Late Tuesday morning at Kraken Community Iceplex, the finish line officially arrived for a pre-season that tested, weathered, and seasoned a Seattle Kraken team determined to take a noisy off-season and transform it into a promising October.
The Kraken announced their season opening roster and will now prepare for the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, and Vegas Golden Knights, a Pacific Division trio that is likely to provide a valid sweat for three of the next four days, starting Wednesday, 7pm at Honda Center (93.3 KJR-FM/Kraken Audio Network).
The Kraken will get out of the starting blocks on home ice of the Ducks, then finish their first of eight “back-to-back” schedule scenarios on Thursday against the host Los Angeles Kings.
“The biggest thing as a staff, in the room, we’re looking for is to continue progress,” Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol told 93.3 KJR-FM.
“We’ve got work to do. In saying that, we’ve had a very good, competitive camp. We’ve been happy with a lot of individuals and collectively, the execution and competitiveness.”
The Kraken, three months after a splashy July which landed Andre Burakovsky in free agency, Oliver Bjorkstrand by trade, and Shane Wright in the draft, will proceed with a unit of 15 forwards, seven defensemen, and three goaltenders.
To become compliant with the National Hockey League’s roster regulations (maximum 23 active players), Joonas Donskoi, last seen leaving a pre-season loss against the Canucks with an upper body injury, was placed on injured reserve along with goaltender Chris Driedger.
Driedger, a foregone conclusion with his roster spot, will be out until at least January while recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
In what many sensed was a foregone conclusion over the last several days, center and blue chip prospect Shane Wright cemented his spot on the Kraken roster at age 18, three months after the Kraken got him at fourth overall in the draft and several days after Ron Francis told The Athletic, Wright will likely stay with the Kraken all season rather than go back to the major junior level.
Wright said he was in a group chat with his former OHL teammates of the Kingston Frontenacs, ahead of Wednesday’s possible NHL debut. Once he found out he made the roster, he called his father.
“He and my mom have been there for me every step the way,” Wright told 93.3 KJR-FM. “They’ve always supported for me, same for most kids growing up playing the sport. My parents have always been by my side. It was nice spending that moment with them.”
There will be no captain to start the season, and very likely all season. Hakstol confirmed the leadership core will include last year’s alternate captains, Jordan Eberle, Yanni Gourde, Adam Larsson, and Jaden Schwartz. The Kraken had a captain in Mark Giordano. They traded him with Colin Blackwell to the Toronto Maple Leafs last March, for three draft picks (including two second rounders).
By fascinating design, Gourde’s dressing room stall at the team’s practice headquarters sits adjacent to Matty Beniers, entering his first full NHL season after a nine point, ten game stint and a consensus preseason candidate for the Calder Trophy. Gourde is also two seats down from Wright. Also, Schwartz’s stall is to the right of Gourde.
That’s plenty of veteran presence to guide two promising youngsters. Gourde knows the message.
“They’re so talented,” said Gourde. “Just go out and have fun, play to their strengths, do the right things, don’t try to do too much.”
“They have great work ethic, they’re great kids, they love to learn and try new stuff. Looking around them, they’re trying to get better every day. That’s the key to this level, to sticking around.”
Schwartz, who left an Oct. 7 pre-season loss to Edmonton with a lower body injury, was among the active players on the roster and was seen practicing with the main group, shortly before the Kraken departed for an afternoon flight to Southern California.
Hakstol would not yet commit to confirming Schwartz getting into the lineup against Anaheim, and lineup decisions would be confirmed Wednesday.
“Good to have him back on the ice today,” said Hakstol. “He had a good day out there.”
Daniel Sprong, who has been away since the conclusion of pre-season to handle immigration paperwork, was uncertain to travel to Anaheim. Hakstol said it’s possible he could join the Kraken in the middle of the brief two-game stop.
PRACTICE LINE RUSHES, Oct. 11
POWER PLAY UNITS:
Unit 1: Wennberg (net), Bjorkstrand, Donato, Beniers, Schultz (point)
Unit 2: Schwartz (net), McCann, Eberle, Burakovsky, Dunn (point)