I wouldn’t say “despondent” is the right word, because it’s hard to say how invested I am in the Kraken after an underwhelming (to say the least) first season in the NHL. But, I was pretty down on things in general when the Kraken lost in the draft lottery, falling to the fourth pick overall.
To be fair, I have no idea what kind of impact player you would usually get at four. My gut says the NHL is a lot like the NBA when it comes to the draft, in that if you don’t have the top one or two guys, there’s probably a big step down to the next tier of incoming players. I could be off base, but that’s the vibe I get, and maybe it’s even more pronounced in the game of hockey than it is in basketball?
Last year, the Kraken were an incoming franchise, and even then we couldn’t just be gifted the number one pick overall, having to luck into getting number two. It just so happened that we landed a pretty solid all-around center in Matty Beniers (though, it’s my understanding that there was a top guy in a class by himself who we didn’t get, followed by everyone else), who ended up making a cup of coffee after playing another season in college last season. I think everyone is pretty high on Beniers and his chances to pop at the professional level.
But, you need more than one guy to make a team good. Considerably more than one, if we’re being honest.
Well, now it looks like the Kraken have a second guy.
Shock of shocks, the consensus #1 overall player in this year’s draft – Shane Wright – fell to the fourth pick, after three teams passed on him. Some teams allegedly passed on him because they didn’t need a center; clearly Montreal just favored someone else over him. But, what matters is, now the Kraken have two potentially elite-level centers to throw into the mix and build around for the long-term prosperity of this franchise.
The question that remains is: how long will it take for this building to bear fruit?
I mentioned this on Twitter, but I’ll repeat it here: this is the biggest pleasant surprise we’ve had from a player personnel perspective in franchise history. Truly, this is the best thing that’s happened since the Kraken team name was announced.
The expansion draft was largely underwhelming, and no one but the most pie-in-the-sky optimists could squint and find anything exciting to reference. Free agency last year was largely a shrug (and the way the season played out for most of those signings, we saw the worst case scenario of what could’ve happened). Even last year’s entry draft was a snooze, with Beniers being kind of a no-brainer consolation prize.
But, Wright seems to be a true difference-maker. Which makes it seem almost fishy that he managed to fall to Seattle at the fourth pick. It’s almost like someone in the league office worked their magic to FINALLY throw us a fucking bone, after all it cost us to join this fucking league. The Golden Knights of Las Vegas became instant championship contenders … but at least we finally got something to be hopeful about as we head into year two.
I don’t know what else to say about the draft after Wright. We picked 11 guys in total. Then, this week as free agency opened, we signed forward Andre Burakovsky to a 5-year deal. He comes over from Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche, and is actually a 2-time champion in his career. It’s not a flashy signing, but it looks like he’ll bring a steady scoring presence. Considering how lacking we were in scoring last year, anything at this point will only help.
So, how long until the Kraken are good? We’ll see! We’ll see if the right guys are signed in free agency. We’ll see if they mesh well in this system. Hell, we’ll see if this is even the right system in the first place, or if we need to look into a coaching change.
For now, it does look like the youth movement is on the right track when it comes to drafting and developing. Let’s hope that’s accurate, and in another couple years, we’ll start to see a huge turnaround. At this point, I’m going to need the Kraken to be remotely interesting before I start giving more of a fuck.