The NHL draft is just around the corner, and we’ve been digging hard into who the Kraken might pick with the fourth overall selection when the time comes on July 7th. But let’s not forget, the Kraken aren’t the only hockey team in the Pacific Northwest with their eyes on the draft. There’s a slew of amateur teams in the region’s Western Hockey League full of young skaters with their eyes set on going pro one day.
The Kraken did not select a player from any of those local teams last year, though they did come quite close. They nearly had an opportunity to take Everett Silvertips defender Olen Zellweger in the 2nd round, but he was selected by Anaheim just one pick before Seattle was on the clock (Seattle took defender Ryker Evans with their next pick).
Even if it’s not the Kraken calling their name, it’s still always fun to hear players from those local teams get the call on draft day. And this year, there’s a fair few expected to be called from the other Seattle hockey team: the Seattle Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds made it all the way to the WHL Finals this year, and the roster that got them there has a fair few names that we should expect to be called next week. One of them will likely even get the call before the first round is up.
Scout Rankings: #10 SB Nation Mock Draft, #7 NHL Central Scouting (NA), #11 Bob McKenzie, #17 Corey Pronman
Korchinski finished with 65 points in 67 games with the T-Birds, good for the 5th most points in the league among defenders. He’s a menace in the offensive zone and should be able to find a home on a top NHL power play unit one day. He could use a little work in the defensive zone, but the skill he brings to the table says this kid definitely won’t make it out of the first round, and maybe not even out of the top 10.
Scout Rankings: #31 NHL Central Scouting (NA), #37 Bob McKenzie, #38 Corey Pronman
It’s a wonder what going all the way to the WHL Finals can do for a draft eligible player. Schaefer was ranked 85th among North American skaters at the halfway point of the season, and jumped all the way to 31st by the end of the year. He has an imposing 6’3” frame and a heck of a shot — he finished the year with 32 goals. At this point it would hardly be a reach to see him taken at the back end of the first round, and if not, this is definitely a local name to keep an eye on when the Kraken are on the clock at pick 35.
Reid Schaefer - F - @SeattleTbirds— Puck Preps Western Canada (@PuckPrepsWestCa) April 7, 2022
The more you watch, the more details you see. Reid is terrific at supporting positioning, subtly moving into pass reception spaces, and using his size to leverage possession. Add soft hands into the mix too. #2022NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/YzU6qg5BYj
Scout Rankings: #43 NHL Central Scouting (NA), #72 Bob McKenzie, #85 Corey Pronman
Gustafson doesn’t quite light the lamp like his teammates we discussed above, but he might very well be the best pure skater of the bunch. He may have only finished 7th on the team in points, but that’s in large part because he was on a team with quite a few great players. He still finished at nearly a point per game pace, with 52 in 58 games. The biggest thing he’ll bring to whichever club selects him is his speed, which frankly as a fan is always just plain fun to watch.
Scout Ranks: #28 NHL Central Scouting - Goaltenders
Milic is an interesting late-round name to keep an eye on, especially considering the Kraken already have somewhat of a rapport with the British Columbia native. After going undrafted a year ago, Milic was invited to Kraken training camp ahead of the 2021-22 season. Unfortunately he didn’t end up making it all the way to camp due to undisclosed injury concerns, but he was healthy in time for the T-Birds’ regular season. Milic posted a .912 save percentage in the regular season, sixth best in the WHL. He played even better in the playoffs, with a .925 save percentage and two shutouts en route to a WHL Finals appearance. Suffice it to say he did everything he could to get himself on the NHL draft radar this year.
So, which (if any) local kids would you like to see the Kraken take a chance on in the 2022 draft?