The Seattle Kraken have had but one swing at the NHL entry draft. Their prospect pool is smaller than most teams, but so far the pieces they put together for the future already look promising. Let’s check in on how a few pieces of the future Kraken are looking after a month of hockey.
Matty Beniers (1st round, #2 overall pick)
Start at the top, shall we? It’s not often that your team gets to pick as high as 2nd overall in the entry draft (at least, we hope it’s not often) and Ron Francis should be pretty comfortable with his choice here so far. Beniers was billed as a terrific two-way center in his draft profile, with the ability to play top-end defense along with good, if not great offensive ability. That offensive ability was the one area of weakness when it came to his scouting profiles. He’s not bad by any means, but he hadn’t shown the elite goal-scoring skills often seen in players taken this high in the draft. He was fully aware of this profile too.
“For me it’s continue to get bigger and stronger,” said Beniers when asked about what improvements he hopes to make before joining the Kraken. “That’s something I focused a lot on this year at Michigan, along with trying to score goals and produce more offensively.”
Well, 15 games into his sophomore season at the University of Michigan, Beniers is certainly scoring more goals. He’s currently tied for 3rd in the NCAA with 9 goals in 12 games. He’s the leading goal-scorer on an absolutely stacked Michigan team—they currently roster 4 of the top-5 selections from the 2021 NHL draft. Of his 9 goals, 6 have come on the power play—as a Kraken fan, finding someone that can score goals on the power play is quite enticing right now.
Matty Beniers with a one-timer from Owen Power and Kent Johnson on the power play! It's 2-0 Michigan pic.twitter.com/KEbMjdi6s3— Michigan Hockey (@umichhockey) November 12, 2021
Ryker Evans (2nd round, #35 overall pick)
The Kraken went off the board a bit with their second selection in the entry draft, but Ryker Evans appears to be out to prove he is worthy of his draft slot this year. Evans is currently 3rd among defensemen in points in the entire WHL with 16 in as many games.
If you’re looking for the analytics team’s insight in the Kraken’s roster building, look no further than Evans. Evans was ranked 192nd(!) by NHL Central Scouting among North American skaters prior to the draft. At 5’11”, he’d be Seattle’s smallest defenseman if he were on the NHL club right now. While most didn’t see him as a top-of-round-2 draft pick, some advanced stats hand-tracked by Mitch Brown of EP Rinkside showed evidence that there is significant talent in Evans that simply went under the radar ahead of the draft. He’s spent the first month of this season supporting that notion with solid defense and impressive, creative offense.
Alexander True (Expansion, from SJS)
It’s actually a bit surprising True hasn’t gotten into any NHL games yet this season. He was with the club during the early season Covid protocol issues but was there as a healthy scratch. Now back with the Kraken’s AHL affiliate Charlotte Checkers, True has been thriving. He currently leads the Checkers in points with 12 in 12 games. He’s scored in all three phases of the game as well — 3 at even strength, 2 on the power play, and 1 shorthanded. He’ll make his way up to Seattle for at least a few games before this season is over.
Hutsko ➡️ True ➡️ top corner ➡️ pic.twitter.com/Y92EI0ltvX— Charlotte Checkers (@CheckersHockey) October 17, 2021
Jacob Melanson (5th round, #131 overall pick)
The Kraken’s 5th-round draft pick has made some noise early on this season with the QMJHL’s Acadie-Bathurst Titan. Melanson has 10 goals in 17 games so far. The 18-year old winger has taken a major step forward in terms of putting pucks on net. He’s increased his shot total by 50% this year relative to last season. His 69 shots are actually tied for 7th-most in the entire QMJHL.
On the down side, he does seem to have a problem with penalties. Melanson has taken at least one minor penalty in 8 of his last 10 games and has surpassed his total penalty minutes from last season. That’s something the Kraken would like to see cleaned up.
Semyon Vyazovoy (6th round, #163 overall pick)
Seattle looks like they got a steal in the draft in goaltender Semyon Vyazovoy. Vyazovoy is currently 2nd in the MHL (Russia’s junior league) in save percentage with a .942 through 18 games.
It’s an impressive feat to actually improve on his .939 save percentage from a year ago. He’s also already matched his shutout total from last season with 3.
Seattle Kraken prospect Semyon Vyazovoy now in top 5 best goalkeepers of the junior Russian hockey league (93.9%, 1.8).#NHL #NHL22 #SeaKraken #Seattle #hockey #HockeyTwitter pic.twitter.com/VgQ4Msg1rp— Samir (@sam_arar32) November 10, 2021
Vyazovoy could be the hidden gem of the draft for Seattle, who snagged him in the 6th round. You can never have too many options between the pipes, as we are quickly learning this year.
We’re still quite early in the existence of this franchise, but the first crop of Kraken prospects appears to have some legitimate NHL potential. That’s great to see for a team that’s always emphasized the importance of building for the long term. Hopefully when we check back next year we’ll be talking about getting some of these guys a bit of NHL action.