The Seattle Kraken had quite the sophomore season as an NHL franchise. They surprised many around the game of hockey en route to securing their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And the surprises didn't end there, as the Kraken came within one game of advancing to the Western Conference Final.

This summer, Seattle operated as a team that eyed a return to the playoffs. It makes sense, given the foundation the team already has in place. However, they are one of the more difficult teams to project. There are a few factors to consider before you can even attempt to figure out where they will finish this upcoming season.

The 2023-24 NHL season is coming up on the horizon. And with that in mind, let's make some claims regarding this team before the puck drops. Here are three bold predictions for the Seattle Kraken ahead of the upcoming campaign.

Matty Beniers improves, but…

Matty Beniers is coming off an impressive rookie campaign that saw him win the Calder Trophy. And that's something for him and the Kraken organization to be proud of. As a result, many around the game, and Kraken fans especially, are hoping to see him break out this season.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure that happens. This isn't to say that Beniers won't improve. In fact, I'm willing to bet he does improve his point totals from last season. But it's just a season too early for a true breakout season.

Beniers has all the potential in the world, and that cannot be understated. However, the second season can produce growing pains for even the most promising players in the league. The young Kraken star will be fine, but a true breakout season seems a bit unlikely for 2023-24.

Vince Dunn establishes himself

On the flip side, veteran defenseman Vince Dunn already broke out with his performance last season. He became a solid two-way contributor and he cashed in as a result. Dunn and the Kraken agreed to a four-year, $29.4 million extension this summer.

Some may expect Dunn to come back down to Earth this season. And that's not entirely unfair. After all, he nearly doubled his career-high point total in 2022-23. It's completely understandable if the 26-year-old truly is a 50-60 point player, or if the 30-point range is his true form.

However, I believe Dunn will be just fine. He will continue to eat big minutes and face the most skilled players on the opposing teams. Sure, he could fall a bit short of the 64 points he produced last season. But Dunn can still come close while developing as a true defensive force. He is the best blueliner on the Kraken roster, and that won't change in 2023-24.

A difficult playoff path

I am not going to predict that the Kraken miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs, because I ultimately think they do make the cut. However, if you are expecting the same Seattle team we saw last year, I think you are setting yourselves up for disappointment.

The Kraken are built on their depth. Seattle can roll all four lines better than any team, and they can feel comfortable with all four lines in any situation. That said, it's worth noting that the team lost some of their depth this summer. Daniel Sprong scored 21 goals on the third line, for example, but he left for the Detroit Red Wings.

Seattle did bring in depth pieces to replace them. But can they replicate what the team lost? Can Kailer Yamamoto do what Sprong did? What about Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who is tasked with anchoring the fourth line? Is he a good enough replacement for Morgan Geekie?

This isn't even mentioning the team's goaltending. Philipp Grubauer played well in the playoffs, but during the regular season, he wasn't great. Joey Daccord is fine as a backup, but in saying that, he's not the most inspiring option in goal either.

The Kraken have the talent to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But a lot has to go their way for them to comfortably make it like they did a year ago. Seattle should contend for a wild card spot, but don't be surprised if they are fighting for their playoff lives late in the season.