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Kraken now face expectations of trying to repeat playoff run in loaded Western Conference

SEATTLE KRAKEN

COACH: Dave Hakstol (207-178-56 over seven seasons).

SEASON OPENER: Oct. 10 at Vegas.

DEPARTURES: F Morgan Geekie, F Ryan Donato, F Daniel Sprong, D Carson Soucy, G Martin Jones.

ADDITIONS: F Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, F Kailer Yamamoto, D Brian Dumoulin, D Ryker Evans.

GOALIES: Philipp Grubauer (17-14-4, 2.85 GAA, 0.895 save percentage) and Joey Daccord (4-2-1, 3.14 GAA, 0.900).

FANDUEL SPORTSBOOK STANLEY CUP ODDS: 50-1.

LAST SEASON: In just their second season, the Kraken stayed near the top of the Pacific Division standings for most of the season. Seattle relied on the depth of its scoring and career years from forward Jared McCann and defenseman Vince Dunn to earn one of the wild card spots in the Western Conference. In the playoffs, Seattle received exceptional goaltending from Philipp Grubauer to upset defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado before losing to Dallas in the conference semifinals in Game 7.

STRENGTHS: While Seattle may lack a superstar, its top nine forwards and top two defensive pairings give the Kraken depth the rest of the league envies. Seattle’s scoring depth was a big component to the success of last season. McCann had a breakout season and Calder Trophy winner Matty Beniers should take another step in his development especially playing on a line with McCann and Jordan Eberle for a full season. Another boost for Seattle will be if scoring threat Andre Burakovsky is fully healthy after missing half of last season with a torn groin muscle.

WEAKNESSES: While depth is an important factor in how Seattle plays, the lack of a star who can take over a game showed at times late last season and in the playoffs. Seattle’s primary fourth-line last year scored 51 goals in the regular season, but lost Daniel Sprong and Ryan Donato in free agency. There is also uncertainty about Grubauer, who has had shaky regular seasons his first two seasons with Seattle but was spectacular in the playoffs.

WHAT TO EXPECT: There is a lot of familiarity and experience playing together as a unit. The unexpected playoff run last season was exactly what the franchise needed to gain a foothold in the city’s sports landscape and playing a pair of Game 7s helped bring new fans into the fold. But Seattle was rather quiet in free agency and there are some areas where the Kraken excelled last season – shooting 11.6% as a team for example – that seem ripe for a regression. The Pacific Division is loaded, but Seattle believes it can be one of the teams fighting for a playoff spot next spring.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Goaltenders are always under a microscope, but Grubauer’s two seasons with the Kraken have left him a little bit of an enigma. The metrics say his regular season performances have left him toward the bottom of the league among goalies. But he did enough last season to get Seattle into the playoffs and then was spectacular in the opening round upset of Colorado. Seattle needs that version of Grubauer more often to justify the investment it made in him.

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AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL

The Associated Press