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Kraken add leadership, grit at NHL Expansion Draft

Gourde, Dunn bring winning pedigree; upgrades still needed offensively

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

The Seattle Kraken have 30 players after they revealed their initial roster at the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft presented by Upper Deck on Wednesday.

Seattle selected 15 forwards, 12 defensemen and three goalies, one player from the 30 participating teams. The Vegas Golden Knights did not lose a player because they were exempt from the expansion draft.

The Kraken will undoubtedly make some changes to the roster through free agency, trades and the 2021 NHL Draft before their first game at the Golden Knights on Oct. 12, but here is a position-by-position analysis of what they look like following the expansion draft:

GOALIES: Chris Driedger (Florida Panthers), Vitek Vanecek (Washington Capitals), Joey Daccord (Ottawa Senators)

POTENTIAL DEPTH CHART

Driedger
Vanecek
Daacord

ANALYSIS

The Kraken opted not to select Carey Price from the Montreal Canadiens and instead took a more conservative approach. They could be paying less than $5 million for their goalies next season with Driedger and Vanecek. That's good value for the quality goaltending they could receive from their 1A and 1B options.

Driedger and Vanecek have more to prove, but their experience and performance this season could offer a glimpse into what the Kraken might be able to get from each. Driedger went 14-6-3 with a 2.07 goals-against average and .927 save percentage in 23 games (all starts) with the Panthers. He outplayed starting goalie Sergei Bobrovsky for a good portion of the season and was given a chance to play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs too.

Video: Driedger, Eberle show off Kraken jerseys

Driedger is 27 years old and could be ready to start 50-plus games next season.

Vanecek will have something to say about that; the 25-year-old went from being a likely American Hockey League goalie to playing 37 NHL games (36 starts) and going 21-10-4 with a 2.69 GAA and .908 save percentage for the Capitals.

Washington needed Vanecek because Ilya Samsonov battled COVID-19 issues and injuries, and Henrik Lundqvist, who signed a one-year contract prior to the season, was unable to play because of a heart condition.

Daccord could start the season in the AHL or be a trade option for teams that might need an NHL backup. He went 1-3-1 with a 3.27 GAA and .897 save percentage in eight games (six starts) with the Senators this season.

FORWARDS: Tyler Pitlick (Arizona Coyotes), Morgan Geekie (Carolina Hurricanes), John Quenneville (Chicago Blackhawks), Joonas Donskoi (Colorado Avalanche), Calle Jarnkrok (Nashville Predators), Nathan Bastian (New Jersey Devils), Jordan Eberle (New York Islanders), Colin Blackwell (New York Rangers), Carsen Twarynski (Philadelphia Flyers), Brandon Tanev (Pittsburgh Penguins), Alexander True (San Jose Sharks), Yanni Gourde (Tampa Bay Lightning), Jared McCann (Toronto Maple Leafs), Kole Lind (Vancouver Canucks), Mason Appleton (Winnipeg Jets)

POTENTIAL DEPTH CHART

Geekie -- McCann -- Eberle
Tanev -- Gourde -- Appleton
Blackwell -- Jarnkrok -- Donskoi
Pitlick -- True -- Bastian
Twarynski -- Quenneville -- Lind

ANALYSIS

There is still work to be done because the Kraken could struggle to score goals as currently situated, but they have selected a group of versatile, two-way forwards led by the likes of Gourde, Donskoi, McCann, Jarnkrok and Appleton.

This group looks like it could be tough to play against, which appears to be Seattle's philosophy with the forward group.

As for offense, Eberle and Gourde have each scored at least 20 goals multiple times in the NHL. Gourde may not play until November because of shoulder surgery. That's another reason why center depth is important to the Kraken and it could open the door for a younger player.

Donskoi has scored at least 14 in four straight seasons, McCann has scored 14 in each of the past two and Jarnkrok has scored at least 13 in five of the past six seasons.

Appleton and Blackwell each scored an NHL career high 12 goals this season. Donskoi scored a career-best 17 goals.

Tanev (139) and Bastian (136) each led his former team in hits this season.

Video: Tanev fires up the Seattle fans

But what the Kraken don't have is a No. 1 center, or a true top line. An argument can be made that they don't even have a second line, considering Gourde, McCann, Jarnkrok and Appleton have mainly been third-line centers.

But the same thing was said about the Golden Knights in the initial response to their picks in the 2017 expansion draft until William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith clicked and became a No. 1 line on a team that reached the 2018 Stanley Cup Final. Smith wasn't an expansion draft pick; he was acquired in separate trade with the Panthers.

The Kraken did not select Ryan Johansen or Matt Duchene from the Predators, who each has an $8 million salary-cap charge. That might have been on purpose to maximize the cap space they have going into the free agent signing period, which opens July 28 at noon ET.

DEFENSEMEN: Haydn Fleury (Anaheim Ducks), Jeremy Lauzon (Boston Bruins), Will Borgen (Buffalo Sabres), Mark Giordano (Calgary Flames), Gavin Bayreuther (Columbus Blue Jackets), Jamie Oleksiak (Dallas Stars), Dennis Cholowski (Detroit Red Wings), Adam Larsson (Edmonton Oilers), Carson Soucy (Minnesota Wild), Cale Fleury (Montreal Canadiens), Kurtis MacDermid (Los Angeles Kings), Vince Dunn (St. Louis Blues)

POTENTIAL DEPTH CHART

Dunn -- Larsson
Giordano -- Oleksiak
Lauzon -- Soucy
H. Fleury -- MacDermid
Bayreuther -- Borgen
Cholowski -- C. Fleury

ANALYSIS

This is the Kraken's area of strength, particularly with the potential top six of Dunn, Larsson, Giordano and Oleksiak followed by Lauzon and Soucy, which could be a reliable third pair.

They don't have a No. 1 defenseman in his prime, but the Kraken did well on the back end with a solid mixture of size, mobility and straight defending ability.

Giordano is the biggest name of the group and the likely leader of the back end. He's 37 and not the player he was in 2018-19 when he won the Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman and scored 74 points (17 goals, 57 assists) in 78 games, but he's still shifty side to side, a quality puck mover and an asset on the power play.

Video: Giordano speaks after being drafted by Kraken

Giordano has scored 57 points (14 goals, 43 assists) in 116 games the past two seasons and could score 40 points if he plays a full season.

Dunn will get a chance to play a bigger role in Seattle than he had in St. Louis. The 24-year-old could be a younger version of Giordano, a young defenseman coming into his own with 267 NHL games played and a Stanley Cup championship ring he won with the Blues in 2019.

Larsson developed into a quality, rugged, stay-at-home defender in Edmonton and should bring that style to Seattle. Oleksiak (6-foot-7, 255 pounds) played well alongside the speedy and shifty Miro Heiskanen in Dallas.

Lauzon brings experience having played as a regular for the Bruins this season. Soucy can be the stable third-pair defenseman he was in Minnesota.

The Fleury brothers, Borgen and Cholowski have upside but a lot to prove. Bayreuther and MacDermid can fill in as needed.

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