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Beniers, Eberle, and McCann: the Kraken’s most effective forward line

They’ve scored how many goals?

San Jose Sharks v Seattle Kraken Photo by Christopher Mast/NHLI via Getty Images

It really shouldn’t come as a surprise.

The Seattle Kraken have been a significantly better team this year than we saw all of last season. So much better in fact that the playoffs not only appear to be possible for this group, but probable. A big reason for that is no doubt the depth of the forward group — getting production from Morgan Geekie and Daniel Sprong on the fourth line along with being able to slot Yanni Gourde and Oliver Bjorkstrand on the third line makes the Kraken a difficult opponent to play against for 60 minutes of hockey. But the top-end scoring talent at the top of the lineup hasn’t been in the same tier as some other playoff contenders.

Or has it?

Matty Beniers, Jordan Eberle, and Jared McCann have become the Kraken’s top scoring threat over the past calendar month, when head coach Dave Hakstol first gave them significant minutes together. They were at it again on Sunday evening, notching both the game’s opening goal and the eventual game-winning goal in Florida against the Panthers. Eberle and Beniers are no strangers to each other — they played together during the 10-game Matty B stint at the end of last season, and started this year off together again. The energetic rookie and the wily veteran had instant chemistry, which we can see from the game-winner yesterday.

These two began the year with Jaden Schwartz on the left wing, but he’s since been swapped with the first Kraken player to sign a contract extension in franchise history, Jared McCann. McCann was a productive yet overlooked goal-scorer for three different teams over the first six seasons of his career before finding a home in Seattle. McCann is poised to repeat his performance as the Kraken’s leading goal-scorer in their sophomore season, pacing for nearly 40 goals over a full 82-game season after netting 27 last year. His linemates fluctuated quite a bit last year, but he now seems to have found a home on the ice to go with the home he found in his five-year contract extension — on the wing of Matty Beniers and Jordan Eberle. His hustle puck retrieval and no-look pass set up the opening Beniers goal on Sunday.

This group will be listed as the team’s second line, with Alex Wennberg, Jaden Schwartz, and André Burakovsky getting a bit more ice time as the team’s top unit right now. But it’s the Beniers-Eberle-McCann combination that has generated by far the most offense for Seattle this year. The Kraken have now scored 12 goals on the year with those three on the ice — no other forward line on the team has totaled more than 5 goals yet.

That’s not just good offensive numbers relative to the rest of the Kraken, either. That goal scoring rate puts this line among the top-10 scoring lines in the NHL this year. Among forward lines with at least 100 minutes together (this one has 126 now) only five other lines have scored more often than this Seattle trio.

The Seattle Kraken line of Jared McCann, Matty Beniers, and Jordan Eberle ranks 6th in the NHL in goals scored per 60 minutes

That’s right: these guys have scored more often than the Auston Matthews line in Toronto. It’s a huge boon to a Kraken team that’s never had a truly elite top-six forward group. But the best part is that this offense has not come at the price of stout defensive play either. Among the 72 forward lines with 100+ minutes together, the Beniers-McCann-Eberle line has allowed the 18th fewest goals against per 60 minutes, and the 9th fewest expected goals against per 60 minutes. In the infamous 9-8 game against the Kings, they were the only line (on either team!) that played real minutes together and did not allow a single goal at 5-on-5. They’re essentially a top-10 line both offensively and defensively.

Will it continue for the rest of the year? Maybe not quite at this pace, but the three skaters have still only played together for a month — there’s a chance they are actually still building chemistry and could even improve over time. As for now, it’s enough to know that the main driver of offense for the Kraken comes from the line centered by their franchise guy — and they’re only just getting started.