Nobody judges the progress of a talent pool but the final score of a development camp game.
But surely, the talent accurately understood the assignment.
In what was the final time fans got a chance to look at budding first round picks Shane Wright, Eduard Sale, pro-eligible hopefuls Ryan Winterton, Jacob Melanson and more, the Sale-led blue squad launched a second half comeback and rallied down by three goals for a wild 8-7 victory over the white-jersey squad before a capacity crowd at Kraken Community Iceplex.
Sale dazzled the packed house with a backhanded breakaway goal, while prospect defenseman Ty Nelson showcased his one-timer then laid his body out to defend an outnumbered attack. Nelson was the first player from Team Blue to accept the newly christened James Stucky Trophy at the end of the game, named after the popular and humorous Kraken assistant equipment manager, and playfully lifted it over his head to cap the celebration.
Most importantly, the Kraken left the day feeling lifted about progress in the pipeline, breaking camp before a scheduled return in September for training camp.
“We’re starting to see progression, and that’s the most important thing,” said Kraken director of player development Jeff Tambellini, who spent all or parts of six seasons as an NHL left winger with Los Angeles, the Islanders, and Canucks.
“You see that with Shane Wright, who got in development camp last year. You see the power and speed and what he’s done in a year. You’re starting to see that with a guy like Ryan Winterton, who’s been hurt for two camps, and comes back and wins the fitness testing. We’re seeing that progression on the ice but off the ice. That’s the very exciting part.”
Winterton has a big year coming up, a third round draft pick of two years ago who had parts of two seasons derailed by shoulder injuries. He is likely pegged to start the season in the American Hockey League with the Coachella Valley Firebirds, coming off an abbreviated season with in OHL London where he had 36 points in 36 games, then erupted in the playoffs as the league’s leading scorer with 29 points and 13 goals in 21 games, as London was bounced in the finals.
At six-foot-two and 190 pounds, with a marksman like shot and abrasive approach at both ends of the ice and looking for one valuable element to unlock the next levels of achievement as a pro: health.
“This is the first time I’ve been on the ice here,” said Winterton, who was sidelined the last two camps while injured.
He is a center by trade, and playfully admitted a little jealousy seeing a group of centers work with a track-suited Kraken general manager Ron Francis on the ice, while he was assigned drills with a select group of forwards. It’s a position where his abrasiveness along the boards and shot can be weaponized. He finished off a two-on-one with undrafted free agent signee Logan Morrison on Wednesday, who fed him with a cross-ice pass and left Winterton to hammer a shot from the left circle.
“I got a goal because of ‘Mo’ today, so that felt good,” said Winterton, who was with the Firebirds on a call-up from the major junior ranks with Morrison for the Calder Cup Playoffs. “Lot of familiar faces. It was great, I saw a lot of them in Coachella. Didn’t miss them too much, but it was great to see them again.”
Second round pick Carson Rehkopf, like Wright, will look to a pivotal next couple of months in the gym to add muscle to his heavy 200 pound frame, but fill out a playing style he says comes from watching Auston Matthews (his shot) and Anders Lee (his rugged approach).
“Summers are big,” Rehkopf told 93.3 KJR-FM, one of three players drafted in the second round this year.
“It’s going to be nice to get seven to eight weeks in, and really put some work in the gym.”