Yamamoto gets test drive on top line with Beniers, McCann

Seattle Kraken v Tampa Bay Lightning

TAMPA, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 30: Kailer Yamamoto #56 of the Seattle Kraken celebrates a goal in the first period during a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on October 30, 2023 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)Photo: Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images Sport / Getty Images

The deck has been shuffled, and the new hand dealt, the Seattle Kraken are hoping, is one that delivers offensive money in the bank. 

Virtually the entire corps of forwards have someone new playing with them, save Alex Wennberg’s line who retains Jaden Schwartz and Jordan Eberle as wingers. The most eye-catching switch though, is Matty Beniers’ line, who is re-united with red-hot goal scorer Jared McCann and rejuvenating right wing Kailer Yamamoto. 

“The group together should be a good line off the rush,” said Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol. “They have the same mentality, once they get into the zone, once they recover a puck and looking to a quick strike. Those two elements offensively fit together.” 

The new look was rolled out for the first time by Hakstol at Kraken Community Iceplex on Monday, ahead of the team’s flight to Arizona for a two-game trip that starts tomorrow against the Coyotes. Yamamoto, brought in via free agency on a quiet one-year deal this past offseason, is looking to spark his offensive game that flickered during an injury-riddled season last year. 






Yamamoto is a proven 20-goal scorer in the NHL, and perhaps delivered the “eureka” moment when the Kraken stunned the Tampa Bay Lightning, 4-3 in overtime last Monday, ending a treacherous four-game trip on a high note. The diminutive but shifty and skilled forward earned a goal and an assist in just under 12 minutes of ice time. But he was also turnover proof, and even earned the trust of Hakstol with shifts in overtime. 

“Yamamoto, in terms of his play and earning the opportunity, he may have been our most effective forward in the game, in Tampa,” said Hakstol. 

The hope and the dream is also a spark for Beniers, who is suffering from a 12-game goal-drought to begin the season but also earned a vote of confidence from Hakstol, saying a last Saturday that goal is coming, “whether he shoots it into the net, or it bounces in off his ass.” He’ll have the trending Yamamoto or the red-hot McCann to dish to, the latter who has six goals already in his first 12 games. 

Already, Yamamoto has discovered a new environment and health going hand-in-hand with how he sees his game.

"I feel a lot more confident with the puck," Yamamoto told 93.3 KJR-FM. "I can touch it a little bit more here. Being on the power play gets the confidence up a little bit, too."

Another hope and dream is also a spark across a lineup that turned in a season-low 20 shots on Saturday’s loss to Calgary, percolating after the Kraken failed to build on a 2-1 lead and yielded a power play goal to Noah Hannifin with a minute left in the second period, then two more quick ones by the four minute mark of the third period to Yegor Sharangovich and Mikael Backlund. In total, Calgary’s damage in turning the game upside down, was a run of three goals in just five minutes.  

“Last game we didn’t even shoot,” Eberle told 93.3 KJR-FM.

“We have to find a way to not only shoot but get inside and create some secondary stuff. I think if you look at it statistically, we haven’t found a way to create chances inside enough and capitalize.” 

Part of what Hakstol wants, which will be even more imperative with two matchups each with Colorado and Edmonton to follow Arizona, is a recovery from a step backward in the Calgary game, after what had been a revealing, cathartic, and progressive five-game stretch with the Kraken going 3-1-1 through a four-game trip, then a win last Thursday over Nashville in a potential trap game: their first home game back off the trip where tired legs can be a burden. 

“We found the juice,” said Hakstol. “We were going in the third and we closed out that (Nashville) game. There’s a stretch where we’re not only putting points in the bank every night, every night except one – and we deserved a point that night – so to take a step back in the last half of the hockey game against Calgary was really disappointing.” 

“Is there a mystery to it? No. You know what? That’s simply an inner drive, with a goal collectively in mind, and working toward achieving that. That’s long term. But short term, we know we can be better and do better than we did, in the last half of the hockey game against Calgary.” 

The Kraken will face Arizona for the first time this season on Tuesday, then make their only visit of the season to Denver on Thursday, their first trip back since defeating the Avalanche in the seven-game upset of last year’s first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

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