Jaden Schwartz and Jordan Eberle have been the long-assumed top-line wingers when the Kraken actually gets into game play.
Who is between them at center while they wait for Yanni Gourde to return is another question. In Thursday’s training-camp opener at the Kraken Community Iceplex in Northgate it was Jared McCann. Afterward, coach Dave Hakstol said there was no need to read too deeply into that.
It is safe to assume Schwartz and Eberle will see significant time together, though, and the first look Thursday had some good signs.
“I think it’s going to be important to develop that chemistry,” Eberle said. “I’m a strong believer in playing with guys for a long time; you get better and better and start to know guys’ tendencies. Playing with Schwartzy, I’ve known him since I was 10 years old.”
Eberle said they played together in Saskatchewan, where they are both from, and even their siblings played together.
“I know their family real well,” he said. “I know his game. Even before this, we were trying to work on some stuff together just to try and get some chemistry.”
The Kraken took Eberle from the Islanders during the expansion draft, and Schwartz joined from St. Louis via free agency. On a roster without a ton of top-six depth, the plan all along has been to build the offense around them, and Gourde.
If those two click, that would be one step closer to the Kraken having a strong top line, something that has been needed more in the NHL.
“You look at some of the best lines in the league the last few years, and one of the ones that jumps out is Boston,” Eberle said. “They’ve been together for years and years, (and) they make it look effortless.”
The Kraken is a ways from establishing years of chemistry, but if its two best offensive talents are on the same page, it’s a good start.
Finding them a center without Gourde is the next challenge. It could be McCann, or it could be Alex Wennberg, who skated with the other unit Thursday.
They have time to figure it out, just not much.
“We’ve only got a certain amount of time, so we would like to put some combinations together and see what the chemistry looks like,” Hakstol said. “Possibly even leave it together through one exhibition game, and then have the opportunity to look at a different combination. We want to make sure everything we do has some ease into it, not all over the map. There’s not time to do too many different things.”
Gourde was a full participant in a red noncontact jersey, and general manager Ron Francis said Gourde might return before the original early-December projection.
“I would say he’s definitely ahead of schedule,” Francis said. “In the summertime I was expecting December. Now, ahead of that.”
Gourde underwent right-shoulder surgery July 21. He was on the ice for the entirety of Thursday’s second session, and aside from contact he didn’t appear to have any restrictions.
“I think he looks like he’s ahead of his schedule,” goalie Chris Driedger said. “Things are looking good.”
Early line combinations
The Kraken skated in two sessions Thursday and will do so again the next two days of training camp, so there were a few line combinations.
It’s early, and most of these lines likely won’t be what we see when the team takes the ice Sunday in Spokane, but, they were the first Kraken lines ever. Here is what the sheet looked like:
Jaden Schwartz-Jared McCann-Jordan Eberle
Ryan Donato-Morgan Geekie-Joonas Donskoi
Mason Appleton-Tye Kartye-Scott Wilson
Brent Gates-Cole MacKay-Luke Henman
Jamie Oleksiak-Mark Giordano
Jeremy Lauzon-Will Borgen
Cale Fleury-Gustav Olofsson
Marcus Johansson-Calle Jarnkrok-Alex Wennberg
Brandon Tanev-Nathan Bastian-Riley Sheahan
Jacob Melanson-Alexander True-Carsen Twarynski
Yanni Gourde (red)-Ryan Lohin
Vince Dunn-Adam Larsson
Connor Carrick-Carson Soucy
Haydn Fleury-Dennis Cholowski
Forward Colin Blackwell didn’t skate with either group, and after practice Hakstol said he was day-to-day because of a lower-body injury.
Francis confirmed Thursday that the Kraken is 100% fully vaccinated, joining an abundance of teams across the league.
“I had a conversation with the league, and they’re fine with me commenting on this,” he said. “We are 100% vaccinated.”