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Nick Suzuki said he was relieved, and perhaps a little confused, when the Seattle Kraken decided not to pick Montreal Canadiens goalkeeper Carey Price in the expansion draft last July.

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He was not the only one.

Hockey fans had a similar reaction when general manager Ron Francis passed Vladimir Tarasenko and James van Riemsdyk, along with other big-name stars, and instead chose players who were younger, less established, and who had a contract and a Smaller capitalization hit. For a team hoping to win fans, and games, from the start, it seemed like an odd strategy. But if you think the NHL’s 32nd franchise will finish 32nd overall this year, think again.

“I liked his draft,” Suzuki said. “I think if they can put it all together and curdle, they will have a good season.”

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Talk to most of the players in the league and this is what you will hear about the NHL’s newest franchise. Most believe that the Kraken, which improvised its list with the spare parts of its competitors, will be immediately impressive. Most wouldn’t be surprised if the Kraken challenged for a playoff spot. Some even predict an overnight hit that is similar to what Las Vegas experienced.

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Maybe this is just one case where everyone is trying to be nice to the new kid at school. Or maybe, having witnessed what the Golden Knights were able to accomplish in their first year in the league, no one wants their old shots exposed if the Kraken win the Stanley Cup.

“I think they’re going to come out like Las Vegas,” Montreal’s Tyler Toffoli said.

“Honestly, it’s quite possible,” said Calgary’s Andrew Mangiapane.

The truth is, no one really knows what to expect from Seattle, which was 4-2-0 in the preseason. That includes the person who built the list from scratch, putting no value on what were pointless exhibition games.

“We won’t do it until the season starts,” Francis said in a telephone interview this week. “You’re trying to figure out who fits who, which guy should play who on defense, and which winger should play which center. There is a lot of news for us. The kids are going to have opportunities here that they may not have had elsewhere. It certainly gives them the opportunity to be more successful and that is what we hope will happen here. “

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On paper, there doesn’t seem to be anything particularly special about Kraken’s list.

The team appears to be built from the net, with Philipp Grubauer and Chris Driedger sharing goalkeeping duties, while Mark Giordano, Adam Larsson and Jamie Oleksiak feature a deep defense corps. Up front is a completely different story. There are no legitimate front-line forwards. Or even second-line forwards. With Yanni Gourde the only player to finish in the top 100 in scoring last year, goals could be tough to come by.

On the other hand, we were saying the same thing about the Vegas roster, which looked even less spectacular after the expansion draft in 2017.

Of course, that was before William Karlsson emerged out of nowhere as a 40-goal scorer, and Marc-Andre Fleury had his second act as a Vezina Trophy winner and a group of Golden Misfits formed an unusual identity around being unwanted. and unprotected. Before you knew it, the Gold Knights had won the Pacific Division and went to the final of the Stanley Cup, where they lost to the Washington Capitals.

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Hopefully something similar might happen in Seattle.

Perhaps, but there are no guarantees that it will happen. If anything, don’t be surprised if the team looks more like a traditional expansion franchise and begins its life struggling to find its foundation and identity.

“People are going to talk about the Las Vegas comparisons, but when you look at the two situations, they are dramatically different,” Francis said, doing his best to downplay expectations. “GMs didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for (the Vegas expansion draft) and know what would happen. This time, they knew it was coming. The GMs who went through it once had already figured out what they wanted to do differently. They learned from their mistakes. “

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For those reasons, the experts have a more critical view of the Kraken than the players. The Hockey News has Seattle finishing modestly sixth in the Pacific Division, just ahead of Anaheim and San Jose. ESPN, which ranks them 25th overall, also has them finishing out of a spot in the playoffs. BetOnline, meanwhile, has given Seattle odds of winning the Stanley Cup 33 to 1, better odds than 15 other teams, including Winnipeg, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver.

What does a successful first season look like for Francis?

“Well, I think everyone wants to win the Cup,” he said. “But first you have to get into the playoffs. If we can get into the playoffs and get an invite to the dance, we’ll see what happens there. But I like what I see so far from boys.

“That’s the hope,” Francis said. “They are all good players in the National Hockey League, but sometimes you are in an organization that can go deeper and maybe you don’t have the opportunity to play with power or to kill penalties. The kids are going to have opportunities here that they may not have had elsewhere. It certainly gives them the opportunity to be more successful and that is what we hope will happen here. “

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