Cale Fleury had just come off a 3-1 victory for the Charlotte Checkers on April 2 with full speed ahead for the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup Playoffs: 11 wins in 14 games, a Calder Cup Playoff spot nearly locked up, and time ahead to socialize on the golf course.
That’s when a phone call came in after a morning workout to completely change the trajectory of the 23-year old defenseman’s season. Fleury was called up to the Seattle Kraken, demanding a quick turnaround to pack up, grab some golf clubs, play for nine holes in a Checkers-organized golf tournament, and leave.
“I think we finished second or third, eight under as a team,” said Fleury.
Once shooting under par, Fleury said he is now shooting for “confidence,” from a right defensive spot on a pairing with Jamie Oleksiak. Coming up as the Checkers leading scorer among defensemen with 33 points in 58 games, he joined new teammates at Kraken Community Iceplex on Tuesday morning before a flight to St. Louis to begin a quick two-game road trip, Wednesday against the Blues and Thursday against the Chicago Blackhawks.
What’s next for Fleury, appearing in two road games with the Kraken against the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders in a blustery and snowy late-January trip, is to simply find a rhythm.
“Just being comfortable with the pace, especially as a defenseman,” said Fleury. “Breaking pucks out, I’ve got to do everything a step quicker in NHL – I think I adjusted well last time.”
This isn’t Fleury’s first rodeo. Two years ago, he busted into the lineup 41 times as a rookie with the Montreal Canadiens before the Kraken took him in July’s expansion draft. Reunited with brother Haydn, who is still recovering on a day-to-day status from an upper body ailment, he took drills in a 40-minute practice session that left head coach Dave Hakstol suggesting he is likely to slot into the lineup during the two-game trip.
“He’s gone back and been a top guy in Charlotte,” said Hakstol. “He’s done a really good job there and helped them into a real good playoff position. He’s earned the opportunity to come up and play. He’ll get a good opportunity to get in on this road trip.”
Fleury’s instant benefit as a right shot defenseman gives the Kraken a symmetrical approach with their pairings: a left shot defenseman on the left side, and a right shot defenseman on the right side. At times this season, they have been forced to play left shot defensemen on the right side.
“It is important,” said Hakstol. “We haven’t had that luxury all year throughout our pairs. It’s a benefit. Just the thing with Cale – he’s earned his way here.”
For Fleury to conquer the “new guy in town” challenge, Hakstol said training camp and preseason were enough of a forecast to see him play with confidence.
“He’s played in two tough buildings – Boston and the Island – those aren’t necessarily easy places to play back to back,” said Hakstol. “He played with good confidence, good poise and did a good job. I expect him to do the same thing, coming to practice and to games this week.”
The Kraken will face the Blues for the second time this season on Wednesday, looking to avoid a three-game season series sweep with puck drop at 5pm PT (93.3 KJR / Kraken Audio Network) from Enterprise Center.
KRAKEN PRACTICE LINEUP, APR. 5: