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2021 NHL Expansion Draft

Zucker, Tanev, ZAR or Petterson, Who Will Seattle Kraken Select & Why?



Pittsburgh Penguins Brandon Tanev

No, there are no sources and no leaks. Not yet. The Seattle Kraken and GM Ron Francis are studying the unprotected lists and probably having a few rousing debates. Take Carey Price and his ailing hips and knees, or maybe take Ben Bishop, who missed all of last season but is now healthy? There are a handful of wow-factor choices, including from the Pittsburgh Penguins, which could reverberate with both franchises for some time.

Jason Zucker, Brandon Tanev, Zach Aston-Reese, or Marcus Pettersson?

After the Penguins traded Jared McCann to Toronto on Saturday, then protected Jeff Carter and Teddy Blueger. The Penguins withheld all of their centers but allowed two bigger contracts and a defensive stalwart with bigger potential and a smaller paycheck to be exposed.

One thing to keep in mind is the depth of available players at each position or each role. The expansion Seattle Kraken will not be able to simply select the best player from each team. How those available players compare to others will be paramount.

Seattle head coach Dave Hakstol liked speed in Philadelphia, but his teams were not overly physical, despite Philadelphia tradition.

There is a case for and against each of the Penguins unprotected players.

Who will the Seattle Kraken select?

Brandon Tanev 

FOR The man called Turbo is one of the most aggressive skaters and physical wingers in the NHL. Before his injury in March, Tanev was among or leading the NHL in hits. His speed and tenacity reverberate throughout the lineup and can lift a team on flat nights.

Part of Hakstol’s undoing in Philadelphia was a porous penalty kill. It was astoundingly and consistently awful. Tanev is one of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ primary penalty killers, and there is little doubt about his effort.

Tanev also posted a career-high .5 points per game last season. A crash-bang winger who can score 30, maybe even 40 points, is a valuable commodity.

The rest of the availables are irrelevant here because Tanev is one of the best fourth-line wingers in hockey. If Seattle wants to add energy and grit to their lineup, Tanev will be atop their list.

AGAINST: Tanev is 29-years-old. He plays a high-impact style but has four years remaining on his contract with a $3.5 million AAV. That’s chump-change for a middle-six winger with 30-40 points, but it’s a ton of money and a long time for a fourth-liner in a defensive role. Tanev’s bruising style and recent lower-body injuries could quickly slow his game,

His brother Chris experienced a significant drop at 30-years-old. Seattle could be stuck with an overpriced, banged-up player who is no longer the same. Buyer beware.

Tanev is probably the middle ground below the expensive Jason Zucker.

Odds: Even Money.

Zach Aston-Reese

FOR: The sleeper candidate. Aston-Reese is under the radar because he set a career-high with only nine goals last season. Fans outside the analytics community don’t pay much attention to the quiet Aston-Reese, but they should.

He did post nine goals in 2020-21. Despite his defensive role, he was visibly quicker and looked to be a better player after his offseason shoulder surgery. Aston-Reese is an RFA with arbitration rights. We project him to be in the low 2s, which might be a great get for Seattle–a dependable defensive wizard who kills penalties, who has more offensive potential but makes just above $2 million.

Such a steal could allow them to afford a big name like Carey Price. Or Vladimir Tarasenko.

AGAINST: A light-scoring winger who can get trapped in his role or get down on himself. Paying $2 million when gritty veterans are available on the UFA market for $1 million may be too rich.

We like Aston-Reese a great deal and think he has the potential to do a lot more. In one of these seasons, he will realize the league can’t stop him and knock 20 goals. But he hasn’t yet done that for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Odds: 10-1

Marcus Pettersson

FOR: A smooth defenseman who doesn’t make mistakes, moves the puck, and can pile up assists when on the ice with top-six forwards. He covers his own zone well, and his lanky frame provides a long stick to disrupt passing lanes.

He played well on the Penguins’ second-pair in 2019-20 and is just 25-years-old. There’s little worry the tread will come off the tires too soon.

AGAINST: He was bumped back to third-pair duties last season and admitted he didn’t take the step forward that he wanted. His point total dipped from 22 points (2-20-22) over 69 games ’19-20 to just nine points (2-7-9) in 47 games last season.

Pettersson began to sag at the blue line as opponents’ speed rushed him, which created bigger gaps, and he is susceptible to a heavy forecheck because he’s not a fast skater. His strength could improve, which would increase his success on the wall and in front of the net.

However–the available defensemen crop is thin. Marcus Pettersson is easily among the top-10 defensemen available. Don’t overlook the possibility Pettersson is the selection.

The mock draft had such names as Dennis Cholowski (Detroit’s 2016 first-round bust), Gabriel Carlsson (Columbus, 24-year-old depth defenseman), Justin Braun (Flyers’ declining 34-year-old), and Haydn Fleury, who hasn’t yet established himself in the NHL after five seasons.

In that light, doesn’t Pettersson look pretty good? Former Toronto Marlies assistant coach turned analyst Jack Han agrees (we highly suggest following Jack for great hockey insight):

Odds: 3-1

Jason Zucker

The most polarizing of the group.

FOR: A former 30-goal scorer who can skate and has a complete two-way game. The Penguins paid up at the NHL trade market with a first-round pick and top prospect for Zucker. The 29-year-old LW hasn’t lost his touch and scored 12 points (6-6-12) after being acquired in 2019-20.

His speed and overall game scream Ron Francis’s building.

AGAINST: His serious leg injury this year and depressed statistics are not good harbingers. Last season, he scored only 18 points (8-10-18) in 38 games, and he hasn’t always looked comfortable in the Penguins system. He can revert to being a perimeter player with not enough battle in the greasy areas.

His contract is a matter of opinion. Two more years is good for a 29-year-old, but $5.5 million AAV means he has to play in the top-six, or he’s an overpriced third-liner.

This is tough to get a read. The speedy goal-scoring Zucker is manna from Heaver for Seattle. The perimeter slowing Zucker is a “do not touch,” and the contract means Seattle has to be sure.

We’re less bullish on Zucker than former Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford and think Seattle probably passes.

Odds: 3-1