Kraken Up The Middle
Balance is the key word for the Seattle Kraken, because as talented as Matty Beniers may be and as diligent as Alexander Wennberg might be, the pair doesn’t rank near the top of the Pacific Division with its 1-2 punch.
Up until now, contributions from across the board are what make the Kraken so effective, because unadulterated talent-wise, other clubs have them beat up the middle.
Toss in Yanni Gourde in the three spot and it might make for a different set of rankings, but we’re just doing the all-important top-2 centers. (We did the top-3 last Halloween)
— Edmonton Oilers – This hasn’t changed and it very likely won’t for a long time, unless of course Connor McDavid decides he wants to move on. If Leon Draisaitl is playing the middle, this argument is over before it starts.
By the way, McDavid’s current contract is up after 2025-’26, Draisaitl’s the season before.
— Vancouver Canucks – It appears the neighbors to the north will finally start a season with Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller taking these top two roles fulltime, and with that happening you have an ultra-talented number-one in “Petey” and an uber competitive number-two in “Millsy”. While they’ve had their moments — Pettersson a slow start two seasons ago after missing training camp and Miller just controlling his frustrations in general — this is an elite pair.
Pettersson is often worth the price of admission on his own.
— Vegas Golden Knights – Tough to argue with the ultimate success. That’s what centers Jack Eichel, William Karlsson and sometimes Chandler Stephenson experienced with their Stanley Cup title. Eichel just as easily could have won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP over winger Jonathan Marchessault. Eichel has found his home and elevated his game to levels expected when he was the 2nd-overall draft pick (Buffalo Sabres) in 2015 behind McDavid.
A repeat will be tough given the attrition, age, and potential injuries to this line-up, but then again a repeat is always tough.
— Los Angeles Kings – Surprised? One shouldn’t be, unless they forgot the Kings acquired Pierre-Luc Dubois in June from the Winnipeg Jets. Slide him in there as part of a 1A-1B punch with the venerable and seemingly ageless Slovenian Anze Kopitar and you’ve got some strength up the middle to say the least.
PLD, in his prime at age-25, is coming off a 63 point season in the Great White North, while Kopitar just won the Lady Byng Trophy (talented and gentlemanly) for the 2nd time to go with two Selke’s (best defensive forward) and a Mark Messier Leadership Award.
— Calgary Flames – Are they ready for a bounce-back year? They’ve slipped down these rankings after missing the playoffs and failing to adjust to the major line-up changes. Elias Lindholm and Nazem Kadri are the combo, still ahead of the Kraken pair on paper at the moment.
Kadri, after winning the Cup with the Colorado Avalanche in 2022, played better than most folks realize in Calgary last season and will rebound to greater heights this time around.
— San Jose Sharks – Call it pure physical presence, skill, or veteran savvy, but the twosome in NoCal still outranks the Kraken center-set as we head into the season. Tomas Hertl is a force while Logan Couture is annoyingly productive for a poor team. He cranked out 27 goals and 67 points at age-34. That’s 29 more points than Seattle’s number-two center.
Hertl, a lefty power forward, is one of the NHL’s top fly-under-the-radar guys.
— Seattle Kraken – “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. There’s no doubt about that, and that’s how you win; team effort, team first. A 57 and 38 point combo in the top two center positions, the Kraken crew will only get stronger in the next couple of seasons. At this point it’s Matty and Alex.
Who will join Beniers in the depth chart in the not-so-distant? Shane Wright, Ryan Winterton, another prospect or acquisition? That team effort with a talent upgrade will be welcomed.
— Anaheim Ducks – Who’s playing center and how do you play the NHL game? The first question is answered with Trevor Zegras, who still needs a contract, and “blank”. It could be the youngster Mason McTavish or it could it be veteran Ryan Strome? The second question ties right in with the first because the meat of the Ducks line-up is so young. Work to be done for general manager Pat Verbeek.
Zegras led the team in scoring last season with 65 points. 2nd-overall NHL Draft pick Leo Carlsson is an 18-year-old wild card.
— Kraken’s Vince Dunn: “I’m not going to run away.”
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