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NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 32 teams from Aug. 8-Sept. 8. Today, three important questions facing the Seattle Kraken.
[Kraken 32 in 32: Season preview | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown]
1. Will Philipp Grubauer regain his old form?
As a member of the Colorado Avalanche in 2020-21, Grubauer was a finalist in the voting for the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the best goalie in the NHL. Last season, though, he was 18-31-5 in 55 games, and his .889 save percentage was the worst of his 10 NHL seasons.
Coach Dave Hakstol said the Kraken need more out of their goalies and he is confident Seattle will be able to lean on Grubauer for more success this season. But the onus isn’t just on him to play effectively.
“At the end of the day the goaltenders have to play a little bit better [but] we have to be a little bit better around them defensively, and we can help them by being a better team and a little more efficient offensively,” he said.
Video: Historic moment: Grubauer gets Kraken’s first shutout
2. Will Shane Wright be in the lineup opening night?
The Kraken selected Wright with the No. 4 pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, and expectations are high for the forward to be in the lineup when they open the season at the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 12.
Hakstol called Wright “an outstanding fit” for the Kraken and said he’s been impressed with the 18-year-old’s progress during the offseason. Though neither Hakstol nor assistant general manager Jason Botterill would commit, they agreed Wright will get the chance to show whether or not he is ready to play in the NHL.
If the Kraken don’t think Wright is ready, he would be returned to Kingston of the Ontario Hockey League. Because of his age, he is ineligible play in the American Hockey League.
“I don’t like the word expectation; there’s great opportunity, a great opportunity for him to be part of [it and] I believe he’ll be ready to do that,” Hakstol said. “We’re going to give him every opportunity to do that without heaping any type of extra pressure on him. Just going to give him the opportunity to go out and play and be at his very best and just continue to grow.”
3. Can forwards Andre Burakovsky and Oliver Bjorkstrand invigorate the offense?
The Kraken struggled offensively last season. Their 2.60 goals per game were tied with the Chicago Blackhawks for 28th in the NHL, they were 29th with an average of 29.0 shots on goal per game, and they were 29th on the power play at 14.6 percent.
One way to achieve Hakstol’s goal of taking pressure off the goalies is to create more offense, and the hope is Burakovsky, who signed a five-year contract July 13, and Bjorkstrand, acquired in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets July 22, can provide it.
Burakovsky set NHL career highs last season in goals (22), assists (39) and points (61) in 80 regular-season games, then had eight points (three goals, five assists) in 12 Stanley Cup Playoff games to help the Avalanche win the Cup. Bjorkstrand led the Blue Jackets with 28 goals and was second with 67 points in 80 games.
“I put pressure on myself,” Bjorkstrand said when asked if he feels extra pressure to produce offensively. “I want to come in and give a good first impression and show them that I could be a guy that can help with goals, points and power play and so on.”
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