Karson Kuhlman likely has enjoyed easier days.
But you wouldn’t know it based on his tone.
The newest member of the Seattle Kraken emerged Wednesday for his first full day on the job as a new forward, skating in a crisp white-colored practice jersey with a new nameplate and number 25 on the back – all after full coast-to-coast slate of travel that ended with friend and fellow college teammate, Carson Soucy, picking him up at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
No complaining though. Following practice, he was upbeat.
“This seems like an awesome city being here for 24 hours, everyone’s so friendly, and it’s a first class organization in year one here,” said Kuhlman.
An undrafted forward signed by the Bruins as a free agent just days after winning a national championship and NCAA Tournament MVP at Minnesota-Duluth, the 26-year old wasted no time going from player-in-transit to two full skates in, at Kraken Community Iceplex, two days after the Kraken claimed him off waivers from the Boston Bruins.
“I think the quick turnaround was good to be honest with you,” said Kuhlman. “Then you’re not just sitting by yourself and thinking too much. You get to come to the rink and get to your routine.”
Part of the new routine involved a conversation on Wednesday morning with head coach Dave Hakstol and staff where Kuhlman, who recovered two years ago from a broken leg after absorbing a Jake DeBrusk slap shot and carries a reputation as a winger with defensive aptitude and speed to burn, said he learned of his expectations and pledged to be a player with ability to fulfill multiple roles where needed.
Jump into the deep end? No problem. Three years ago as a rookie, Kuhlman scored his first career playoff goal (it wasn't cheap) in Game Six of the Stanley Cup Final at St. Louis.
“With Karson we can give him quite a bit,” said Hakstol. “He’s a cerebral player. He understands a lot of the systems we are playing and we’re familiar with. We’ll get the basics in place and we’ll build from there.”
“That will come quickly for ‘Koolie’.”
Kuhlman’s first day on the ice was enwrapped in a 45 minute practice before an open house in Northgate, skating on a line with Joonas Donskoi and Morgan Geekie (the latter who wore a red non-contact jersey), followed by an early afternoon debriefing on the Kraken system, a benefit Kuhlman said because he’s a “visual” learner.
He already has the pot warmed with voices on the inside. There’s Soucy, a former teammate with the UMD program. Then there are Ryan Donato and Jeremy Lauzon, coming up with Kuhlman in the Bruins system with Providence.
“Those are important connections when you walk into a new dressing room, and those will be important connections for Karson to lean on along with ‘Leachy’,” said Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol.
Oh yeah, their head coach in Providence?
Kraken assistant coach, Jay Leach.
“In this case, with the past relationship in Boston’s system, that’s an awesome resource for Karson coming in,” said Hakstol.
Donato’s time in the Bruins system delivered an endorsement on Kuhlman’s abilities.
“He’s reliable,” said Donato. “He plays hard. He’s not going to have any nights where you’re not going to see the 100 percent full effort. He’s a guy who likes to play a gritty style, hold onto pucks and forecheck and do the things that matter and make teams better.”
“Especially in the locker room, he’s a guy everybody loves to be around.”
Notes: Jamie Oleksiak, according to Hakstol, missed Wednesday’s practice with a non-COVID illness ... per Hakstol, Geekie’s status “will be re-evaluated (Wednesday) and tomorrow” … goaltender Antoine Bibeau had an unfortunate turnaround to his time with the Kraken after a direct recall from ECHL Allen, placed on Wednesday in COVID-19 protocol … Wednesday is the last of a stretch of two days off the Kraken will have until Feb. 2 when they return home from Boston and a four-game trip … the Kraken will play eight times in the next 13 days.
Kraken practice lineup, Jan. 19: