The Seattle Kraken have the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft after moving up in the NHL Draft Lottery on Wednesday.
“We’re very happy about this outcome,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said.
The expansion team, which will begin play next season, had the third-best odds (10.3 percent) of winning the No. 1 pick, which went to the Buffalo Sabres, who had the best odds (16.6 percent). The Anaheim Ducks, who had the second-best odds (12.1 percent), have the No. 3 pick.
The Kraken had the same odds as the New Jersey Devils, who have the No. 4 selection. Seattle was guaranteed to pick no lower than No. 5.
The first round of the draft will be held July 23 and rounds 2-7 are July 24.
“It’s not like we have a strength in one area,” Francis said. “At this point, we are going to take the best player available.”
Prior to being hired by the Kraken on July 18, 2019, Francis took part in the lottery four times as GM of the Carolina Hurricanes. On three of those occasions, the Hurricanes selected a defenseman with their first pick: Haydn Fleury (No. 7 in the 2014 NHL Draft), Noah Hanifin (No. 5 in the 2015 NHL Draft), and Jake Bean (No. 13 in the 2016 NHL Draft).
Among the defensemen in this draft class are Owen Power from the University of Michigan, No. 1 in NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters; Simon Edvinsson, who played in Sweden’s junior league and the Swedish Hockey League this season and is No. 2 in Central Scouting’s final ranking of International skaters; and Luke Hughes of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 team, who is the younger brother of Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes and Devils center Jack Hughes and is the No. 4-ranked North American skater by Central Scouting.
“I think certainly when you build your team, you build it in the middle,” Francis said. “So that’s goaltending, you know, defense and centermen. But we’re open to looking at who the best player is going to be.”
Two days before the draft, Seattle will take part in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft. The Kraken will select one player from each team excluding the Vegas Golden Knights, who began play as an expansion team in 2017-18, for a total of 30 (at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies). That does not include additional players who may be acquired as the result of violations of the expansion draft rules.
Francis said the Kraken’s lottery pick will not be affected by players they select in the expansion draft.
“The expansion draft is for now,” Francis said. “That’s the lineup we’re trying to field when the season starts in October. The amateur draft you look at it with one eye for now, obviously … but the big priority is making sure that you draft the right guys and then you put them in a proper environment and let them develop and learn so that they have the best opportunity possible to play in the National Hockey League for your franchise.”
Francis didn’t rule out a player taken at No. 2 playing for the Kraken next season. Four first-round picks in the 2020 NHL Draft reached the League this season: forwards Alexis Lafreniere of the New York Rangers (No. 1; 56 games), Quinton Byfield of the Los Angeles Kings (No. 2; six games) and Tim Stutzle of the Ottawa Senators (No. 3; 53 games), and defenseman Jamie Drysdale of the Ducks (No. 6; 24 games).
“You wait to get them into training camp and see how they play and how they perform and make sure that they’re ready,” Francis said. “Not only from a hockey game standpoint, but also physically and mentally, it’s not an easy league.”