The top selections in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft seem to have settled of late. Forwards Shane Wright, Juraj Slafkovský, and Logan Cooley have been penciled in across most mock drafts as the top three picks (thought the order of those players is up for ravenous debate). If those top forwards are gone when Seattle is on the clock at pick No. 4, it’s expected they’ll go for a defender, likely Simon Nemec out of Slovakia. This is no doubt going to be another exciting top-5 selection for the Kraken, where they hope to get another franchise cornerstone to go alongside Matty Beniers for years to come. But the slots that will really make or break Ron Francis’ sophomore draft in Seattle comes in the second round.
Seattle currently holds four selections in the second round of this draft: picks 35, 49, 58, and 61. They’ve also got pick 68 at the top of the third round to boot. That leaves a lot of options on the table for general manager Ron Francis.
Who might they take?
To get a better idea of who really could be available, we’ll use the consensus prospect rankings compiled by our friends over at Eyes on the Prize. One name that jumps out as a potential skater that falls out of the first round is Filip Mešár, the forward from HK Poprad in Slovakia. We know the Kraken have been scouting Simon Nemec extensively out in Slovakia already, so they’re likely familiar with some of his competition as well. He’s ranked as high as 11th per some rankings, but TSN’s Bob McKenzie has him all the way down at 30 — and McKenzie gathers his intel from scouts around the league, so his rankings generally fall in line with what actual NHL teams feel about these players. Mešár is an excellent skater that can play center or on the wing, and paired with his solid stickhandling skills he can be a menace in transition through the neutral zone.
He does have a Ryan Donato-esque tendency to throw the puck at the net from anywhere in the zone, any chance he gets — but that might not be a big downside to a Kraken team that ranked 29th in shots per game last season. He’s got a small frame too, standing only 5’10”, but that’s also the same height as Jaden Schwartz and Karson Kuhlman — so it won’t necessarily stop Seattle from giving him a chance.
Later in the second, the Kraken may take a long look at defenseman Maveric Lamoureaux. He sits at 56th on the consensus rankings, so he could be had with any one of the last three second rounders that Seattle holds. The most noticeable trait that Lamoureaux possesses is his size. The 18-year old stands at 6’7” and a shade under 200 lbs. He’s a few years of professional strength training away from Jamie-Oleksiak-size, to compare him to someone you’re familiar with. He doesn’t do a lot offensively, but he’s another great skater and he isn’t afraid to throw his body around to separate his opponent from the puck.
One of the biggest (no pun intended) things to jump out during the Kraken’s expansion draft was that every defender they selected (save Vince Dunn) was large. Dunn and Mark Giordano were the only defenders with regular ice time in Seattle last year that didn’t stand at least 6’3”. Lamoureaux fits the mold of the next huge shutdown defender to join the Kraken blue line.
Back on the offensive side, could this be the moment we see Seattle take the first player from a local amateur club? Reid Schaefer of the Seattle Thunderbirds is ranked 55th on the consensus rankings and brings another big body to any forward group. Schaefer rocketed up draft boards later this season when he led all WHL draft-eligible forwards in playoff points with 21 in 25 games. Of all the local players entering the 2022 draft, Schaefer seems like the prime target to stay in Seattle when his NHL career begins.
One more forward to keep an eye on is center Danny Zhilkin. Zhilkin is a 6’2” center playing for the OHL’s Guelph Storm. He finished last season with 55 points in 66 games for the Storm, centering their top line alongside Ducks’ prospect Sasha Pastujov, who led the team with 34 goals and 76 points. Zhilkin can win faceoffs and produce offense, two areas the Kraken were sorely lacking in last season. The offensive upside is there with Zhilkin, but the question is really whether or not he can keep it up when he’s not playing alongside the best skaters on his team.
Could they trade up to get back into the first round?
If a player the Kraken scouting staff loves fell late enough into the first round, they absolutely have the firepower to trade up to get him. Eric Tulsky, current assistant general manager for the Carolina Hurricanes, did a study on how NHL teams value draft picks in trades back in 2013 and created his own draft value chart based around that data. Using his chart, the Kraken could package pick 35 with either 58 or 61 and get back into the late first, somewhere around pick 28 or 29. They could jump three or four slots higher if they gave away picks 35 and 49.
Looking at those late first round picks, there’s one that really jumped out to me while reading Corey Pronman’s latest mock draft: Brad Lambert. Lambert is one of the more polarizing prospects in this draft class, ranking anywhere from 3rd overall to 42nd overall, per the consensus rankings. He’s an elite skater and top-notch puck handler, but scouts have voiced concerns over his effort level at times and his tendency to take shifts off on occasion.
Brad Lambert (2022) goes end to end. pic.twitter.com/nUWmPJSwug— draft guy (@DraftLook) December 25, 2020
While it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Lambert go in the top half of round one, it also isn’t crazy to think he slips to the very end of it. Pronman put Lambert to the Oilers at pick 29 in his mock draft. As mentioned above, the Kraken could send picks 35 and 61 to the Oilers to get to 29, or potentially to the Sabres to get to 28. Trading up is a risky play for a team like Seattle, who are still building an entire minor league affiliate and prospect pool from the ground up. It’s more likely they stick with the picks they have and get as many bites at the apple as they can. But there’s always the chance that that one prospect they’ve had their eye on slips just enough to make them pull the trigger on a trade like this.