The calendar has turned to November, which means it’s time for the first Kraken Prospect Report of the 2022-23 NHL season! For those new to the reports, I’m going to be looking at some of the Seattle Kraken’s top-performing prospects and checking in on how they’ve been performing over the course of the past month.
The Kraken have vastly increased their prospect pool through their 11 draft picks in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. They’ve added several forwards with promising potential who have started their seasons off strongly, and even some who could provide an offensive jolt from the blue line.
This is the first season where the Kraken will have their own American Hockey League (AHL) and ECHL affiliates, so there are question marks as to how this organization will develop players and their success rate. That’s something I’m really going to be considering as the months and prospect reports swim by.
Latest News & Highlights
In this series, I’m going to be focusing mostly on players playing in the AHL, the various junior leagues, college, and overseas. I may touch upon players who end up playing in the NHL, but that’s going to be treated on a case-by-case basis. These reports will be more focused on highlighting players who we won’t be seeing or hearing about on a regular basis. With that said, let’s kick things off with the first Kraken Prospect Report of the 2022-23 season.
Ryker Evans Off To Strong Start With AHL Firebirds
If you read some of last season’s prospect reports, it would be evident how excited Ryker Evans’ potential makes me. He finished last season with the Western Hockey League’s (WHL) Regina Pats with 61 points in 63 games, though the team missed the playoffs.
Evans started off this season with the Kraken’s new AHL affiliate the Coachella Valley Firebirds picking up where he left off. He’s second among Firebirds defensemen in scoring with a goal and five points in eight games. He’s also second on the team with a plus-9 rating.
What’ll be interesting to monitor throughout the season is how Evans will play without superstar-in-the-making Connor Bedard to distribute the puck to. Bedard finished his 16-year-old season with the Pats with 51 goals and 100 points in 62 games, and has started this season by scoring 13 goals and 31 points in 16 games.
While Evans’ offensive production could drop off a bit, what’s important is that he gets developed into a well-rounded defenseman. I think he will definitely be an NHLer one day and even has top-four potential; the key is to develop him properly. Now that the Kraken have their own farm teams, he will be our guinea pig as to how the organization develops prospects.
Jacob Melanson Continues Scoring Goals for Acadie-Bathurst Titan
Jacob Melanson scored 35 goals and 56 points for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s (QMJHL) Acadie-Bathurst Titan last season and is already off to a strong start this season. He’s scored nine goals and 16 points in 11 games, albeit with a minus-2 rating. The Kraken desperately needed help scoring goals last season, and while they made moves to fix that problem in the offseason, it’s promising to see that they have potential answers within.
The Kraken will take their time with Melanson, and a lot can change before he’s ready to make the jump to pro, let alone make the team itself. They have time and can use it to properly develop him, and I think he could become a great middle-six goal scorer who should eventually see power-play time. If they can turn him into a penalty killer too, even better.
Kraken’s OHL Prospects Find the Scoresheet
Kraken general manager Ron Francis and head coach Dave Hakstol should be getting encouraged by what they’re seeing from some of their Ontario Hockey League (OHL) prospects. I’m going to touch upon a few in this article, and tackle said players in the order they were drafted.
We’ll start with the 61st-overall pick in the 2022 Draft, 18-year-old center David Goyette. He had a very respectable draft year, leading his team by scoring 33 goals, 40 assists, and 73 points for a Sudbury Wolves team that was far from a playoff spot. He has eight goals and 17 points in 14 games this season.
For more on Goyette, here’s an excerpt from THW’s Devin Little’s prospect profile on his NHL potential ahead of the 2022 Draft:
“With enough time and development, Goyette has an outside chance at becoming a second-line center in the NHL, with a more realistic goal being a depth playmaker in the middle six. He has the offensive ability to become a premiere playmaker in the league, but he’s going to have to learn to play smarter. There’s a ton of raw potential here, and it will take some time to put all the tools together. If it clicks, he could be a quality point producer for his team.”
While the Kraken’s top-two center positions look filled for years to come, due to Matty Beniers and presumably Shane Wright, adding Goyette to that corps means incredible depth down the middle for years to come. After all, too many serviceable players can be a good problem to have.
Now we’re onto the Kraken’s 68th-overall selection in 2022, defenseman Ty Nelson. I have to give credit where it’s due; THW’s Adam Kierszenblat wrote that the Kraken should take him with the 35th pick. While he went 33 picks later, I didn’t have him on my Kraken draft board. Good call there, Adam.
Nelson’s first season with the North Bay Battalion went really well. He was the team’s leading defensive scorer with 51 points in 66 games, and was a plus-24. He then tacked on 10 points, all assists, in 13 playoff games. He has four goals and 14 points in 14 games this season. Take a look at the video below to get a sense of the power that Nelson’s shot possesses.
While the Kraken snagged him at 68th overall, he was drafted first overall in the 2020 OHL Priority Selection. He’s a right-handed shot, and especially if Evans rounds his game into a two-way defender, this could be the Kraken’s second defensive pair of the future. When it comes to those kinds of pairings, I like to think of Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi.
For some of those New York Rangers teams in the early/mid-2010s, McDonagh brought the offense while remaining defensively dependable, but had Girardi there as a safety net if he took a chance and it turned ugly. Nelson could be the McDonagh (who contributed more offensively at some points in his career), and Evans a more offensive Girardi. The key here is their development.
One last side note, and I’m breaking my own rule here; I just want to touch upon Kyle Jackson. The 196th-overall pick in 2022 just turned 20 years old and is also playing for the Battalion. He has 16 points in 14 games so far. Due to them being on the same team, I wanted to shoehorn him in there.
Tucker Robertson was drafted 123rd overall in 2022 after scoring 41 goals and 81 points, and adding three goals and four points in four playoff games for the Peterborough Petes last season. He’s started this season, his third with the Petes, scoring eight goals and 22 points in 16 games. The 19-year-old can play both center and the wing, but his upside may be more along the lines of a bottom-six or depth forward.
Robertson’s point production is definitely promising, but even if his ceiling ends up falling short of a top-six scorer, he could find a home with the Kraken one day. It’s never a bad thing to have depth pieces with scoring ability; the key is ensuring he is defensively responsible if/when given an opportunity in the NHL. We talk about “red flags” nowadays in pop culture associated with something bad, well to counter that, his being named an alternate captain is a major green flag in my book.
I know some people don’t like the plus/minus stat, but I tend to give it some love. Last season, Robertson was minus-12 despite his 81 points. This season, he’s a plus-5. Just some food for thought there.
Kraken Prospect Pool Looks Promising
While the Kraken are off to a better start this season, they’re still building. I believe their additions of André Burakovsky, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and others lit the embers of a team that could play meaningful hockey in March and April. To be even bolder, I think it shaved a year off their build. Looking at their prospect pool as it stands, it just added fuel to that fire.
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.