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DJLR Presents: The Seattle Kraken Midseason Awards

Where we recognize the best of the best through 41 games this season

New York Islanders v Seattle Kraken Photo by Christopher Mast/NHLI via Getty Images

We have hit the halfway point of the 2022-23 season, and wow it’s sure going a lot better than it did last year! General manager Ron Francis made a handful of changes over the offseason, but the core group of inaugural Kraken are still there. This time last year, the team was 13-24-4, with 30 standings points and a -38 goal differential. Now they’re 25-12-4, with 55 standings points, owners of the best goal differential in the Pacific division, and seem poised to make their first ever playoff appearance.

With that in mind, we here at DJLR got together and voted on a few midseason awards for the Kraken. Some of them felt obvious, and others required quite a bit of debate. Without further ado, here’s how we voted.

Seattle Kraken MVP - Matty Beniers

Others receiving votes: Vince Dunn (1)

Dan: It’s Matty Beniers. He’s nearly at a point per game pace while also playing fantastic defense at barely 20 years old. He’s the only forward you’ll see out there in the final minute whether it be that the Kraken are trying to tie it with their net empty, or if the opponent is trying to tie it with their net empty.

Em: It’s absolutely Beniers. While he’s not the only reason the Kraken have turned their results around from last year, he’s a major part of it. He’s come into the lineup and sits as one of the team’s top scorers, and as our top line center, he’s facing a lot of high-quality opponents in the process. Having him on the squad has been a major boost. Though I also want to shout out Jordan Eberle for second place, because I think those two as a duo bounce off each other well in terms of strong production combined with defensive smarts. Ebs has taken the kid under his wing and it shows.

Zaiem: Beniers. Not just the scoring, but the defense – complete 200 foot game at 20 years old. Just remarkable.

Sky: Matty B. He’s so far ahead of the rest of the rookies in the NHL right now it’s almost comical, as is his on-ice impact. As we previously discussed, games in which he has even a single point somehow boosts the winning percentage of the team by an absurd margin, and the way he plays is so very above his age should be cause for Kraken fans to celebrate

Sean: Vince Dunn. I wrote last season that Dunn’s role needed to be expanded and he has continuously proven me right in 2022-23. He has stepped up into a top two role and been excellent on both ends of the ice. No question the St. Louis Blues miss his skill set and just watch which pairing coach Hakstol sends out against elite competition. Dunn is is my midseason MVP.

Best Defender - Vince Dunn

Others receiving votes: Will Borgen (1)

Calgary Flames v Seattle Kraken Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Sean: Vince Dunn. as many thought when he was selected at the expansion draft, Dunn brings consistent offense without sacrificing in his own zone. He leads the defense in points and advanced stats while munching big minutes every night.

Em: Seconding Dunn. Probably doesn’t help much that I have a strong bias towards offensively-minded defensemen, but he’s not only being trusted with major minutes, he helps set up a lot of goals for this team.

Dan: As much as my heart wants to say Will Borgen, I’m going with Vince Dunn. He always had good underlying numbers in St. Louis, but was largely playing on the 3rd defensive pair. This is the first year he’s taken on top pair minutes and he’s handled it beautifully, leading the team in 5-on-5 GF% while also taking on more responsibility killing penalties.

Sky: Vince Dunn is also playing out of his mind so Dunn has my sword. I feel like he should probably get more minutes? He mostly leads the TOI every so often but I feel like he does when they win more.

Zaiem: Will Borgen <3

Most Improved Player - Daniel Sprong

Others receiving votes: Oliver Bjorkstrand (1), Martin Jones (1), Dave Hakstol (1)

Edmonton Oilers v Seattle Kraken Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Zaiem: Daniel Sprong. He’s been forced to play a complete game in order to hold down a roster spot and he’s absolutely burying the puck right now.

Sky: Seconding Daniel Sprong! He’s the most found of found money, a breakout monster, and a great depth player on a team with a lot of strong depth.

Sean: Oliver Bjorkstrand - granted he was in Columbus, but Bjorkstrand has adjusted very nicely to his new surroundings. His offensive output is slightly down year over year, but he finished last season with the Bluejackets at -35, while this year he’s been a net positive, scoring timely goals and making smart plays in his own zone as well.

Em: Martin Jones: Sure, last season’s Flyers team turned out to be a goaltending black hole (Carter Hart’s stats were also not great, but he’s bouncing back nicely), but I’m going to be very honest here. When I saw the Kraken were adding Jones to the goalie pool, my first thought was, “Are we trying to make the league’s worst goaltending worse?” But not only has he been playing much better than he did as a backup with the Flyers, he’s stolen the starting goaltending spot away from Grubauer. I’d definitely call that improvement!

Dan: I’m going off board here and saying Dave Hakstol. He had so many fans calling for his head last year, when the season went off the rails and stayed that way early on. This year, the improvement in the team can’t really be overstated. Not only that, but there’s been some aspects we can directly connect to coaching. They had been awful in overtime, then spent a full day of practice on 3-on-3, and proceeded to win their next 4 overtime games. He’s trusting guys like Vince Dunn and Daniel Sprong with more ice time, and he’s putting Beniers out there in all situations, which goes directly against his own reputation for sheltering young guys in favor of the savvy veterans.

Biggest Surprise - Martin Jones

Others receiving votes: Matty Beniers (1)

NHL: JAN 07 Kraken at Senators Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Sky: Martin Jones doesn’t just get decent results, but the team plays a lot better in front of him than you might expect. I guess part of it is that expectations for Jones were uh…low, but it’s still quite impressive for him to have taken the reigns straight off of a bad situation (remember when Grubert got hurt?) and run with it.

Em: Seconding Martin Jones. As I said before, I didn’t expect it would go well having him in net. I certainly never saw him becoming the starter either.

Dan: Martin Jones. I mean no disrespect, but did anyone expect him to have this many hot streaks in him? Sure, his save percentage is still below .900 for the year, largely due to some clunkers like the 9-8 victory (?!) over the Kings, but his heaters have been incredible, and earned him the starter’s job at the halfway point. One fun fact: the Kraken have had three separate 5+ game win streaks this year, totaling 18 wins. Martin Jones has started in 14 of those 18 wins.

Sean: Matty Beniers. I wasn’t certain Matty B could continue the amazing production we saw in his call up at the end of 2021-22, but he continues to look like an NHL star in the making. Beniers seems destined for the Calder Trophy, and when we compare his rookie play with Shane Wright’s, who is only 14 months his junior, it makes one hopeful for a similar developmental curve for the Kraken’s latest 1st round pick.

Zaiem: Martin Jones

Biggest Disappointment - Oliver Bjorkstrand

Others receiving votes: Philipp Grubauer (1), Carson Soucy (1)

Calgary Flames v Seattle Kraken Photo by Christopher Mast/NHLI via Getty Images

Em: Oliver Bjorkstrand. I understand the argument for Grubauer, but it also looks a lot like the players forget how to play defense whenever he’s in net as opposed to Jones, which doesn’t help him one bit. With Bjorkstrand, I think the hype around how Ron Francis was able to acquire the guy for very little made me think he was going to come out and be a top-line guy and be one of our top 3 or 4 point earners. Instead he sits tied at 11th. He’s not having a bad season, but it’s not what I expected of him.

Dan: Oliver Bjorkstrand. This is largely because of the high expectations I had for him heading into the year. I thought he’d be scoring like Burakovsky has been scoring, and instead we’ve had some long, long scoreless droughts from Bjorky. I am thankful Hakstol has kept him in the lineup though, because he’s still a plus player despite the points not necessarily showing up.

Sean: Phil Grubauer - The stats suggested a bounce back year was coming for Gru, and while no goal against is a single player’s fault, Grubauer’s inconsistent play has been the biggest worry for a Kraken team looking to make its first postseason.

Zaiem: Bjorkstrand, though the disappointment is mild. It’s hard to find spots on the roster that bum me out.

Sky: I’m more frustrated than disappointed with Carson Soucy right now. He’s a decent defender when he’s on his game, he’s serviceable in his own end and alright at penalty killing (for the Kraken), and most of the time a positive influence on the game…but jesus christ he just cannot stop taking boneheaded penalties at the worst times. This team’s PK is not good enough to overcome that, and frankly it’s a little obnoxious that a major PKer often ends up sitting in the box for completely avoidable nonsense. You’re better than this, Soucy. Step up.

Best Player Not Enough People Are Talking About - Will Borgen

Others receiving votes: Brandon Tanev (1.5), André Burakovsky (1)

New York Islanders v Seattle Kraken Photo by Christopher Mast/NHLI via Getty Images

Dan: Okay now I’m going to talk about Will Borgen for a second. Did you know the Kraken allow 49.4 shot attempts per hour with Borgen on the ice, the lowest number for any Kraken defender this season? He also leads the team in terms of shots allowed on the penalty kill. He went from a regular healthy scratch last year to a staple third pair defender, and I can’t wait to see where he goes from here.

Zaiem: I think Dan and I may have similar feelings about Will Borgen XD

Sean: Brandon Tanev. Ghost got hurt last season and the team missed his tenacity on the ice. He’s quietly having a great year, scoring 0.5 points/game in a supporting role.

Em: I could go with either of the two above. Will Borgen does not get talked about enough (unless it’s in the context of living with Matty Beniers) and will probably remain underrated for a while. Tanev, though, is such an interesting case. He was a major fan favorite last season, with people clamoring for him to do things like guest star on the broadcast while he was injured because everyone missed him so much. But Sean’s right to point out that people really aren’t talking about him as much this season! Is it because he’s playing in a support role this year?

Sky: André Burakovsky has more points than almost any other Kraken, plays like a tiger circling its prey every shift, draws a ton of attention while he’s on the ice and is…almost never commented on beyond “hey he played pretty well tonight!”? This dude rules and deserves more flowers for what he’s done for this team.

The Kraken are halfway through an impressive second season, and it’s clear they’re getting help from players all across the lineup. Are there any skaters we snubbed? Let us know in the comments!