The Seattle Kraken will be much more than just an idea with one undrafted junior player on their roster by the time the 2021 NHL Entry Draft rolls around. The club will have added at least 30 players to their arsenal by way of the Expansion Draft several days earlier. Seattle is not expected to have the same advantage in making side deals like the Vegas Golden Knights did in 2017, as the other 30 teams have learned their lesson. However, one major advantage they will have compared to Vegas is in the Entry Draft. Picking No. 2 overall after moving up in the draft lottery, the Kraken will pick four spots higher than the Knights, who slid to No. 6 overall in their lottery. While Vegas’ first ever draft pick, Cody Glass, is still fighting for regular play time on the NHL roster four years later, Seattle has a chance to add a player who can contribute right away in their inaugural season – one way or another.
The results of the Expansion Draft are unlikely to change the Kraken’s draft plans. They will have several days between the submission of Expansion Draft protection lists and the draft itself and to map out their plan of attack and to talk trade with the rest of the league. Sure, they could find that there are some unexpected trade options that could allow them to add other picks and prospects ahead of the draft, but unlikely anything that will change their opinion on how best to use the No. 2 pick. Only the Buffalo Sabres at first overall could potentially throw Seattle a curveball. Otherwise, their plan should be set well ahead of July 23.
So what should Seattle do with the second overall pick? It is a critical pick that will undoubtedly impact the new franchise for years to come. What is the best approach?
Take The Best Available Player – Pretty straightforward, right? The Kraken should take the best player remaining on their board after Buffalo makes their selection. Regardless of the positional value or any perceived positional needs following the Expansion Draft, Seattle should simply take the prospect that they feel has the highest ceiling and most realistic pro ambitions. While there is no consensus top prospect in this draft, many feel that University of Michigan defenseman Owen Power is that top prospect. If the Kraken agree and Buffalo goes elsewhere at No. 1, they pull the trigger.
Take The Best Available Center – Center is the position that many point to as the most important in the NHL and feel that a true No. 1 center is the hardest player to find. At No. 2 overall and Power potentially going first to Buffalo, Seattle could conceivably have their pick of every forward in the draft class to find that future top center. That could very well be Power’s Wolverines teammate Matthew Beniers. Even if Beniers or another center isn’t the best player on their board, Seattle shouldn’t pass up on the opportunity to add an elite prospect down the middle.
Take The Best Available Defenseman – Some live by the team-building mantra of building from the net out. While goalie Jesper Wallstedt is an elite prospect, he isn’t going No. 2 overall. However, the Kraken could instead choose to bolster their blue line with an elite prospect. Even if Power is off the board and there are forwards ranked higher on their draft board, Seattle needs to target one of the small group of blue chip defenders in the draft class, such as Brandt Clarke or Luke Hughes.
Trade Back And Add Picks – Starting a pipeline from scratch is about quantity over quality, right? The No. 2 overall pick is nice, but if Seattle isn’t able to acquire any other top picks in Expansion Draft deals, they would be better off trading back and adding picks. The New Jersey Devils at No. 4 and Columbus Blue Jackets at No. 5, both with extra first-rounders, seem like enticing trade partners. All three of Clarke, Hughes, or Wallstedt could still be available at either of those picks.
Trade For Established Star – Seattle doesn’t want a slow build-up. They want to compete right away like Vegas, but they won’t be able to so easily dupe the rest of the league in the Expansion Draft. Perhaps they should use the No. 2 overall pick as part of a deal to pry a star from a rebuilding team. Jack Eichel? Dylan Larkin? Logan Couture? Patrik Laine or Seth Jones?
What do you think? Which direction should GM Ron Francis and company go with the franchise’s first pick and the second pick of the 2021 NHL Draft?