Seattle’s first month of hockey has been full of surprises for the expansion franchise. Through the first 12 games of its inaugural season, the Kraken sit at 4-7-1, good for last in the Pacific Division and 28th in the NHL. Originally thought of as a strong defensive team, Seattle is allowing the seventh-most goals against per game (3.33 GA/GP). Offensively, the Kraken is scoring 2.83 goals per game, good for 18th in the league. Seattle has had fairly average offensive production for a team that was supposed to be lacking in that department.
Seattle has had several players outperform expectations early in the campaign, while a few others have fallen short of early expectations. Defenseman Jamie Oleksiak and forward Brandon Tanev are among some of the strong starts for the Kraken.
Oleksiak has five assists in 12 games, while maintaining an even rating. His 19:06 on ice per game is fifth on the team and third among Kraken defensemen. He is second behind Tanev for the team lead in both hits (41) and hits/60 (10.72). At 6’7″ and 255 lbs., Oleksiak was expected to bring a strong physical presence with solid defensive play, but his contributions offensively have been a pleasant surprise as well. He is on pace to eclipse 30 points, and even if he doesn’t reach that mark he should be able to top his current best of 14, which he reached twice in the previous five seasons.
Tanev is tied for the team lead with 6 goals through the first dozen contests; one of his markers came on the powerplay and two of them were game-winners. His career-high is 14 goals, a mark he could easily beat this season with the Kraken. Tanev leads Seattle with 43 hits and 14.41 hits/60. He and Oleksiak both rank in the top 10 in the NHL in total hits.
On the flip side, several Kraken skaters have underwhelmed to start the campaign. Among these players are Calle Jarnkrok and Mason Appleton.
Jarnkrok missed the first handful of games after being placed on the league’s COVID-19 protocol list, but hasn’t found his game since entering the lineup. He has played in 7 games so far this season and has yet to record a point. Jarnkrok has a minus-3 rating and has only won 36 percent of his faceoffs so far. His 16:55 per game is sixth among Kraken forwards, but has not yet translated into the production we’ve come to expect from the Swede. Jarnkrok has produced at least 26 points in each of the last six seasons and should be able to reach that mark if he improves as the campaign progresses.
Appleton has also only appeared in 7 games and has mustered just an assist in those contests. He is only earning 11:14 per game, among the least ice time on the team. Appleton was expected to command a larger role with Seattle than he had with the Winnipeg Jets, and that has not been the case as of yet. He is coming off a career year where he put up 12 goals and 25 points in 56 games, and could still eclipse those marks. Appleton will need to make the most of his limited ice time and help the Kraken continue to impress offensively.
Between the pipes, Philipp Grubauer has been surprisingly inconsistent despite a strong group of defensemen playing in front of him. Just a season after being named a Vezina Trophy Finalist, Grubauer’s numbers don’t inspire much confidence with several rivals getting off to good starts. His .886 save percentage through 10 starts ranks him in the bottom 20 of the over 70 eligible netminders. Grubauer is still only allowing 2.97 goals against per game, good for 40th in the NHL, but with Seattle only allowing a league-low 25.8 shots against per game, he isn’t able to pad his save percentage stats.
There is still plenty of season left, but some of these early developments will be stories to watch as the Kraken continue their inaugural season.