Seattle, Meet Your First Draft Class

The Kraken made seven selections this weekend, laying the foundation for a pipeline that eventually will be called on for youthful reinforcements.
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Matty Beniers

Matty Beniers

The Seattle Kraken have a pipeline. Heck, with two defensemen, a goalie and three forwards (plus a couple extra), the kids have their own starting lineup right now. Luke Henman finally has some playmates for the system.

And make no mistake, this was a crucial draft for Seattle, because it was the first time the Kraken scouting staff had a chance to plant their flag. While the Kraken will share an AHL affiliate with Florida next season, it won't be long before the Baby Squids will have their own home in Palm Springs (though they probably won't be called the Baby Squids) and will need a full roster. As it is now, Seattle will provide the AHL's Charlotte Checkers with eight to 12 players, including one goalie.

The fact Seattle used its second selection on Ryker Evans, passed over in the previous draft, suggested the strategy of getting at least a couple players in this cohort who would arrive in the AHL a bit earlier. Big Finnish defenseman Ville Ottavainen, who turns 19 in August, fits that criteria too. But according to GM Ron Francis, the Kraken were simply going with the players they liked.

In Evans, director of amateur scouting Robert Kron saw a player his scouts all loved and it didn't matter to the Seattle braintrust that he wasn't highly ranked outside of their organization. In fact, it sounds like one of the best things that came out of this weekend for the Kraken's scouting staff was the fact they were all meeting face to face for the first time. Luckily, it went well.

"There was great chemistry in the room," Kron said. "We had people who expressed their opinions and backed them up with knowledge. It really worked well and we're really happy with this first draft."

Overall, I thought the Kraken had a pretty decent draft. Ryan Winterton has the chance to be a steal in the third round thanks to his motor and upside, while Justin Janicke's profile suggested a mid-rounder, not a seventh-round selection. He too has great drive, while playing a two-way game. Jacob Melanson brings a physical edge up front and there is certainly intrigue in goaltender Semyon Vyazovoi, who is playing for a Salavat Ufa organization known for great goalie development.

Of course, the most important pick made by Seattle this weekend was the first, when they tabbed University of Michigan center Matty Beniers with the second selection overall. Clearly the Kraken needed a cornerstone-type player with that first pick and based on how NHL teams are built, it was going to be either a center or a defenseman. Beniers has already proved what a dependable pivot he can be both in the NCAA and on the international stage and his ability to create offense around the opponent's net makes him a scoring threat, too.

"He's the kind of guy you want to start your franchise with," Francis said. "He plays hard every night, great kid, lots of character, good skill set, good speed and you know what you're getting from him every time he steps on the ice."

Being good off the ice as well as on it was also a guiding star for the Kraken as they assembled their roster of new prospects. Speed, skill, compete level and other traits were of course important, but something else was held paramount.

"We look at everything," Kron said. "But the No. 1 thing is that we like really high-character players."

Typically, an NHL franchise would have a rookie camp on the horizon and while Seattle doesn't really have enough players to justify one just yet, there's a more important cautionary reason to do something smaller this year.

"Based on the Covid situation, I don't think we'll do a big week-long rookie camp," Francis said. "We'll bring them in maybe three or four days early just to educate them on some of the things we think are important in regards to nutrition, sleep, social media and those kinds of things, then we'll roll right over into (training) camp."

But even without a full rookie camp, the Kraken now have a pipeline of prospects to start building out from. A foundation is being laid and next season, Seattle will add even more talent to the pool. It's real now, Kraken fans.

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