a rookie and has been a steady middle-six threat ever since, contributing significantly to the Lightning’s back-to-back Stanley Cups. As feisty as he is skilled, he’s the type of player you can’t stand when you face but will go to the moon and back for when he’s on your team.
4. Jared McCann
If you’re local to the Northwest, this one might have to go even higher on your list. McCann was originally drafted back in 2014 by the Vancouver Canucks and was once heralded as a key future piece for the team. His time with the club lasted just one year, though, as he was moved in a controversial trade for Erik Gudbranson, one that analytically inclined fans hated then and hate just as much in hindsight.
McCann hasn’t been an outright star since that trade, but he has been a cost-effective, minute-efficient offensive producer for both the Panthers, who acquired him from Vancouver, and the Penguins, who
traded for him in 2018. McCann was moved by the Penguins to make room for Brandon Tanev to be claimed at the expansion draft instead, and the Maple Leafs used him as a shield to keep Alex Kerfoot on the roster. McCann is seen by the stat-savvy as a breakout candidate this upcoming season, and wouldn’t it be great if he did it while just across the border from the team that drafted him? If you want a rivalry-inducing jersey, this is the one.
3. Philipp Grubauer
Of all the names that chose Seattle as their new team in free agency, Grubauer was easily the biggest. Having already built a reputation as one of the league’s best tandem netminders, the German took over the starters reins in Colorado last season and led the team to a Presidents Trophy, with his 0.922 save percentage, 14.5 goals saved above league average, and 67% Quality Start rate earning him the third-most votes for the Vezina Trophy.
Many were shocked to see Gruabuer leave an already good situation, but the Kraken were able to outbid the Avalanche in the eleventh hour, signing him to a six-year contract worth $5.9 million per year. The longest-committed roster player and the new backbone of the franchise, it’s hard to go wrong with a starting netminder on your sweater.