Comparing the Seattle Kraken Draft to the Golden Knights Draft

Eerily similar, yet so different.

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - JULY 21: A Seattle Kraken goalie's helmet adorns the venue during the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft at Gas Works Park on July 21, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. The Seattle Kraken is the National Hockey League's newest franchise and will begin play in October 2021. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

Seattle Vs Vegas

As the free-agent feeding frenzy becomes more of a dinner with Andre and with the off-season now in full swing, the armchair coaches and GMs can come out of hiding to play their fantasy games with real teams.  After the opening day of free agency in the NHL, the amount of money and time that had names applied to dotted lines was astounding.  More than $900 million in contracts had been signed/agreed to and 302 years of players’ lives were given to their profession.  Simply stunning.

Before all of that, though, the NHL’s 32nd franchise got to fill out their roster in the NHL Expansion Draft.  On July 21st at 8 pm ET (that’s 5 pm PT) the newly minted Seattle Kraken plundered the unprotected lists of 30 out of 31 NHL teams since Vegas was exempt as per a deal owner Bill Foley struck with the NHL in 2016, and the Kraken was born.  We won’t discuss the “leaking” of the roster by Frank Seravalli because it’s much ado about nothing.  

Like a lightning strike, NHL fandom lost their collective minds as the roster came to fruition.  “How could they pass on Price?!”  “Why didn’t they steal Tarasenko?!”  “Why?!” “How?!” “WHAT?!?”  Which is exactly what they were saying back in 2017 as the Vegas Golden Knights unveiled their roster, minus Fleury, but we will talk about that later.  Even then, Twitter exploded with comments about how bad they were going to be or how the first few seasons the team would be preoccupied finding an identity.  We all know what happened with that team.  Check out the comments regarding the roster from the NHL tweet below.

But the team Vegas chose that started the season was not the one that finished it, and the team Vegas has today was built carefully but with little regard for tomorrow.  So, let’s dive in and break it down to the nitty-gritty of the two. 

Rules 2000 vs 2017 vs 2021

When Vegas was drafted in 2017 there had not been an expansion of the NHL in 17 years when Columbus and Minnesota become the 29th and 30th franchises.  The draft rules were much different back then, except for the fact that Nashville and Atlanta were exempt and had their whole roster protected since they were so new (sound familiar?).  In 2000, a team could protect nine forwards, five defensemen, and one goalie vs. 2017 teams protected seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie. 

That is a huge disparity when it comes to fielding a team.  Trying to field a team when you can pick fourth-line forwards and third/fourth pair defense is not a formula for success.  But getting to pick players from the top four defense and second or third lines, that’s how you get Vegas.

 The rules from 2017 remained for the Kraken.

When all was said and done, Seattle picked 15 forwards, 12 defensemen, and three goalies compared to Vegas 14 forwards, 13 defensemen, and three goalies.  So, very similar roster makeup out of the draft.  The disparity came in trades where Vegas made 10 (and received Tuch and Kolesar) and Seattle made none. Seattle chose 11 players under the age of 25 where Vegas only selected six in that age group, signifying that the future was in the back of Francis’ mind.

By The Numbers

And now we come to the numbers game that we all love so much.  Below is a simple breakdown of the two teams.  I took the opening night roster for Vegas and compared it to a Kraken opening night roster compiled from the team as it is (Gourde is out for the first two months), which consists of:

Gourde – McCann – Eberle

Schwartz – Wennberg – Donskoi

Jarnkrok – Blackwell – Johansson

Tanev – Geekie – Appleton

Giordano – Larsson

Oleksiak – Lauzon

Soucy – Dunn

Average Age

Vegas – 27.6

Seattle – 28.4 (Remove Giordano and that number matches Vegas’)

Average Points Per Game

Vegas:  .40

Seattle:  .48

Starting Goaltender Comparison

Vegas:  SV% .912 GAA 2.58

Seattle:  SV% .920 GAA 2.34

By the simple numbers, Seattle and Vegas are quite similar!  The Kraken roster as is, scores almost a point per game more than the Knights and has better goalkeeping simply by stats alone.  Everyone knows that Grubauer isn’t Fleury, but the numbers compete with the narrative that Seattle blundered their draft by not picking Price or Tarasenko…. But also, Grubauer kind of fell into their laps.  That was not the plan from the jump. 

What the plan was, however, was to build a team out from the back and with the future in mind, which Seattle accomplished.  With an average height of 6’ 3” and an average weight of 209 lbs., this defense corps is huge.  They will punish along the boards, dominate in front of the net, and will block shots like it’s going out of style.  All of which will help Grubauer retain the form he had coming out of Colorado. 

The Kraken will need that type of shutdown defense since this roster will not be winning any scoring titles.  But what they will do is play a north-south type of game which Coach Dave Hakstol prefers, battle along the boards, and try to wear the other teams down all the while hoping a low-scoring affair is enough to win games.  That’s not to say this team won’t score, because they will, but that lamp they found in a fishing net won’t be perpetually on.

What their selections did do was give them salary cap flexibility for the future, and they will need it since the 2022 free agent list has some very intriguing names the Kraken could pursue.  To do so, they will need the cap space they will have going into the off-season.   

Salary Cap

When McPhee and the Knights walked off stage in 2017, they had $75 million committed to contracts with four RFA’s still in limbo that would add another $7 million in cap when signed.  But with Seattle, Mr. Francis and crew walked off stage with just under $55 million committed to the cap. 

As of today, and a recent slew of signings, the Kraken have a smidge under $10 million in cap space left to play with while when Vegas opened their season in 2017, McPhee and crew had zero wiggle room and still don’t.  Right off the bat, Vegas pushed the cap to its limit and only the next few years will tell how much trouble that put them in.

If Seattle had chosen the 33-year-old Price and his $10.5 million/5-year contract (and not to mention Tarasenko $7.5, JVR $7.0, or any other high-profile player left exposed), the Kraken would be in the same cap hell Vegas finds their squad in.  Vegas could find their way out by trading away all their high-priced talent which they have already started to do as they say goodbye to Fleury and his $7.0 million. As I am writing this and according to CapFriendly, Vegas is at the salary cap ceiling with Chandler Stephenson (260 games played, 90 points) as their number one center.

Instead, The Kraken decided to build a solid squad to try and compete in a weak Pacific Division while also building towards a future squad that can compete with anyone for years to come without blowing up the whole roster. 

The Glaring Difference

The trades and side deals are what truly set the two teams apart. Vegas caught GMs with their pants down, or so it seems. The number of future assets the Knights acquired allowed them to gather players like Theodore, Stone, Reave-O, Smith, Tatar, Pacioretty, and Lehner. But, only ten of the players Vegas had on its roster after the expansion draft are on the team as of this day and out of that ten, only six were actual expansion picks. Of the rest, most never saw a game for the Knights and some never played in the NHL again.

What this tells us is, three years down the line, we return to this article and see what the Kraken looks like. If history is actually repeating itself, the squad will look nothing like this as soon as the end of this season. Ron Francis built the squad that is currently competing in Carolina. And if we can learn anything about Francis from the past is that he builds through the draft and values home-grown talent.

As fans, we all wish there were fireworks at the Expansion Draft like Price being stolen from Montreal, scores of trades, and/or side deals.  Instead, The Kraken drafted a team that will compete in the first two years with their eyes on budling a team that can win annually.  What Vegas did in 2017 was incredible.  They captured lightning in a bottle.  To expect that going forward for anyone is folly.  Opening night is October 12th versus the Golden Knights and there could not be a more fitting first matchup for the Seattle Kraken to enter the NHL.

**Next up, Kraken the Ice will be breaking down the center position of the Seattle Kraken in a series entitled “We Wear the ‘S'”.**

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4 COMMENTS

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to read it! I really appreciate it. Next up is a breakdown of the team by position.

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