Playstyle will be key to Kraken Defenders’ final battles
Each Kraken Defender competing for a role has a different skill set.
There’s Jeremy Lauzon, who played against the top lines last season and is an elite goal killer. Dennis Cholowski is a puck who has seen looks on the power play. Connor Carrick has an impressive shot and some speed and worked as hard as anyone to complete the rest of his game.
None of these three are likely to be the final pair when the Kraken skates on opening night; more and more it is Haydn Fleury and Carson Soucy.
Soucy, who came from expanding Minnesota, has already had dinner with Fleury as the two bond off the ice to create some chemistry on the ice, which has been the biggest challenge for the new club.
This duo seems to click, just in time to grab the last two places.
“I think a lot of D-men play the same way, they’re in the league that they’re all going to be easy to play with for the most part,” Soucy said. “We do a lot of small systems so it’s been a little different just adjusting, but as far as the preseason goes, we’re going to keep improving.”
Friday night at Everett, Haydn Fleury started with Jamie Oleksiak and Soucy with Lauzon, but there was a rotation throughout the night.
Fleury has been on three teams in two years, having been traded from Carolina to Anaheim on the last trade deadline and now joining the Kraken. He’s used to change.
That leaves the last defenders fighting for the seventh place defender, and they all have a lot of experience.
Cholowski got a ton of looks from all over the ice, playing on the power play unit in two preseason games. He rebounded well after a tough scrum earlier in the camp. Lauzon arrives after playing with Norris contestant Charlie McAvoy in Boston and will have a different role in Seattle no matter where they pair him up.
Then there’s Carrick, likely destined for the AHL since signing, who made his own impact.
The 27-year-old has 241 NHL games where he has 49 points. Known more for his electric shot and ability to move the puck than anything else, he expanded his game throughout camp.
“You want to defend, have a good stick and break some plays,” he said. “All my career, I have been good at entering the zone, at denial. We play a low system that gives defenders the opportunity to play offensively, as well as the opportunity to be quick and physical and close a lot, and then break through in the middle. … I’ve always had great offensive play, but it comes down to those things, if I can find the rush and force the bad dumps and then come out in the middle.
Carrick will have a role with the Kraken, whether out of camp or later, and his offensive ability is a plus in a squad filled with tough defenders.
Cholowski plays a similar game, which makes his battle with Lauzon, which matches that defensive style at home, all the more interesting.
“These two guys are different players,” said head coach Dave Hakstol. “In terms of what they bring, Cholowski is more of this defenseman who moves the puck and provides offense. Lauzon is that tough guy at the back, he takes the puck out of the zone and these two guys are fighting for places.
Lauzon struggled at times last season; when he wasn’t playing with McAvoy, his Corsi for (a stat that rates the number of shots a player’s team generates when on the ice for or against) dropped to 47.69, tied for 346th in the league. When playing with McAvoy, the couple were 90th at 56.79.
He would play with a defender who is not of the same ilk as McAvoy if he breaks the roster. It will always depend on what style the Kraken desires.
“They have both played games in this league,” Hakstol said. “A significant number of minutes in this league. Things are getting very competitive from now on.
- The Kraken sent most of their off-roster players to their respective junior teams on Thursday, including second-round pick Ryker Evans. The 19-year-old defenseman had an impressive camp and was the bright spot in Edmonton’s 6-0 loss on Wednesday night. He will report to the Western Hockey League in Regina.
- Jacob Melanson, the team’s other draft pick at camp, was sent to Acadie-Bathurst in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Forwards Brent Gates Jr., Tye Kartye, Ryan Lohin and Cole MacKay, along with goaltender Frances Marotte, have all been released from trial deals and are returning to their respective junior clubs.
- Alexander Wennberg returned to training on Friday night at Everett and started between Marcus Johansson and Calle Jarnkrok. He missed all previous preseason contests after the birth of his son.
- The Kraken announced on Friday a partnership with the Allen Americans to become its ECHL club. ECHL is a lower tier than AHL, where the Kraken shares a branch in Charlotte for this season.