Members of The Hockey Writers’ Seattle Kraken team collaborated to project the team’s opening night forward lines. Since its publication, general manager Ron Francis has thrown another hat into the ring by signing forward Riley Sheahan. Here’s the consensus THW’s Kraken team projected the lineup prior to Sheahan’s signing:
The top-nine is set, but there is a lot of room for movement on the fourth line. Colin Blackwell should get the nod for one of those spots after a career year with the New York Rangers while playing all over the lineup and on special teams. Similarly, Morgan Geekie should be in the starting roster, as he should have an opportunity for a successful season if given a bit more of an opportunity to play than sub-10 minutes per game.
Nathan Bastian, Alexander True, Kole Lind and Sheahan will be fighting for one final roster spot. Whoever doesn’t get it may find themselves as the 13th forward or spending time in the American Hockey League (AHL) at the start of the season.
How the Kraken’s 12th Forward Candidates Shape Up
Sheahan has the best chance of cracking the Kraken lineup as their 12th forward. They can utilize the 29-year-old on the wing or at center, and he would be a strong addition to the penalty kill. He’s spent at least 126 minutes killing penalties over five of the past six seasons and has a 50.4% career faceoff percentage.
One reason he’s able to kill so many penalties is that he’s hardly serving any. He has just 91 penalty minutes in 566 games, never eclipsing 17 in a season. He’s also drawn more penalties than committed in four of the past five seasons. He could combine with Jamie Oleksiak, Yanni Gourde (once he returns), Brandon Tanev and Adam Larsson, among others, to form that penalty-killing squad.
Sheahan does bring some offensive upside despite having evolved into more of a depth forward and penalty killer. The power forward has 70 goals and 177 points in his career, and is just three seasons removed from an 11-goal, 32-point season with the Pittsburgh Penguins. That was the last season he surpassed 15 minutes on ice per game. If he can find chemistry with his linemates, Blackwell and Geekie, he could be more valuable than being just another penalty killer.
Bastian likes to throw the body. If he makes the starting lineup out of training camp, his size will be a big factor. The 6-foot-4 forward led the New Jersey Devils in hits last season despite missing time with an injury. He can camp out in front of the net to screen the goalie on power plays or used to kill penalties, which he did a lot of for the Devils.
Bastian has strong bottom-six potential, and it helps that he is positionally flexible. While he isn’t going to develop into a prolific scorer, he’ll be good for adding size and penalty-killing ability to the lineup. Continuing his reliable penalty-killing will be key for him to become a consistent NHLer.
This isn’t the first time that True is looking to call Seattle home. From 2014-2017, he played for the Western Hockey League’s (WHL) Seattle Thunderbirds. He was a steady scorer who showed improvement every year, capped off with a 12-goal, 22-point postseason during his final junior hockey season. The Thunderbirds won the WHL championship that year, where he scored the series-winning overtime goal.
True went undrafted but produced decently for the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda before joining the San Jose Sharks for 19 games, where he totaled five assists. The 24-year-old has offensive potential that may eventually lead to a roster spot. However, it may be best to give him first-line AHL minutes instead of limiting him to a fourth-line role. The Kraken don’t need to rush his development, and they can always utilize him if there’s an injury.
Lind was one of the Vancouver Canucks’ top prospects before the Kraken selected him in the expansion draft. He had just seen his first NHL action and didn’t register a point in seven games. He has scored 19 goals and 52 points over his past 69 AHL games, so he has found his scoring touch as a professional after some strong offensive years with the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets.
The 22-year-old has time on his side. Being that the Kraken have a surplus of depth players, and unless he has an outstanding training camp, there’s a good chance Lind will start the season in the AHL. It would be better for his development to be playing prime minutes in the AHL, and he could still find time in the NHL if the Kraken get hit by the injury bug.
Riley Sheahan Will Be the 12th Kraken Forward
The 12th forward spot will be Sheahan’s to lose going into training camp. He is the longest-tenured NHLer of those being examined in this article, having played exclusively in the NHL since the 2014-15 season. Head coach Dave Hakstol can expect to capitalize on his veteran experience in the locker room, positional versatility and strong penalty-killing ability.
Being an established player for so long, who is proficient at his skillset, Sheahan has the edge on Bastian, True and Lind. The trio is just starting to come into their own as NHL-caliber players. Unless one of them has an outstanding training camp, Sheahan should get the nod.
Bastian would slot into the 13th forward role after being considered as a fourth-line center in a previous article on The Hockey Writers before Sheahan’s signing. He should be able to slot in if another player struggles or gets injured; he’ll get even more opportunity for this because he can play center and wing.
Lind and True could be called upon if there’s an injury but would greatly benefit from the increased ice time playing in the AHL until they give Hakstol no option but to play them. With Sheahan securing that final roster spot, the Kraken will have a strong bottom-six and penalty-killing tandem that could prove vital to a successful inaugural season.
Sean Raggio lives for hockey. He will be covering the Seattle Kraken, and is a co-host of “What’s Kraken” for THW. Sean gained experience in writing for television, print and radio while studying journalism at Quinnipiac University and being an active member in the student media organizations there. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out on Twitter! A link can be found at the bottom of his articles, such as this one.