A mere 47 hours separates the upcoming Seattle Kraken expansion draft and the NHL entry draft. That’s a whole lot of new players headed to Seattle in a short window of time. While the expansion draft will likely dominate NHL coverage, especially in the Seattle area, the Kraken’s first ever entry draft is an equally important moment in shaping the future of the franchise.
Odds are that Buffalo will select defenseman Owen Power with the first pick this year. But that second overall selection, owned by the Kraken, seems much murkier on the surface. Which is why this week, we’ll break down five candidates for the Kraken’s first every draft pick. Today, we’re going back to the forward group.
Guenther is a 6’2″ right wing currently playing for the WHL’s Edmonton Oilers. While Seattle might be looking harder at adding a center or a defenseman with such a high pick in this year’s draft, they might make an exception for someone with Guenther’s goal scoring ability.
— EP Rinkside (@EPRinkside) February 26, 2020
Guenther might just be the best shooter in this draft class, and his playmaking ability isn’t too shabby either. He doesn’t have the two-way game of a prospect like Matty Beniers, but that might not matter in Seattle. Here’s why.
Scoring goals is really hard
This is a very basic idea in hockey but it’s a fundamental one that shouldn’t be ignored. Scoring is hard. And it will be most likely be especially hard for Seattle in year one, as the best scorers in the league will all be on protected lists. For that reason, the Kraken will have to look to the draft to generate their goal scoring in the early years, and nobody has been better recently than Dylan Guenther.
In the small sample size that was the 2021 WHL season, Guenther managed to reach both the goal-per-game and assist-per-game plateaus, finishing with 12 of each in 12 games. As the Athletic’s Corey Pronman notes, that’s a higher points-per-game than recent WHL standouts Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Evander Kane.
— The WHL (@TheWHL) July 1, 2021
Grabbing a player whose primary job is to score goals would not be a bad choice for Seattle, regardless of whatever defensive ability he may lack.
Kraken scouts got to see him in person
Admittedly, this is less of a reason why Guenther would be a good fit, or why he’s a good prospect, and more a reason why you might see his name called as the second overall pick on July 23rd. Ryan S. Clark of the Athletic reported that all of the Kraken’s Canadian scouts were able to see Guenther play in-person during his time in the WHL and at the U-18 Worlds.
Regardless of how the average fan feels, scouts will generally agree that seeing prospects live in action is an extremely valuable asset when it comes to evaluating prospects. In a pandemic year where live viewings were much harder to come by, this piece of information could be just enough to sway the Kraken into grabbing the guy they feel they got the best evaluation of.
Of course, those viewings may have come before the draft lottery, when the most likely draft slot for Seattle was either the fourth or fifth overall pick. Did they like what they saw enough to stand by Guenther even at second overall? We’ll have to wait and see.