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Pacific Preview: Vegas and Vancouver

You can find whales in both places

Vegas Golden Knights v Vancouver Canucks

It’s been a great summer. Few would argue the statement that the Seattle Kraken team hitting the ice this fall will look different than the inaugural roster did, but the question is will they be better? An injection of talented youth, adjustments to the coaching staff, and a couple key trades and signings lead most folks to predict a better standings result than 2021-22, but do the Kraken have a shot at their first post-season berth?

Seattle Kraken v Winnipeg Jets Photo by Christopher Mast/NHLI via Getty Images

We’ve already taken a look at what the Flames and the Oilers bring to the table next season in the first part of this series. In part two of our study of the Pacific division we’ll be taking a look at another Canadian team, the Vancouver Canucks, and Seattle’s older expansion team brother, the Vegas Golden Knights. Neither team made the playoffs last season, but both were in the hunt as the season ended, as well as winning their respective season series against the Kraken.

  • Seattle Kraken Goals per game 2021-22: 2.6
  • Seattle Kraken Goals against per game 2021-22: 3.46

Vancouver

The Canucks franchise is meant to be our regional rival, with short travel distances allowing for a strong opposing presence at home games for either club, and while I do think the (good-natured) hatred will grow over time, it’s hard to get a strong dislike for one another when you both kinda suck.

NHL: APR 26 Kraken at Canucks Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Going into 2022-23 the Canucks are a young club, sitting in the bottom third of the league in terms of average age. One might expect Seattle to have a lot of youth as well as a newer team, but they’re actually in the middle of the pack (14th oldest roster). The team’s early draft crops haven’t had enough time to make the roster, and the team selected at expansion was fairly evenly distributed in terms of age.

  • Vancouver Canucks Goals per game 2021-22: 3.0
  • Vancouver Canucks Goals against per game 2021-22: 2.82

From the stats above, we can see that the gulf between the Kraken’s production and Vancouver’s is much smaller than what we saw against Edmonton and Calgary. But Vancouver fans expect their team to take a step forward next season as well. A predicted top line of Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, and Vasili Podkolzin should post very good advanced numbers, and you’d expect their offensive output to increase at the same time in 2022-23.

Arizona Coyotes v Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks are also pretty set in net with 26-year old Thatcher Demko, and the young Quinn Hughes took a big step last season as a top pairing defenseman. So where are the Canucks’ holes? Much like the Kraken, they don’t have a ton of depth. The forward group looks fine, although it’s lacking a true superstar, but on D they have some holes.

NHL: APR 26 Kraken at Canucks Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Oliver Ekman-Larsson is not the same player who signed his eight year, $66 million contract, and Tyler Myers also looks to be in decline. Luke Schenn is a two-time Stanley Cup champion, but at 32, he’s a likely bet for a down year. Overall the Canucks are as likely to regress in goals against as they are to improve goals for. If Demko holds the line, a playoff spot isn’t out of the question, but if his efficiency slips, or he gets hurt, Vancouver could be ripe for the taking.

Vegas Golden Knights

The Knights set an unreasonable standard for expansion success, but the shine has come off the pearl when it comes to their cap management. While Seattle general manager Ron Francis is getting top six players at a discount with all of his cap flexibility, Vegas is routinely using assets and cap space for expensive players, who they then find a need to give away for nothing.

  • Vegas Golden Knights Goals per game 2021-22: 3.2
  • Vegas Golden Knights Goals against per game 2021-22: 2.98

The 2022-23 Knights should still be able to score. Jack Eichel should enter the year healthy, Mark Stone shouldn’t need to fake any injuries to stay under the cap, and the rest of the forward depth was able to produce by committee last season. Adding in a 34 year old Phil Kessel should be good for some goals as well.

NHL: APR 29 Golden Knights at Blues Photo by Rick Ulreich/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

On defense, Alex Pietrangelo leads an aging but competent top four, but beyond that the Knights’ depth is questionable. Even more in doubt is their goaltending situation, now that the news of Robin Lehner’s long term injury has opened a huge hole at the position. If the Knights slip much in terms of goals against, without a jump in scoring, they could be on the outside looking in, and they are a team the Kraken should hope to jump in the standings.

Seattle Kraken v Vegas Golden Knights Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

As it stands today, the Vegas team has only four players remaining from their original expansion roster. They went all in after their initial success, and are now in a “no man’s land” where they’ve committed tons of term and money to a roster than isn’t among the league’s best. Vancouver is a team potentially on the rise, but needs a number of players to take a step forward this season. The Kraken need something similar, but their youngest players should have higher ceilings. A lot needs to go right, but beating out these two teams would put Seattle a lot closer to their first playoff berth.