Usually, the start of NHL training camp is the start of lineup speculation.
For the Kraken, it’s at square one. Only a handful of players had skated together before this week. That changed when a few skated during unofficial captains’ practices at the new Northgate facility, the Kraken Community Iceplex.
Not every player was there; several just arrived in Seattle, and others are making their way to the Pacific Northwest. For many, it’s their first time in the Emerald City.
“I heard so many good things about the city,” goalie Joey Daccord said via phone last week. “I love doing outdoorsy stuff, and I think it’s gonna be really fun. There’s so many things to do and see, so I have a little checklist.”
Daccord, selected in the expansion draft from Ottawa, was one of two goalies on the ice during Thursday’s tour of the facility, along with Philipp Grubauer. The light session was the first time the group appeared on the ice together in Kraken uniforms in front of the public.
Like many others on the team, Daccord had not been to Seattle before arriving ahead of training camp, slated to open in just under two weeks.
“It’s nice to put faces to a name,” Brandon Tanev said this month. “You see these guys in the regular season, but we’re all super excited to be teammates now.”
Tanev was a part of a forward group Thursday that included Nathan Basitan, Jordan Eberle, Jaden Schwartz, Morgan Geekie, Alex Wennberg, Calle Jarnkrok, Carsen Twarynski and Alexander True.
Evaluating players during an informal session often isn’t productive, but defenseman Connor Carrick, on a two-way deal from a stint with the Devils, skated well Thursday, as did Wennberg, a free agent from the Panthers. Defensemen Jeremy Lauzon and Adam Larsson also skated with each other the majority of the session.
More players are continuing to roll into Seattle, and are expected to take the ice in unofficial sessions ahead of the start of training camp Sept. 23.
Too-early line speculation
Yanni Gourde won’t be ready until November, and we can speculate what the lines will look like without him until we’re blue in the face. But we won’t know for sure for two weeks.
Seeing players on the ice together is enough to inspire some speculation, though.
Without Gourde, the Kraken still feels light at forward, even with Schwartz and Eberle to anchor the top line, likely with Wennberg in the middle. A possible projection at forward could be:
- Schwartz, Wennberg, Eberle
- Tanev, Jarnkrok, Joonas Donskoi
- Marcus Johansson, Jared McCann, Mason Appleton
- Colin Blackwell, Geekie, Bastian
New addition Riley Sheahan from the Sabres should also compete for a role in the bottom six. The biggest question to resolve early in camp is center depth, especially without Gourde. Johansson and Appleton have played center previously, but Jarnkrok and McCann project as better options down the middle on paper. Geekie’s ability to take a leap should determine how much more depth the Kraken needs.
Seattle has around $7.5 million available in salary cap space ahead of camp if it wants to spend or make a trade, but if that happens it probably won’t be until it sees what it has now.
Defense is a little more secure, and a large portion of the group took part Thursday, with Jamie Oleksiak, Haydn Fleury, Cale Fleury, Carrick, Adam Larsson, Jeremy Lauzon, Will Borgen and Carson Soucy. Vince Dunn and Mark Giordano, and the recently signed Dennis Cholowski, will be at camp as well.
Cholowski was the last player anyone knew would be selected by the Kraken in expansion, the final leaked pick out of Detroit. He finally signed a deal as a restricted free agent last week, for $900,000 over one year in a two-way deal.
There are a few Kraken two-way deals, such as Carrick, True, Gustav Olofsson, Antoine Bibeau and Twarynski. For a team without a ton of minor-league depth, it could be an indicator of who begins the year with AHL Charlotte.
Cholowski has a chance to compete as a depth defenseman, too. The Kraken is deep on the blue line, especially its top four, but there are still questions. Lauzon isn’t established yet as a must-play option, and Borgen and Hayden Fleury will compete for consistent roles. That will be one battle to watch in camp.
Pumpkin latte, light ice
As everyone knows, it is pumpkin spice season. That includes the Kraken. One local component of the new Northgate facility is a corporate sponsorship with Starbucks, and if the logo on the front of the arena wasn’t enough, well, perhaps the ice resurfacing machine was.
The 552 lithium ion battery Zamboni at the Iceplex donned a large Starbucks logo, fitting for the partnership, and Seattle.
If the ice resurfacer has the ability to make the ice out of cold brew remains unclear. Given the time of the year though, a pumpkin cream cold brew on ice sounds great.