When the Kraken were slotted to pick at No. 8 in the upcoming NHL Draft, exactly the same spot the team was positioned before the draft lottery, fans had reason to be happy enough. As in eight is enough to get a top-potential prospect in a draft class all experts consider at least eight to 10 players who project as NHL regulars.

After all, the Kraken’s odds to pick No. 8 overall were basically 50-50, with a 33 percent chance of falling to No. 9 or 10. In anticipation of the 2024 NHL Draft’s first round unfolding on June 28 at Sphere in Las Vegas, let’s roll through eight things to know about drafting No. 8:

  1. No Consensus Beyond Top Pick

For almost every past NHL draft, there has been agreement on who not only will be No. 1 (as remains the case this year in Boston University standout Macklin Celebrini) but also the two to four players who will round out the top three to top five.

This June is different. NHL amateur scouts are predicting that after Celebrini, the next “five or six teams” in draft order might possibly be picking players who are ranked No. 2 top prospect on their internal lists. Plus, with the 2024 Draft top-heavy in highly regarded defensemen (check out “6: The Defense Rises” below), some teams might be picking defensemen rated as their top D-man available.

That’s promising math for the Kraken hockey operations brain trust, whether the decision is to go center, wing or defense (no goalie rates anywhere near No. 8). Depending on the first seven picks, Seattle will be selecting a forward or D-man from a tier of top prospects projected to be NHL regulars).

  1. GM Ron Francis on Depth at the Top

Following the May 7 draft lottery, Kraken GM Ron Francis was upbeat about picking in the eighth spot. He didn’t disagree when it was suggested that following the top pick of the aforementioned Celebrini, teams, including the Kraken, could well be selecting players who are top-three on their draft boards (either overall or by position).

“It’s pretty strong with the top 10 being good players,” said Francis in his office. “Everybody has Celebrini at one... it can go a lot of directions after that. We feel real confident we’ll get a real good player at eight.”

  1. All-time Greats at No. 8

While consensus is lacking about the top five of the 2024 Draft, there is much more agreement about the five best-ever NHL players who were selected in the eight-slot. Topping the list is long-time Boston defenseman and Hockey Hall of Famer Ray Bourque (1979 draft) is the league’s all-leader in goals, assists and points as a defenseman (410 goals, 1,579 assists).

Bourque played in the 1990 Stanley Cup Final, the last time 2024 Western Conference champion Edmonton won the hallowed trophy. The Oilers won the series and their fifth Cup (and first after trading Wayne Gretzky). Bourque eventually won a Cup with Colorado in 2001.

Edmonton goalie Grant Fuhr, currently part of the Kraken’s AHL affiliate Coachella Valley broadcast team and president of the team’s philanthropic One Valley Foundation, is another Hall of Fame inductee who was picked at No. 8 two years later in 1981. Fuhr, hugely popular with Firebirds fans, was in goal for those four Cups with Gretzky in the Oilers sweater. But he was nursing an injured shoulder in 1990. Fuhr was the first Black player to play for a Stanley Cup winning team.

Two more names pop on the No. 8 list: Toronto center Darryl Sittler (1970) and Chicago center Jeremy Roenick (picked from a Massachusetts high school in 1988). Sittler was named among the NHL’s “Top 100” when the league celebrated its centennial in 2017. Roenick ranks fifth all-time among American-born NHL scoring leaders. In the fifth spot, let’s claim it for Hall of Fame Montreal defenseman Bob Gainey (1973), who won five Cups with that dynasty team from the second half of the 1970s.

  1. Notable Active Players Selected Eighth Overall

Toronto forward William Nylander (2014) has to be mentioned first about current NHLers drafted at No. 8. He ranks fifth in scoring among players drafted in 2014 with 217 goals and 311 assists for 528 points in 603 regular season games.

Philadelphia standout center Sean Couturier (2011) and Columbus defenseman Zack Werenski (2015) are a couple more all-stars going eighth overall, with Couturier winning the Selke Trophy in 2020 as the league's best defensive forward.

  1. Recent Top Prospects Going at Eight

Unlike, say, the NBA or NFL drafts, most all hockey draft choices won’t be making the NHL roster for two to four seasons after being picked in the draft. Kraken 2021 first-rounder Matty Beniers (No. 2 overall and projected top-three that summer) is an exception, appearing in 10 games after completing his University of Michigan season in the spring of 2022.

That cautioned, the recent No. 8 picks in the NHL draft all appear on track for solid NHL careers. Jack Quinn (2020) has played 104 games for the Buffalo Sabres, notching 24 goals and 34 assists for 58 points after a 2021-22 season in which he scored 26 goals and 35 assists for 61 points in 45 games for the AHL Rochester Americans.

Brandt Clarke, a highly touted defenseman picked eighth in 2021, has already played in 25 NHL games by age 21. Defense is a position that typically requires a longer development timeline. Clarke was a key player on AHL Ontario this past season and looked like an NHLer in his recent play against Kraken affiliate Coachella Valley in the divisional final of the AHL’s Calder Cup Playoffs.

Forward Marco Kasper went eighth in 2022 and just turned in a solid season for AHL Grand Rapids, logging 14 goals and 21 assists in 71 regular season games and then four goals and three assists in nine postseason contests. Washington Capitals prospect Ryan Leonard (2023) was a star for NCAA power and 2024 runner-up Boston College, putting up 31 goals and 29 assists for 60 points in 41 games. Mid-season, the U.S.-born winger notched three goals and three assists in seven games at the 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship.

  1. The Defense Rises

Conventional NHL wisdom is defensemen take a season or two longer than forwards to develop an NHL-caliber game (goalies tend to take the longest). But there are a half-dozen D-man in the late June draft who might push that formula in the next couple, three NHL seasons.

“Everybody’s talking about the amount of ‘D’ that are in the top group [of Grade-A prospects],” said Ron Francis. “There’s a lot of ‘D’ at the top, which is normally not the case, but it is a strong, strong draft for defensemen.”

  1. Bringing High Marks for Their ‘D’ Games

The half-dozen defensemen eligible for the NHL Draft and expected to go early in the first round includes NCAA Michigan State defenseman Artyom Levshunov (right-hand shot), who is the first D-man on many respected mock draft lists and one of three D-men in NHL Central Scouting’s ranking for North American skaters. Zeev Buium, part of Denver University’s NCAA championship squad, is a left-handed shot ranked No. 4, followed by Zayne Parekh (RHD), who starred for the Ontario Hockey League’s Saginaw Spirit, which just won the Memorial Cup Sunday, beating OHL rival London in the title game.

London defenseman Sam Dickinson (LHD) is rated higher than both Buium and Parekh on some draft rankings and clearly is an attractive pick for any NHL team picking in the top 10. The defensemen top half-dozen rounds out with Anton Silayev (LHD for Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod of Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League) and RHD Carter Yakemchuk of the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen. Silayev is ranked No. 1 among all international skaters by NHL Central Scouting. It is notable that Yakemchuk is one of only two right-handed shots in this elite group of six defensemen prospects.

  1. Draft Day is Always Surprising

Fans can expect the unexpected when the first round is announced, joyous player and family by joyous player, on the night of June 28 (start time is still to be announced). That’s because every team puts hundreds of hours into developing a plentiful draft and every NHL club has its favorites at each position. The top-heavy group of defensemen will likely be part of the surprises this June, whether it’s a run on D-men to drop high-ranked forwards to lower slots or maybe one of the defenders going lower than the top 10.

The Kraken have a working list of 200-some hammered out in late May at week-long amateur draft meetings. There will be tweaks, perhaps based on the NHL Combine, which began on June 3rd. But for now, Seattle’s hockey brain trust knows who they like and in what order. The rest of us can barely wait to see who gets the Kraken call on June 28.

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