A mere 47 hours separates the upcoming Seattle Kraken expansion draft and the NHL entry draft. That’s a whole lot of new players headed to Seattle in a short window of time. While the expansion draft will likely dominate NHL coverage, especially in the Seattle area, the Kraken’s first ever entry draft is an equally important moment in shaping the future of the franchise.
Odds are that Buffalo will select defenseman Owen Power with the first pick this year. But that second overall selection, owned by the Kraken, seems much murkier on the surface. Which is why this week, we’ll break down five candidates for the Kraken’s first every draft pick. Today, we’re heading across the pond to Sweden.
Edvinsson is listed as either 6’4″ or 6’5″ depending on where you look, but the point remains the same that he’s the second-biggest defenseman likely to go in the first round in 2021 behind Owen Power. He also happens to move with the agility of someone 6 inches shorter.
Simon Edvinsson is a 6'4 defenseman. He did this while shorthanded today
— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) September 30, 2020
Edvinsson has been described as the unicorn of the 2021 NHL draft. His upside is a franchise defenseman that could anchor the blue line for a decade and play on both the power play and the penalty kill. With the second overall pick, upside is a crucial factor. Teams don’t often get a chance at these guys.
There’s a couple more reasons the Kraken should take a long look at Edvinsson as we head towards the day of the NHL draft.
Ron Francis loves defensemen
Seattle general manager Ron Francis oversaw four NHL entry drafts as the general manager of the Carolina Hurricanes. With their first pick in three of those drafts, the Hurricanes selected a defenseman.
This is admittedly a small sample size, but it does show that Francis is at the very least willing, if not wont to build his team from the blue line first and foremost. If the pick is Simon Edvinsson, that would be the fourth defender that Francis has selected in the top-13 picks in his five years as an NHL general manager.
Has Francis been good at evaluating these high-end defensemen? That depends on who you ask. Haydn Fleury hasn’t lived up to his draft slot, as evidenced by the fact that he’ll likely be unprotected and available to the Kraken during the expansion draft. But he’s still a capable NHL-caliber player. Hanifin is a legitimate top-4 defender, and Jake Bean (another potential expansion target) still doesn’t have enough games under his belt to make a definitive evaluation, but early indications are he too will develop into a top-4 player.
Regardless of how he’s done in the past, the main takeaway here is that history indicates that Francis is looking to go defense-first early on in this draft.
One of the most difficult parts of evaluating prospects for the NHL draft is reconciling the differences in talent level across all the different leagues that NHL teams draw from. College players are playing against other college-age players, but that’s not necessarily the case in European leagues.
Edvinsson spent most of his draft years in Swedish junior leagues, but he did get some valuable experience in the Swedish Hockey League last season. The SHL is generally considered the third best league behind the NHL and Russia’s KHL. It could be argued that simply having those minutes in one of the highest levels of European hockey is more valuable than some of what players might get in North America.
Ron Francis is no stranger to these leagues either. He drafted Sebastian Aho in 2015 after Aho spent 30 games in the Finnish Liiga, the highest level of hockey in Finland.
The downside with Edvinsson is that it’s unclear when he will be NHL-ready. His time in the SHL was valuable but limited, and he may take a few years of seasoning before becoming that impact player he has the potential to be. But on an expansion team seeking to build up a farm system from scratch, that might actually be a good thing.