Centers, WHL pedigree rule the day for the Kraken at the '24 draft

2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JUNE 29: Julius Miettinen is selected by the Seattle Kraken with the 40th overall pick during the 2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft at Sphere on June 29, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)Photo: Bruce Bennett / Getty Images Sport / Getty Images

It’s year four of an NHL franchise. You’ve already drafted a potential franchise center in Matty Beniers, another potential cornerstone piece in Shane Wright, and have another maybe on the way in Berkly Catton of the Spokane Chiefs. 

So what do you do on day two, if you’re the Seattle Kraken? 

** Cue up the 13 year old meme from the internet ** 

“All the centers!” 

That’s not exactly how it played out to the finish in day two of the NHL Entry Draft at The Sphere in Las Vegas, where for the near future, it will mark the end of an era with a centralized draft table environment (all teams will move to a “war room” style of set-up next year). But three centers were selected in their first three picks, half of their picks went to that position, and the Kraken rounded out their eight picks with a lean toward size and nastiness. 

“We got some skilled players, we got some size, solid two way guys, we got some puck moving D, and another big Finnish goaltender,” said Kraken general manager Ron Francis. 

Catton, a potential star coming off a 116-point season in the WHL with Spokane, is an exception to this size rule at 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds and has versatility to move to the wing in the future. But the offensive firepower, along with a well-rounded toolbox of attributes, potentially outweighs any concerns with how he stacks up on paper. 

“In the case of Berkly, we had no questions about any of those areas,” said Francis. 

“If he’s six foot one, we’re probably not getting him at eight. But we got him at eight, so we’re excited about him.” 

The Kraken also won’t have to travel far to monitor the progress of another highly-drafted center: Julius Miettinen of the Everett Silvertips, who play just 30 miles away in the north sound. The first season for Everett’s import selection out of Finland was nothing short of a smashing success: a 31-goal, 67-point season with a reputation to come in like a wrecking ball. 

“He’s a big boy,” said Francis. “Solid two-way center. I remember seeing him play one of the early games up in Everett. Just impressed by the way he plays. We think adding that size, that heart, hockey sense and two-way game to our lineup is good.”  

Each game that Miettinen played in, while the Kraken kept a close eye from press box level, gave him confidence this day was going to happen. 

“I had a feeling,” said Miettinen. “They’ve seen me a lot. It’s close.” 

Nathan Villeneuve, who scored 23 goals in 56 games for OHL Sudbury while sitting out for a 15-game suspension handed down by the league for his involvement in an on-ice bounty allegation, was the final of three centers off the board on the Kraken side.

“I’m a playoff player,” said Villeneuve. 

His brash, agitating, and abrasive style of play has already solidified a bold reputation. 

“He plays hard,” said Francis. “Other teams are going to know when he’s on the ice.” 

2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Portraits

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JUNE 28: Berkly Catton poses for a portrait with Marshawn Lynch after being drafted by the Seattle Kraken with the eighth overall pick during the 2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft at Sphere on June 28, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Candice Ward/Getty Images)Photo: Candice Ward / Getty Images Sport / Getty Images

With names such as Patrik Laine and Martin Necas reportedly flowing through the trade market winds, any questions if the Kraken would use a stable of nine draft picks to pull a trade for roster upgrades were put to rest by late morning. Francis steered the target for offensive upgrades to Monday’s launch of free agency, opening at 9am PT. 

“We tried to move some picks for players – those deals didn’t happen,” said Francis. 

Defensemen Alexis Bernier and Jakub Fibigr were the two blueliners selected on Saturday, while the Kraken went big again with goaltending, in a grab for 6-foot-5 netminder Kim Saarinen out of Finland. 

Ollie Josephson and Clarke Caswell, a pair of forwards out of Red Deer and Swift Current respectively, rounded out four draftees from the Western Hockey League. It’s a circuit the Kraken have preferred to target: nine picks have emerged from the major junior league in franchise history, more than any other league the Kraken have drafted from. The logistics are clear with the advantage the Kraken have to scout players: six teams from the WHL’s U.S. Division play within a five hour drive or closer to Seattle, and as close as a trek to Everett’s Angel of the Winds Arena. 

Francis joked about the low gas mileage on tap for his player development staff. 

“They don’t have to travel as far to go see some of our players now,” said Francis. 

All players selected in the 2024 draft by the Kraken are expected to appear at Kraken development camp, July 2-5 at Kraken Community Iceplex. 

Who the Kraken took in the 2024 NHL Entry Draft: 

By position: 

Center (4): Berkly Catton (1st round), Julius Miettinen (2nd), Nathan Villeneuve (2nd), Ollie Josephson (4th) 

Left wing (1): Clarke Caswell (6th) 

Defensemen (2): Alexis Bernier (5th)  

Goaltender (1): Kim Saarinen (3rd) 

By league: 

WHL (4), OHL (2), QMJHL (1), Finland-Jr. (1) 

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