The Seattle Kraken have made their picks! But were they the right ones? (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

On Wednesday night, the inaugural roster of the NHL’s 32nd franchise, the Seattle Kraken, was revealed to everybody that does not have a Twitter account. Everyone else found out most of the picks over the course of the late morning-afternoon, one insider leak at a time. Some of Seattle’s picks we successfully predicted in the first and/or second installments of our mock expansion drafts. Others were honorable mentions that we did not necessarily predict but were not too surprising, and then there were a few wild cards that took everybody by surprise.

But now we officially know who Seattle took from every NHL team (except Vegas, who are exempt because of their greenness and do not get a cut of Seattle’s $650 million expansion fee). Judging by the turnout at the selection reveal, fan interest seems incredibly high, and expectations will be at least modest considering the last expansion team went to the Final in their inaugural year and the third round of the playoffs in three of their first four seasons. Expecting the same level of immediate success from Seattle would be foolish, but a bubble playoff team in a weak Pacific Division? That seems like an attainable goal. Has Seattle assembled a roster capable of that and maybe more? It is time to evaluate each pick before putting them all together and examining the team as a whole.

*Note: just like in our expansion draft 2.0, I will be copying my original blurbs for some of the players that I projected would be taken by the Kraken in either or both of our two mock expansion drafts in the interest of time and clarity.

Anaheim Ducks: D Haydn Fleury

2020-21 (47 GP w/ CAR/ANA): 3 G, 1 A, 53.26% Corsi, 50.04% Expected Goals For (xGF)

Fleury has not lived up to the hype of being taken #7 by Carolina in the 2014 NHL Draft, but he is a solid third-pair defenseman with minimal offensive upside that can kill penalties. At 25, hope likely still exists that he can become a bit better than he is now, but there is nothing wrong with being a solid fifth or sixth defenseman, especially at just $1.3 million. Ron Francis is also familiar with Fleury, having drafted him seven years ago.

Arizona Coyotes: RW Tyler Pitlick

2020-21 (38 GP): 6 G, 5 A, 47.09% Corsi, 47.13% xGF

Pitlick should be a perfect plug-and-play option on Seattle’s fourth line. He is an outstanding forechecker and solid penalty killer who can chip in 10-15 goals and 25 points. While not a headline player, a team needs one or two of the Pitlick’s of the world to have a well-rounded team. But then the Kraken traded Pitlick to the Flames for a fourth-rounder on Thursday, so I suppose Seattle’s fourth line will not have any Pitlick parties in the near future.

Boston Bruins: D Jérémy Lauzon

2020-21 (41 GP): 1 G, 7 A, 52.68% Corsi, 54% xGF

Lauzon is a pretty good choice. He is a solid defensive defenseman with good underlying numbers. He can play both sides, is only 24 years old, and makes $850K in 2021-22 before becoming an RFA. Boston had a lot of quality young defensemen available between Lauzon, Connor Clifton, and Jakub Zboril, but Lauzon is a solid choice.

Buffalo Sabres: D William Borgen

2020-21 (10 GP): 0 PTS, 40.36% Corsi, 47.21% xGF

Borgen was originally going to be my pick in the second mock expansion draft, but I chickened out at the last moment. He is a 24-year old right-handed defenseman, which instantly means he has some trade value. He has not had much success at the NHL level yet, but you have to figure leaving Buffalo will make him at least a little better by default.

Calgary Flames: D Mark Giordano

2020-21: 9 G, 16 A, 52.97% Corsi, 52.5% xGF

This could officially mark the end of an era in Calgary. Even at 37, Giordano is still a good defenseman and a great leader in any locker room. He did show some signs of decline in 2020-21, as he was negative relative to his teammates in Corsi and xGF for the first time since the lockout year. The $6.75 million cap hit is high, but it is only on the books for one more year. Giordano should be the face of Seattle’s defense; if they win, he will likely be a key part of it, and if they come up short, he can be flipped at the deadline for assets. He will be the face of not only the defense but of the franchise, similar to Marc-Andre Fleury in Vegas.

Carolina Hurricanes: C Morgan Geekie

2020-21 (36 GP): 3 G, 6 A, 55.41% Corsi, 50.93% xGF

Geekie is not a bad choice. He scored over 40 points in 2018-19 and 2019-20 at the AHL level and his skill is somewhat translating to the NHL. A 23-year old center with skill is not a bad bet, but Jake Bean would have been a better one. He projects as a top-four defenseman who can move the puck very well at 5v5 and the power-play and is also just 23. I will defer to Ron Francis on this though, as he drafted both when he was GM in Carolina.

Chicago Blackhawks: LW John Quenneville

2020-21 (16 GP – AHL): 1 G, 1 A

This is essentially Seattle punting Chicago. Quenneville is a former first-round pick and second cousin of the legendary head coach with the same last name. His AHL offensive numbers have fallen dramatically over the last two years, and the 25-year old is a pending unrestricted free agent. I do not think Seattle will even bother signing him, and it will likely be as an AHL option if they do. Credit to Ron Francis for avoiding the Nikita Zadorov trap, but if you wanted a cheap depth forward, former Golden Knight Ryan Carpenter would have been a superior choice.

Colorado Avalanche: RW Joonas Donskoi

2020-21 (51 GP): 17 G, 14 A, 57.44% Corsi, 58.17% xGF

Excellent pick here. J.T. Compher might be a little bit younger and cheaper, but Donskoi is a great player. His 17 goals this past year was a career high despite not regularly playing with Nathan MacKinnon. He can play up and down the lineup on both wings while his contract ($3.9 million for 3 years) is perfectly reasonable at worst and could even be a bit of a steal.

Columbus Blue Jackets: D Gavin Bayreuther

2020-21 (9 GP): 1 G, 0 A, 51.42% Corsi, 50.09% xGF

Like Quenneville, this is more or less throwing away a pick. It is a curious decision, seeing as cheap depth forwards like Kevin Stenlund were available. Bayreuther is 27 with practically no NHL experience, though he has had some good offensive seasons in the AHL. Like Quenneville, he is either a minor league option or leaves for nothing. Dean Kukan is a much better defenseman at just $1.7 million for one year.

Dallas Stars: D Jamie Oleksiak

2020-21: 6 G, 8 A, 52.5% Corsi, 54.05% xGF

Oleksiak is the rare player who both new and old school fans can appreciate. Old school fans love his size and physicality; new school fans see his strong underlying numbers (although those may partially be a product of playing with Miro Heiskanen). Seattle signed the 28-year old pending UFA to a 5-year, $4.6 million contract, which is on the higher side of the reasonable range for his services.

Detroit Red Wings: D Dennis Cholowski

2020-21 (16 GP): 1 G, 2 A, 41.77% Corsi, 40.8% xGF

Like Buffalo, I panicked here and switched out a young defenseman for an established veteran making not too much money. Cholowski has plateaued a bit since scoring seven goals in 52 games as a rookie in 2017-18. His underlying numbers are not as bad as they look considering he played on a very poor Detroit team, and in a small sample size at that. He is an RFA that will not break the bank, and I would not be surprised if Seattle tries to slip him through waivers to further his development.

Edmonton Oilers: D Adam Larsson

2020-21 (56 GP): 4 G, 6 A, 46.64% Corsi, 48.48% xGF

Larsson is basically the right-handed version of Oleksiak with worse underlying numbers (and a worse partner). Defensive defenseman? Check. Pending UFA signed to a long-term deal? Check (a reasonable $4 million for four years). Larsson will bring toughness to Seattle’s backend at 5v5 and the PK, but I do feel like he and Oleksiak are a bit redundant. Edmonton had some intriguing forward options in Dominik Kahun, Cooper Marody, and Tyler Benson available. The latter two have been great in the AHL but have not stuck in the NHL yet while Kahun had a great 2019-20 season but struggled to produce last year.

Florida Panthers: G Chris Driedger

2020-21 (23 GP): .927 SV%, 12 Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA)

Make no mistake about it: Driedger is set to be Seattle’s starting netminder. The decision is a fairly big risk, as Driedger has only played 38 career NHL games, but he has an impressive .929 save percentage in those games and the underlying numbers back up his play. If Driedger is 80% of the goalie he was in Florida, his 3-year, $3.5 million contract will age very well for Seattle.

Los Angeles Kings: D Kurtis MacDermid

2020-21 (28 GP): 2 G, 2 A, 41.44% Corsi, 34.98% xGF

There were plenty of low-risk, medium-reward forward options here, including Blake Lizotte, Austin Wagner, Carl Grundström, and Matt Luff, making Seattle’s decision to punt again confusing. MacDermid is a tough guy not afraid to drop the gloves or block a shot, but he is also not very good. I do not expect him to play very many games for the Kraken.

Minnesota Wild: D Carson Soucy

2020-21 (50 GP): 1 G, 16 A, 42.79% Corsi, 49.45% xGF

That ugly Corsi For% jumps off the page, and his underlying numbers are not great overall. Yet Soucy has churned out an on-ice goals for percentage of over 60% each of the last two years; he might just be one of those players public models underrate for whatever reason. He is another defensive defenseman that should kill penalties for Seattle with a slightly higher offensive ceiling than Larsson and Oleksiak. I still would have preferred excellent young goalie Kaapo Kahkonen, if only because he is waiver exempt.

Montréal Canadiens: D Cale Fleury

2020-21 (22 GP – AHL): 0 G, 6 A

Right handed defensemen who are 22 years old rarely come for free. Cale Fleury, Haydn’s brother, played 41 NHL games in 2019-20, scoring one goal with decent underlying numbers (50.14% Corsi, 48.52% xGF). He could be a solid third-pair defensive defenseman one day, but Seattle likely hopes to slip him through waivers to the AHL at first. Carey Price would have been fun, but considering his contract, injury concerns, and recent poor regular season play, it would not have been a smart pick.

Nashville Predators: LW Calle Järnkrok

2020-21 (49 GP): 13 G, 15 A, 47.45% Corsi, 49.32% xGF

Järnkrok is the type of player who could thrive on an expansion team: A versatile forward who can play any forward position up and down the lineup, kills penalties, can be on your power-play, scored at a 47-point pace last year, and is under contract for one year at $2 million. Perfect pick. Rocco Grimaldi would have been acceptable as well, as he checks many of the same boxes. Colton Sissons’s term makes him too big a risk, even if he is a similar player as Järnkrok. Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen are not worth anything near their $8 million price tags, even if they would have been easily plugged in as Seattle’s 1C if protected.

New Jersey Devils: RW Nathan Bastian

2020-21 (41 GP): 3 G, 7 A, 49.2% Corsi, 49.84% xGF

Maybe it is just because he was a thorn in the Flyers side all year, but I think Bastian has some nice potential. He is a tenacious forward who can play center or the wing and will go the dirty areas and the front of the net. His underlying numbers are pretty solid, too. All of that in a 23-year old package is a good bet. Andreas Johnsson really intrigues me, but $3.4 million for two years is a bit risky after consecutive down years. Nick Merkley is also a bit higher-risk, higher-reward.

New York Islanders: RW Jordan Eberle

2020-21 (55 GP): 16 G, 17 A, 56.35% Corsi, 59.43% xGF

As a divisional rival, I am jealous that the Islanders were actually able to sell off their highly paid goal scorer to clear cap space for a busy offseason. Eberle scored at a 24-goal, 49-point pace on an Islanders team not known for their offense. His underlying numbers were also sensational (though that may have to do with having Mat Barzal as his regular center), and he has been incredibly productive during the Islanders’ three playoff runs on the Island (34 points in 49 games). Yes, he is a 31-year old making $5.5 million for three years, but the fact that he is still scoring and driving play (best underlying numbers on the Islanders) is enough reward for me to balance the risk. Why was this guy exposed for Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin, Lou?

New York Rangers: C Colin Blackwell

2020-21 (47 GP): 12 G, 10 A, 45.35% Corsi, 47.17% xGF

Blackwell had a breakout year in New York this year, although part of that is due to spending a lot of time with Artemi Panarin. A 28-year old rarely sustains this type of one-year wonder production, but maybe Blackwell can be the exception. Considering there was little else available here and he only makes $725K, it is a good bet to take. 2016 first-rounder Julie Gauthier would have been a younger option but he is a worse player today.

Ottawa Senators: G Joey Daccord

2020-21 (8 GP): .897 SV%, -1 Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAE)

Daccord is the pick here because Francis evidently did not like any of Ottawa’s other options and wanted to hit the three goalie minimum with a goalie he could easily stash in the AHL. Daccord should be Seattle’s AHL starter in year one with the chance to be more moving forward. His goals saved above expected shows his save percentage should be better away from the defensive mess known as the Senators.

Philadelphia Flyers: LW Carsen Twarynski

2020-21 (7 GP): 0 PTS, 27.27% Corsi, 14.11% xGF

Even if you wanted to stay away from the highly-paid, highly-skilled James van Riemsdyk, Jakub Voracek, and Shayne Gostisbehere, Twarynski was not the best throw-away AHL option. Connor Bunnaman looked like a legit 4C for a month or so in 2019-20. German Rubtsov is a former first-round pick with higher upside. Twarynski is very physical and did have a 45-goal season in junior in 2017-18, but he has one point and poor underlying numbers in 22 NHL games. Voracek and Gostisbehere are overpays, but I still think JVR is worth the price of admission, considering he is a great goal-scorer and has strong underlying numbers. Maybe Seattle viewed him as redundant with Eberle, but you can never have too much scoring. For a full analysis of this pick, click here.

Pittsburgh Penguins: LW Brandon Tanev

2020-21 (32 GP): 7 G, 9 A, 47.59% Corsi, 52.48% xGF

In a vacuum, I do not hate this pick. Tanev had a pretty good season on Pittsburgh’s third-line and is a physical winger who will wreak havoc on the forecheck and should be a fan-favorite. However, a player like that should not be two years into a 6-year deal with a $3.5 million AAV and modified no-trade clause. For all the talk about avoiding bad contracts, this pick feels like an outlier and a mistake. Defensive god Zach Aston-Reese is a far cheaper and would have been a better choice.

San Jose Sharks: C Alex True

2020-21 (7 GP): 0 G, 1 A, 41.53% Corsi, 45.66% xGF

The Kraken could have gone with Radim Simek here, but I understand balking considering his injury history. True is a 24-year old center without much NHL experience (or success in his limited reps). He can score at the AHL level; 100 points in 155 AHL games over the last three years is not terrible. But time is running out for that skill to translate. He will be in the running for a bottom-six center spot.

St. Louis Blues: D Vince Dunn

2020-21 (43 GP): 6 G, 14 A, 49.23% Corsi, 44.87% xG

Despite the poor underlying numbers, it is surprising how quickly the talented 24-year old Dunn fell out of favor in St. Louis. The Blues have been reluctant to boost him up from cushy third-pair minutes, with head coach Craig Berube healthy scratching Dunn on multiple occasions this year. Dunn cleared 53% in Corsi and 52% in Expected Goals in each of his first three NHL seasons, so this year seems like an outlier on that front. And he did score a career-best .47 points per game. Dunn is a talented young player that will not break the bank and could be a key piece moving forward for the Kraken. I love Vladimir Tarasenko, but the last thing Seattle wanted to be stuck with is a potentially unmovable cap hit.

Tampa Bay Lightning: C Yanni Gourde

2020-21: 17 G, 19 A, 56.86% Corsi, 57.93% xGF

Gourde is a solid choice to be Seattle’s first-line center once he returns from shoulder surgery. There has been concern that Gourde’s high-energy, physical style may not translate well to a top-six role, but this is a guy who scored at a 51-point pace this year and scored 64 points in 2017-18. I think he should be just fine, especially since he will be playing with more skilled linemates than Blake Coleman or Barclay Goodrow. Cal Foote and Ross Colton were good cheap options, but I understand wanting to splurge a little here. Ondrej Palat also would have been an acceptable choice, though you could debate whether the one year remaining on his deal is a positive or negative addition.

Toronto Maple Leafs: LW Jared McCann

2020-21 (43 GP): 14 G, 18 A, 55.88% Corsi, 55.43% xGF

Rather than trading Filip Hållander and a seventh for McCann, Kyle Dubas dealt those two assets as creative Alex Kerfoot insurance. Neat. McCann is the better choice for Seattle; he is cheaper, a better scorer, and had superior underlying numbers. Oh, and McCann led the NHL in power-play goals per 60 last season. Kerfoot is a better defensive center and kills penalties, but finding offense is more difficult than finding defense in an expansion draft.

Vancouver Canucks: RW Kole Lind

2020-21 (7 GP): 0 PTS, 41.96% Corsi, 30.49% xGF

Francis successfully avoided the Braden Holtby trap I thought he would fall into; Holtby’s reputation is miles higher than his performance over the last two or three seasons. Lind is a physical winger who broke out in the AHL in 2019-20, scoring 44 points in 61 games. At only 22, there is reason to believe Lind could be a very effective third or fourth-liner in the near future. He also has Medium Top Six potential in NHL ’21, so that is a plus.

Washington Capitals: G Vitek Vanecek

2020-21 (37 GP): .908 SV%, 0 GSAA

There were some intriguing defensemen for Seattle to ponder (Brenden Dillon, Nick Jensen), but ultimately Seattle makes the safe pick. Vanecek did not look out of place taking over as a starter during a nightmare year for Ilya Samsonov. He is only 25, so there is reason to believe that he will get better.

Winnipeg Jets: RW Mason Appleton

2020-21: 12 G, 13 A, 48.47% Corsi, 45.72% xGF

Dylan DeMelo was surprisingly exposed, and I think he was the best player available from Winnipeg, but he would have been redundant with Larsson and Oleksiak. Appleton is still a good choice though, as he is coming off a career-year offensively. He is a skilled forward who Seattle can slot into a top-six spot from day one. He never got to play a very big role in Winnipeg thanks to their bevy of skilled wingers, but Seattle should give him a bigger spotlight in which to perform.

Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft Roster

Forwards

Joonas Donskoi (COL)Yanni Gourde (TB)Jordan Eberle (NYI)
Calle Jarnkrök (NSH)Jared McCann (TOR)Mason Appleton (WPG)
Brandon Tanev (PIT)Morgan Geekie (CAR)Nathan Bastian (NJ)
Carsen Twarynski (PHI)Colin Blackwell (NYR)Tyler Pitlick (ARI)
John Quenneville (CHI)Alex True (SJ)Kole Lind (VAN)

Defensemen

Mark Giordano (CGY)Adam Larsson (EDM)
Jamie Oleksiak (DAL)Vince Dunn (STL)
Carson Soucy (MIN)Haydn Fleury (ANA)
Jérémy Lauzon (BOS)William Borgen (BUF)
Dennis Cholowski (DET)Cale Fleury (MTL)
Gavin Bayreuther (CBJ)Kurtis MacDermid (LA)

Goaltenders

Chris Driedger (FLA)
Vitek Vanecek (WSH)
Joey Daccord (OTT)

Roster Analysis

Seattle built their team around two principles: physicality and short-term cap space. Soucy, Larsson, Oleksiak, Tanev, and even some of the depth players like MacDermid are known for their physicality and toughness. For an analytically inclined organization, Seattle sure did not shy away from grit and other intangibles. And the Kraken valued cap space so much they essentially punted on a few teams (Chicago, Columbus, Los Angeles) to likely let their players walk for nothing or bury them in the AHL rather than bring in a useful piece making $1-2 million. It seems the Kraken valued short-term cap space over long-term financial flexibility, as the Larsson and Oleksiak trades illustrate. I interpreted Ron Francis’ pre-expansion draft comments the other way, which could explain some of the picks I got wrong.

To be honest, I am a little underwhelmed by this Seattle roster. With Gourde out to start the year, they will really be hurting down the middle. I feel like they definitely could have used another top-six winger, though that could be a moot point if Mason Appleton develops further. However, the bottom-six looks like a bit of a mess right now. After all, you would think that if an expansion team would have anything going for them, it would be depth.

And yet Seattle’s current third and fourth lines are currently going to include at least a few unproven young players like Twarynski, True, Lind, and Quenneville. Vegas took a similar approach and hit on players like Tomas Nosek and William Carrier, but Vegas surrounded the young pieces with quality veterans like Cody Eakin, Oscar Lindberg, and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. Since Pitlick’s been traded, Seattle does not really have anyone who fits that mold.

Of course, this probably is not what Seattle’s opening night roster will look like. The Kraken have nearly $29 million in cap space to weaponize in trades or splurge on free agents. Additionally, Friedman reported they talked with Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog and St. Louis’ Jaden Schwartz about potential deals. But choosing to build so much through free agency, a time where teams almost always make mistakes, is a curious decision considering the quality players Seattle could have selected on fair contracts. And you still have to convince players to come to an expansion team, which is not the easiest pitch, even though Vegas’ success changed the narrative on what to expect from expansion teams. A star player like Landeskog is way more likely to re-up in Colorado or go to another contender than choose Seattle, in my opinion.

The lack of side deals is also striking here, as that was how Vegas became so successful, but GMs were much more cautious this time after seeing Vegas fleece clubs like Florida and Minnesota. Seattle was reportedly asking for a first and a third in most (if not all) side deals. I imagine Francis was willing to adjust on a case-by-case basis, but I feel like he did a below-average job of maximizing his leverage here. As of today, Seattle is no longer special; they are just another team.

From expansion draft to entry draft, things are getting busy in the NHL offseason.

Yes, they have lots of cap space, but they are not the only ones who can say that. The Golden Knights received two firsts, three seconds, a third, a fourth, a fifth, a sixth, Shea Theodore, Reilly Smith, Alex Tuch, Nikita Gusev, and prospect Jake Bischoff in side deals. That is stunning haul. Obviously, it would have taken a miracle for Seattle to receive anything resembling that package, and Vegas did trade a third and a fourth and swallow some bad contracts on LTIR to get this return, but that is the point. Vegas did a lot of things that only an expansion team could do. Seattle operated more like an existing franchise, playing it much safer than Vegas did. Is it the right approach for today’s flat-cap world? Only time will tell.

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All Advanced Stats are 5-on-5, Score and Venue Adjusted, unless otherwise stated and via Natural Stat Trick; except GSAA (which is via Hockey-Reference) and GSAE (which is via Money Puck)

All Salary Cap Infromation via CapFriendly