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Rising Tide: A Seattle Kraken Prospects Update

Matty Beniers isn’t the only Kraken prospect to be watching this year

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2021 NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Christopher Mast/2021 NHLI

The inaugural season of the Seattle Kraken has been like a stormy sea. The team has had ups and downs, and while at times there’ve been calls to abandon ship, we’re still afloat. It’s an expansion team, we’re not supposed to be world beaters, and somebody should’ve told the Vegas Golden Knights that a couple years back. But the team has heart, a solid fanbase, and a bright future. Some of that brightness can be found at the annual U20 World Junior Hockey Championship later this week.

Number 1 Prospect: Matty Beniers

While Beniers’ goal scoring has cooled off somewhat, he’s continued his promising developmental curve — he was named to the United States’ World Junior team and given the “A” as an alternate captain as well. Beniers sits 14th in NCAA scoring, with 22 points in 20 games, and only two points shy of sixth, as there’s a logjam of players hovering around his totals. Beniers’ college sweater has a letter as well, with the University of Michigan Wolverines apparently noting the same leadership qualities as the U.S. national program. A promising trend for a player who is seen as the future of the Seattle club.

2021 NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Christopher Mast/2021 NHLI

The IIHF World Junior tournament begins on Boxing Day (December 26th), where Beniers and the defending champion U.S. squad will take on Slovakia. With the pandemic continuing to disrupt things, the current plan is to have arenas at 50% capacity — but compared to last winter’s “bubble” tourney, the atmosphere will still be electric. Meanwhile, his home club will play two games without him at the end of the month but he’ll be back on the ice in Michigan on January 8th, 2022.

Ryker Evans

The Kraken’s second ever Entry Draft selection, Ryker Evans, won’t be at the upcoming World Junior tournament, in spite of having a fairly good season up in Canada with the WHL’s Regina Pats. There’s a simple reason for his absence: age. The tourney is for anyone up to, but not above, twenty years of age, and Evans celebrated that milestone on December 13th.

Seattle Kraken v Edmonton Oilers Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

Evans is putting up great numbers in the WHL with 4 goals and 24 assists in 28 games, but perhaps more impressive is the improvement in his plus/minus. Just as he’s done in each of his previous seasons, the number has improved, but for the first time in his junior career, it’s a positive (+9). What makes that number even more impressive is that the Pats as a team haven’t quite figured things out, sitting second to last in the WHL’s Eastern Conference.

Ryan Winterton

Ryan Winterton, who the Kraken took in Round 3 of the Entry Draft, has yet to play a game for the Ontario Hockey League’s Hamilton Bulldogs. He’s recovering from a shoulder injury sustained during his time at the Kraken’s preseason camp. Winterton, born in 2003, is a goal scorer when healthy, and he’s right not to rush back into things. With a professional hockey career hopefully in his future, his shoulder needs to be 100% better before he looks to return, as the game is hard on anyone, and the list of players with shoulder troubles is a long one.

Ville Ottavainen

Ville Ottavainen, the gigantic Finnish defenseman taken in the fourth round, will be at the World Juniors as well. It’s the 19 year old’s second tournament, and the Finnish seem to fold early or win everything at these contests. Ottavainen is playing like a mid-round pick back in Finland (4G, 5A in 30 games, and a -7) but those totals were good enough to make the national team. Whether that means he’s a standout, or the Finnish group is thin this year will be known soon enough.

The Later Round Selections

Fifth round pick Jacob Melanson is producing well in the QMJHL. The 6ft tall, 205lb right winger has 16 goals and 23 points in 28 games. Meanwhile, netminder Semyon Vyazovoi, despite an impressive .944 save percentage this season, was left off his country’s World Junior roster, supplanted by higher tier goaltending prospects like first-round pick Yaroslav Askarov.

Lastly, seventh rounder Justin Janicke may not pan out for the Kraken. The success rate for late round picks is low, and Janicke has only 2 assists in 13 games at Notre Dame. Still, with no expectations, he won’t feel the same pressure as some of the higher round selections, and might be a late bloomer.

A one-in-two success rate when it comes to draft picks developing into NHL players is said to be the average. While it’s too early to be counting chickens, the first crop of young talent drafted into the league’s newest club’s system looks to be on track. Should these future Kraken continue trending in the right direction, they could become important pieces of the roster in Climate Pledge Arena down the road.