Seattle Kraken: An Introduction To The Team, One Line At A Time

The First Line

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - JULY 21: A general view of the Seattle Kraken picks 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)

The doldrums of summer are upon us. It’s the time of year when we can all sense the ice freezing in NHL arenas around North America. The first game of the 2021-22 NHL season is just weeks away and it just so happens the Seattle Kraken will make their NHL debut in that very game! But who will be on the ice for their inaugural game? With the draft iced and the free-agent frenzy frozen for the time being, let’s take a look at the potential starting front 12 the new Seattle side might roll out on October 12th.

The First Line

Three seasons ago Jaden Schwartz was lifting the Stanly Cup with St. Louis. 111 games and 78 points later, barring the influx of a first-line winger, Jaden Schwartz will pencil in as the Kraken’s starting left wing. Those familiar with the sport know Schwartz and what he brings to the game, but for the uninitiated, here’s a little primer on the 29-year-old from Wilcox, Saskatchewan. The easiest way to describe Mr. Schwartz is he produces points, plain and simple. While not the type of player that lights the lamp every shift, Schwartz will thrive in Coach Hakstol’s north-south system. Jaden works hard along the boards for his size (5′ 10″ 193), dishes the puck well, and can play on the power play and the penalty kill.

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – JUNE 12: Jaden Schwartz #17 of the St. Louis Blues holds the Stanley Cup following the Blues victory over the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on June 12, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Playing to the right of Schwartz should be Yanni Gourde, but due to shoulder surgery at the end of July, the diminutive forward will be starting the season off the ice, missing at least the first month of the season. But, when he returns, the 5′ 9″ 173lb 29-year-old center will be penciled in on the first line. Being so small, he takes players by surprise with his speed, tenacity, and pure hockey sense. Former coach Jon Cooper describes him as the Energizer Bunny. Gourde played a huge role for the Lightning and will be counted on to do the same for the Kraken. Another valuable asset he possesses is his ability to play every forward position. And if you’re keeping score, that’s two for two in regards to Stanley Cup winners on the first line.

TAMPA, FLORIDA – JULY 07: Yanni Gourde #37 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates with the Stanley Cup after the 1-0 victory against the Montreal Canadiens in Game Five to win the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena on July 07, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

In lieu of Gourde, the next player up will be Alex Wennberg. Signed as a free agent from the Florida Panthers, the 14th overall pick from the 2013 draft will be given the keys to the starting five. He sees the ice exceptionally well and is deceptive with the puck. Alex can play at both ends of the ice due to his hockey sense, which also lends itself to the PK. Meanwhile, the only knock around the league on Wennberg is that despite owning an impressive shot, Wennberg doesn’t use it enough. And if he did, other teams better watch out. As of yet, Wennberg has only shown flashes of what got him drafted in the first round, but with the right environment and the right linemates, the 26-year-old could flourish in the Pacific Northwest.

CHICAGO, IL – APRIL 29: Florida Panthers center Alex Wennberg (21) skates with the puck in action during a game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Tampa Bay Lightning on April 29, 2021 at the United Center in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Rounding out the top line on the right-wing should be Jordan Eberle. A stalwart on the up-and-coming New York Islanders for the past four seasons, the first-round pick of the Edmonton Oilers will bring his neverending work ethic to Climate Pledge Arena. Leading up to the 2008 draft, every scout on the circuit said of Eberle that he has hockey sense and skill that isn’t taught. Eberle is at home equally in front of the net or deep in the corner mucking it up with the best of ’em. Jordan won’t be winning any scoring titles (779 games, 241 goals, 310 assists), but his work will open up the ice for his linemates to use their creativity and talent to put the biscuit in the basket. And yet again, another player that can star on the PK.

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – JULY 22: Jordan Eberle of the Seattle Kraken walks on the field before the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland Athletics at T-Mobile Park on July 22, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. The Oakland Athletics won 4-1. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

So, there you have it, the projected first line of the 2021-22 Seattle Kraken. If Schwartz can garner the chemistry he had with Schenn in St. Louis, we could really see some fireworks from this line. Of course, none of this is solidified in any way, shape, or form. Coach Hakstol and Ron Francis have all of training camp and preseason to decide. But, given the names we have as of now and the history of these players, this is a fairly safe bet. Monday we turn our focus to the second line where scoring will be at a premium, but the prospect of a breakout season looms large!

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