Again, sticking with the “taking the best player available” theme, the Seattle Kraken will likely be selecting a forward in the 2023 NHL Draft should they stay at pick number-20. Might they trade up to get a specific player they really want out of a group of very talented forwards … they might. They have the assets to do so, including three 2nd-round picks this summer.
Thursday we tossed around the names of a few defenseman who might be available at the time of their pick – they could always use a little help back there as well – but it’s a forward-intensive draft particularly near the top.
Strength up the middle is a key for any hockey team and the Kraken could stand to draft a center to replace the soon-to-be 29-year-old Alexander Wennberg who has one year left on his deal, and to provide competition and potential insurance for Shane Wright, the 19-year-old 2022 4th-overall pick who remains a bit of a mystery.
There’s always the possibility we’re being impatient with Wright, but it’s never a bad a idea to draft a top notch centerman if you can find one.
That said, the Kraken can use depth and some game breaking talent on the wing as well.
So who’s out there?
Based on the NHL Central Scouting Bureau’s (CSB) final pre-draft player rankings, a whole lot of forwards. The top 17 skaters on the North American list are centers or wings, while the top 4, and 7 of the top 10 on the European skater list are up front as well.
After the Chicago Blackhawks select Connor Bedard (WHL, Regina Pats) with the top overall pick, the Anaheim Ducks are expected to take fellow center Adam Fantilli out of the University of Michigan, followed by the Columbus Blue Jackets taking Swedish pivot Leo Carlsson.
The 1st-round will continue to offer up some prime choices after those three, but it becomes more a matter of personal preference and needs.
Here’s three names for the Kraken if they stay put at pick-20:
Brayden Yager — The slight, 5-foot-11 right-shot center with the Moose Jaw Warriors is ranked 11th on the CSB North American list. Craig Button of TSN has him going 14th-overall to the PIttsburgh Penguins while others have him ranked even higher. The Kraken would love to see the Saskatoon native who tossed up 78 points in 67 Western Hockey League games this past season slip down a bit.
They would covet his great shot, top play-making ability and overall hockey IQ. He spent the season playing with winger Jagger Firkus, a 2nd-round pick of the Kraken last summer. They could be linemates at development camp.
Calum Ritchie — The point-a-game Oshawa Generals (OHL) center offers a bigger right-shot option at 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds. He’s ranked 13th on the CSB North American list and if the draft goes according to their rankings, this player could be hanging around for the Kraken. Dobber Prospects has him going 24th-overall, one pick ahead of Yager, and describes him as a highly skilled pivot who plays a physical game.
While the Kraken could stand to add a bit of size up front, do they want to sacrifice any element of their trademark mobility? Ritchie’s not the quickest, yet.
Colby Barlow — It’s fitting that this big, and still growing, left winger plays for the Ontario League’s Owen Sound Attack, because that’s exactly what he does, to the tune of 46 goals this past season. He added 33 assists in 59 games.
He’s projected to be a top-6 NHL winger with his tremendous shot. Although they seem to be a dying breed, every NHL team needs a power forward or two, especially during the playoffs. That would be his forté, as exhibited by the fact Button has him going 9th overall to the Detroit Red Wings. Others have him right around where the Kraken will be picking.
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