Kraken vs Ducks - Fresh Year, Fresh Start
A brand new season for the Seattle Kraken begins tonight as they start the season off with a two game road trip, first in Anaheim, followed by tomorrow in LA. Last season really cannot be called a success or a failure for the Kraken. Just having a team in Seattle was enough for many fans but ultimately the team found itself lacking on most nights, and without a young group of players bubbling under the surface, ready to break out.
This year Seattle is icing a far more competitive roster. The backend took a hit with the loss of Giordano. Replacing him with Justin Schultz might bring more offense but less defense. The forward core however has been completely revamped with fans excited to see what Beniers and Wright can do with a full season.
Here are a few things to keep an eye on tonight:
1) HOW MUCH DOES SHANE WRIGHT PLAY
Wright now (get it?) Shane Wright is expected to start as the fourth line centre, alongside Ryan Donato and Karson Kuhlman. Donato can bring some offensive ability but Kuhlman has not shown much in his 100 game career, spanning since 18/19. Seeing how Wright will be deployed early on will be one of the most interesting stories to follow. If Wright is only playing 8-10 minutes a game, is it really worth keeping him in the lineup? I'm curious to see how noticeable he can be in that position.
In the pre-season Philip Grubauer certainly looked more like the Grubs of old but pre-season and the regular season are entirely different beasts. As I mentioned above, the defense at least on paper does not look better than last years and that was a group that was regularly lit up. Hopefully a far better forward core can help transport the puck out of their own end quicker and provide relief but Grubauer needs to look like a legitimate starter from the get-go. Letting in a bad goal early will have everyone saying, "here we go again."
3) ZEGRAS VS BENIERS
I love seeing young, potential future faces of the NHL go head to head. Zegras has already established himself as a one man highlight reel while Beniers is already being picked as a potential favorite for the Calder. It is likely we see these two going head to head a fair amount tonight. Right now Zegras has the edge but Beniers is already showing he may have the ability to be a far more complete player. Regardless it will be a fun matchup to watch.
4) THIRD LINE DEPLOYMENT
I am very intrigued at how the Tanev-Gourde-Eberle line will be utilized. The Kraken have a decent, albeit unproven top six group with Beniers leading the way at centre but if Hakstol can get the this third line out against other bottom six groups they should have a significant edge. Tanev is tough as nails to play against while Gourde is strong at both ends of the ice and Eberle is an opportunistic scorer. I like this mix.
Enjoy the game tonight!
Prediction: 5-3 Seattle victory!