Kraken wrap 2023 NHL Draft with nine picks, two from WHL locals

2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - JUNE 29: (L-R) Carson Rehkopf, 50th overall pick, Lukas Dragicevic, 57th overall pick, Head Coach Dave Hakstol and Oscar Fisker Molgaard, 52nd overall pick, of the Seattle Kraken pose during the 2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft at Bridgestone Arena on June 29, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)Photo: Getty Images

There’s a difference between the Seattle Kraken of this NHL Draft period, versus last year. 

It involves the word, “certainty.” 

While this season’s draft class is anything but a sure-fire bet, they are ten-member part of a team fresh off their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and just extended the depth of the organization’s prospect pool.

“We probably got some players that other teams thought they were going to get to,” said general manager Ron Francis. “So overall, I think we're pleased with the way it felt.” 

There’s no rush for this year’s class, widely regarded as extremely high with upside, to get to the NHL right away and make a presence, say two years ago with Matty Beniers or even last year, with Shane Wright. What's certain: the Kraken are solidified with proven forwards to complement Beniers with Jared McCann’s breakout 40 goal season, Andre Berezovsky arriving via free agency, Oliver Bjorkstrand by trade, a healthy Jaden Schwartz, Jordan Eberle’s continued steady production, or even the emergence of Eeli Tolvanen. 

But there is work to be done with the long term outlook. Francis said the Kraken focused primarily on the “best player available” scenario, starting with Eduard Sale from Czechia, a hyper-talented forward with size and a rocket shot. The Kraken could have used additional draft picks, including three in a talent heavy second round, to fetch a lineup-ready player. 

Instead, they hung onto the picks, using two on skilled forwards Carson Rehkopf and Swedish-born Oscar Fisker Molgaard, then going local for WHL talent with defenseman Lukas Dragicevic from the Tri-City Americans. More defensive depth followed, with defenseman Caden Price out of Kelowna, and then a pick right in their own WHL backyard, with rangy and talented defenseman Kaden Hammell from the Everett Silvertips. 

Robert Kron, running the table again as the Kraken director of amateur scouting, said the process wasn’t so much targeting a player, but from the projection if they were still on the board. 

“We were trying to build our lists from a way that, what we like and how we would like to take these players if they become available,” said Kron. “It happened to be the players that we did like, were falling to us or were right at the vicinity of our picks.” 

The Kraken are expected to bring their draft picks, along with several returning players, to development camp which begins this Saturday at Kraken Community Iceplex, and open to the general public on the following days (all times Pacific): 

JULY 2 – Doors open 9:30am

o   9:45am-10:45am: Team Red on ice 

o   11:30-12:30pm: Team Blue on ice 

JULY 5 – Doors open 11:30am 

o   NOON: 3-on-3 camp scrimmage 

2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Round One

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - JUNE 28: Eduard Sale is selected by the Seattle Kraken with the 20th overall pick during round one of the 2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft at Bridgestone Arena on June 28, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)Photo: Getty Images

Who the Kraken took in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft: 

Breakdown: 6 forwards, 3 defensemen, 1 goaltender 

1ST ROUND: Eduard Sale, LW (BRNO / Czech Extraliga) – 20th OVERALL 

·      Need to know: Big, rangy, and extremely skilled at 6-foot-1. Played limited minutes as a junior player for a pro team in the top league in Czechia, though earned the league’s rookie of the year award, an honor captured by NHL notables such as Martin Necas, Tomas Hertl, and Milan Hejduk. Consensus top-five pick to start the season, before falling to #20. Reportedly has committed to playing for OHL Barrie this next season. 

2ND ROUND: Carson Rehkopf, LW (Kitchener / OHL) – 50th OVERALL 

·      Need to know: Built with size at 6-foot-2. Had a goal and an assist in this year’s CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game and player of the game for Team White. Scored 30 goals and was second on Kitchener with 59 points, helping the Rangers become the first eighth seed in OHL playoff history to eliminate a first seed (Windsor) in four games. Won gold at the 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup. Played competitive lacrosse until age 14, to improve hand-eye coordination and endurance. 

2ND ROUND: Oscar Fisker Molgaard, C (HV 71 / Sweden) – 52nd OVERALL 

·      Need to know: played in Sweden’s top pro league with four goals and three assists in seven games. Consensus is his game is built on a competitive, two-way style with energy and intensity. Has drawn comparisons to Calgary’s Dillon Dube. Had 21 points in 23 games with HV71’s junior team. 

2ND ROUND: Lukas Dragicevic, D (Tri-City / WHL) – 57th OVERALL 

·      Need to know: one of the top offensive defensemen in the WHL this past season, and first-team All-Star on the U.S. Division side, which has cranked out significant NHL talent. Known for elite offensive talent and poise with the puck, can join the attack at the right time. Had 75 points in 68 games and was fourth in points among all league defensemen. Father Milan spent four seasons in the WHL in the late 1980’s and went onto coach in Vancouver and Tri-City.

3RD ROUND: Caden Price, D (Kelowna / WHL) – 84th OVERALL 

·      Need to know: named Rockets top defenseman this past season, a program that’s churned NHL talent such as Jamie Benn, Dube, Luke Schenn, Sheldon Souray, and Shea Weber. Had 40 points in 65 games, leading all Kelowna defensemen in points. 

4th round: Andrei Loshko, F (Chicoutimi / QMJHL) – 116th OVERALL 

·      Need to know: Led Chicoutimi in points and assists this past season with 70 points and 48 assists in 67 games. 

5th round: Kaden Hammell, D (Everett / WHL) – 148th OVERALL 

·      Need to know: First player in Silvertips and greater Puget Sound area history selected by the Kraken in the draft. Was acquired in the massive Olen Zellweger trade this past season with Kamloops and had three goals and 16 points after the trade and eight goals with 26 points in 67 games overall. Is a talented, 6-foot-1, right shot defenseman expected to be top component in head coach Dennis Williams’ power play. 

6th round: Visa Vedenpaa, G (Karpat Jr. / Finland) – 168th OVERALL 

·      Need to know: Only goaltender picked by the Kraken in this year’s draft. Stacks up at 6-foot-2, had a .923 save percentage at the U18 level at SM-sarja, regarded as the top junior level in Finland. 

6th round: Zeb Forsfjall, C (Skelleftea Jr. / Sweden-Jr.) – 180th OVERALL 

·      Need to know: Won a silver medal at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup for Sweden. Had 24 points in 53 games combined both in the Swedish Hockey League and junior leagues. 

7TH round: Zaccharya Wisdom, RW (Cedar Rapids / USHL) – 212th OVERALL 

·      Need to know: Hit a career high 48 points and 28 goals in 59 games this season – was second on Cedar Rapids in goal scoring. Has committed to play for Colorado College this fall. William Douglas of provided this terrific read on Wisdom’s background

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