Happy Friday friends, where the blast of four games in five days continues with a significant stop on the Puget Sound "Three Rink Rush" pre-season tour, fundraising for youth hockey in local WHL cities:
Everett, Washington – home of the Angel of the Winds Arena, and notably, 18 years of remarkable hockey from the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League. Still growing in their own shoes with regards to a long lineage, for nearly two decades, the results have been significant with regards to future talent production, and a box office attraction that is would rank** in the upper half of American Hockey League teams:
- 20 players graduated into the NHL – to note of late, Carter Hart (Philadelphia Flyers)
- 3 head coaches with significant NHL experience or World Juniors*: Kevin Constantine, Craig Hartsburg, Dennis Williams
- 8 U.S. Division titles
- 10 players drafted by NHL teams since Williams arrived behind the bench in 2017-18
- Their record since that arrival: 159-53-7-7
- Box office draw: 3rdin league attendance in 2019-20 (last time the WHL could play with fans in attendance, pre-pandemic) with nearly 190,000 for the home schedule
- Oh yeah, they also got a couple of folks with talent wearing their colors: James Stucky (formerly head equipment manager) joining Jeff Camelio’s crew on the Kraken, and team photographer Chris Mast.
- Home ice: Angel of the Winds Arena, open for hockey in 2003-04, and an exquisite, manicured venue seating 8,149 fans with seating sightlines that deliver “on top of the action” views.
- Did you know? They have hosted pre-season hockey before: the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Arizona Coyotes, 2-1 during the 2009-10 pre-season (two goals by Jeff Halpern) before 7,281 fans. It was the first NHL pre-season game in the Pacific Northwest since the Los Angeles Kings battle the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 1992-93 season at the Tacoma Dome.
- Of note: the Silvertips, two days away from starting their season on Sunday, in Spokane, will have their team in attendance tonight.
With the fourth game in five days ending tomorrow, including plane travel to and from Alberta, the Kraken touched ice at morning skate in what suggested an “optional” format – players who preferred to rest their bodies, than exert excessive energy in the morning with skates on, are given the option by the coaching staff to take the morning off.
Gourde was seen to start the morning with Brandon Tanev (the first two to hit the ice) and Connor Carrick in a blueline shooting contest with assistant coach Jay Leach, attempting to hit the back of the net with an arcing, breakneck lob from about 110 feet away.
A total of eight skaters and four goaltenders made it out – notably Yanni Gourde – still in a red “non contact” jersey but fit enough to participate in drills at a high rate of speed. It didn’t give a complete picture as far as who will play tonight, but we have learned:
- Per head coach Dave Hakstol, Philipp Grubauer will start in net, and play two periods.
- Alex Wennberg, less than a week into his new chapter in life as a parent, will make his Kraken pre-season debut, and the “Swedish House Mafia” linemates will also be in: Calle Jarnkrok and Marcus Johansson.
- Jared McCann’s line stays intact, which bring veteran linemates Jaden Schwartz and Jordan Eberle into the picture to play as well.
- Edmonton reportedly will sit star forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, both playing in Tuesday’s 6-0 win over the Kraken. Of note, former WHL stars Kailer Yamamoto (Spokane Chiefs), Derek Ryan (Spokane), goaltender Stuart Skinner (Swift Current Broncos), James Hamblin (Medicine Hat Tigers), and Tyson Barrie (Kelowna Rockets) will play. Skinner will start in net.
* Williams, currently general manager and head coach of the Silvertips, is behind their bench for the fifth season and will join Team Canada’s coaching staff at the prestigious World Junior Championships, this winter
**Based on 2019-20 attendance figures: would rank 13thout of 32 teams
Johansson – Wennberg – Jarnkrok
Schwartz – McCann – Eberle
Wilson – True – Bastian
Twarynski – Henman – Lind
Giordano – Soucy
Oleksiak – H. Fleury
Lauzon – Dunn
FROM THE PODIUM:
Head coach Dave Hakstol on the anticipation of coming to play in Everett after experiencing a sellout crowd in Spokane, a fellow WHL city:
“You know the game in Spokane was great. To be able to get to different parts of the state, I think is real special opportunity. So we have that opportunity again tonight and everybody's looking forward to it.”
Hakstol on the status of tonight’s lineup:
“We've got a plan for both nights. (Alex Wennberg) will be back in tonight, we're going to have a couple different combinations that we want to look out with him, possibly to the game. The McCann line will stay the same and then we have some opportunities for some younger players still in the lineup, up front, on the back end, you're just going to see a continued mix of our group back there. We're going to change all the pairs up a little bit and look at some different combinations, as well as planning over the next, you know tonight and tomorrow to still give you know give that opportunity for competition.”
Hakstol on the importance of these next two games with players competing for jobs:
“Real important. So one of the things we talked about in our meeting yesterday morning was we’re going to try and we tried to craft today and tomorrow, so that the players focus to be on their energy, their effort and their execution in these two games. That's why you're seeing the practices structured the way that they have been, you know I've been trying to be accurate and given you guys some rest off the ice that have played a lot of hockey. Like I said, just make sure that now they have the best ability to focus their energy on the games tonight and tomorrow.”
Hakstol on the role of Jared McCann and linemates Jaden Schwartz and Jordan Eberle:
“(Jared’s) versatility, you know, in all of those roles is very important. Specifically without line, the pace that they're able to play at, has been very good. So when you look at all the different combinations of skills that that group have, the one thing they all three have in common is pace. And that, so far, you know, in the games that we've seen them together, that has made them a good fit together. They'll be together again tonight, so we have an opportunity to see them continue to build.”
Full admission: though not as long as Stucky and Mast, I worked in Everett for six years, grew professionally and personally, and last called a game in the building on May 7, 2021, when the Silvertips celebrated their eighth U.S. Division title after a 5-1 win over Spokane. So as my friend and colleague Everett Fitzhugh takes the play-by-play chair, I admire this night as a pretty special one.
Talk with you at 7:00pm along with Everett Fitzhugh on Sports Radio 950 KJR!
1st intermission: Jason Botterill, Kraken assistant general manager
- 2nd intermission: Zoran Rajcic, Everett Silvertips chief operating officer