Kartye, Daccord make roster while Wright, Evans among final cuts to AHL

Seattle Kraken v Colorado Avalanche - Game Five

Photo: Matthew Stockman / Getty Images Sport / Getty Images

Where do we begin with unpacking this day? 

Final cuts were administered by the Seattle Kraken to their roster on Saturday, sending a total of five players – Shane Wright, Ryker Evans, John Hayden, Cale Fleury, and Chris Driedger – to the American Hockey League affiliate Coachella Valley Firebirds. 

What you need to know: 

·      Evans and Wright were sent directly to the Firebirds, exempt from waivers. 

·      Hayden, Driedger, and Fleury will be Firebirds by Sunday morning – if nobody claims them on waivers first. They have to go through the waiver wire before officially reporting to Coachella Valley. 

·      The Kraken could carry 23 players, but instead opted to make one additional cut to knock the roster down to 22 players. General manager Ron Francis deemed this move necessary for salary cap reasons, and space available for future transactions to add to the Kraken (they have $2.8 million available in space). 

·      Notables who made it: Tye Kartye survived the final cuts and will be in line for his NHL debut (playoffs – if you can believe it – don’t count) on Tuesday. Joey Daccord won the backup job role behind Philipp Grubauer.   

Seattle Kraken v Edmonton Oilers

EDMONTON, AB - SEPTEMBER 28: Ryker Evans #41 of the Seattle Kraken skates against Colton Sceviour #70 of the Edmonton Oilers during the second period in a preseason game at Rogers Place on September 28, 2021 in Edmonton, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)Photo: Codie McLachlan / Getty Images Sport / Getty Images

What this means for Ryker Evans 

Without question, Evans is the most surprising cut of all. The 21-year old defenseman proved he’s ready for the NHL and earned praise from all corners of the Kraken dressing room, from head coach Dave Hakstol’s compliment of “outstanding” play in the offensive zone to Jared McCann’s prediction of “deadly” for Evans’ ability at the NHL level. He was routinely the most deployed player in pre-season. He quarterbacked one of the two power play units. He looked faster and even more confident with the puck. 

“Ryker had an outstanding camp,” said Hakstol. “We're extremely happy with where he's at and what he did - his body of work through training camp, the growth in one year. I can go back incrementally over the last couple of years. But, you know, just to keep it to his growth as a pro in over the last 12 months, has been outstanding. He's done all of the right things. He's dug in with the people that are there to help him and again, during training camp, the last 17 days after he had a good rookie camp, his 17 days were good."

However, Evans faced a cold reality all camp long: the depth chart. Signing veteran Brian Dumoulin in the offseason gave the Kraken insurance in the leadership, experience, and “stay-at-home” brand categories for the blueline, effectively replacing Carson Soucy’s spot. None of the top six defensemen on the Kraken sprung a leak in their play in camp, likely relegating Evans to the press box as a healthy scratch if he were to be kept on the NHL roster. 

“There’s no easy decision with Ryker,” said Hakstol. “He's a guy that putting himself in a great spot. The great thing for him is to be able to go back to the American Hockey League, pick up where he left off, expect to be one of the best players in the league, and then hold himself to that level.”

With this move, Evans immediately returns to the AHL as a top pair defenseman for the Firebirds, logging rock star minutes and a rock star role until a move becomes necessary to recall him. Arguably, he’s got the clubhouse lead for “first to be called up” this season. 

“He’s going to be a player for us,” said Francis. “He had a real strong camp, had a real strong season last year, All-Star Game, AHL Rookie of the Year, so we just felt it's important for him to go down there and play the minutes he's going to play down there. If we need him, he can come up with that sort of conference that he showed here.”

Carolina Hurricanes v Seattle Kraken

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 17: Shane Wright #51 of the Seattle Kraken skates against the Carolina Hurricanes during the first period at Climate Pledge Arena on October 17, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)Photo: Steph Chambers / Getty Images Sport / Getty Images

What this means for Shane Wright 

A move that was heavily reported as in development for several weeks, a source confirmed to 93.3 KJR-FM on Saturday that an exemption has been officially granted to the Kraken for Shane Wright to play full time in the AHL, opening the doors for the 19-year old forward to join the Firebirds now, rather than wait for the minor leagues for one more year under normal guidelines in the CHL-NHL transfer agreement, and go back to the major junior ranks instead.

It's clear he's an exceptional case that merits an excuse from red tape bylaws. Wright too, demonstrated significant improvement in training camp, evident by what Hakstol said, where Wright “put the work in” from this last summer, and earned a pair of assists with a +4 rating in four pre-season games.

“He looked like a guy that was free to go and play the game a little bit less stress on him,” said Hakstol. “He was more comfortable with everything that he was doing, and that's a that's inherent with being a young guy. You'll learn as you go.” 

“This is a hard league. It's a hard league to jump into. You have to grow incrementally on your own timeframe, and Shane's doing that - he's putting put in the work, specifically in terms of when I look at him physically or skill set wise, he dug in and had a great summer. That was apparent, and that's one of the first things in becoming a really good pro is knowing and understanding how to prepare your body, how to get yourself to a level where you know you can survive in this league on a daily basis. Shane certainly had a great summer.” 

Also, like Evans, he faced an uphill battle with the depth chart. While rolling out Matty Beniers, Alex Wennberg and Yanni Gourde as their top three centers, the Kraken tried Wright in a fourth line role last season for a sample of games, ultimately sending him back to the major junior ranks and Team Canada for a World Junior gold medal – one where he served in the captaincy role. Combined those facts with a five-game conditioning stint in the AHL where he lit the world on fire with four goals – and became a playoff regular for Coachella Valley’s run to game seven of the Calder Cup Final – all signs pointed to the AHL for being the ideal spot for his next step. 

Ultimately, he needs to play a lot of minutes – both at five-on-five and on the power play, where his skill can make a major impact. He’ll be expected to fill that role with Coachella Valley, where he and two-time league scoring champ Andrew Poturalski will anchor their top two lines under Dan Bylsma. Plenty of reps now await Wright, who now has the opportunity to sharpen his game against mature competition before his next trip back up to the NHL. 

“We still see the speed and skill that he has,” said Francis. “If we keep him here in a fourth line role and he's in and out of the lineup, he's playing eight minutes, nine minutes a night, that's not the best for his development.”

“I’d like to see him still, sort of, demand the puck more, handle it, and show what he can do when he has it on a stick. We’ve sort of given him a few things to work on and we'll pass it on to the Coachella Valley coaches. I'm sure he'll continue to make strides like he has to this point.” 

Dallas Stars v Seattle Kraken - Game Six

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - MAY 13: Tye Kartye #52 of the Seattle Kraken celebrates his goal against the Dallas Stars during the second period in Game Six of the Second Round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Climate Pledge Arena on May 13, 2023 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)Photo: Steph Chambers / Getty Images Sport / Getty Images

What this means for Tye Kartye 

Kartye is a storybook career that perhaps is just beginning. He went from an undrafted free agent, at the bottom of Coachella Valley’s lineup, to making his NHL debut in the Stanley Cup Playoffs (and scoring in his debut) less than a year later. 

Kartye didn’t stop there, entering the summer as a favorite to graduate to the NHL roster this fall, and fulfilled prophecy with an on-brand pre-season that included a shorthanded goal with his heavy shot, and a series of plays that demonstrated his ability to disrupt opponents physically. 

He plays a game that many coaches, scouts and executives will refer to as “honest” – straightforward, physical, no sidestepping physical contact, and aggressive. With continued progress, he’s got potential to become a fan favorite. His jersey went on sale this summer at team stores. He was flying in his first practice as a full fledged regular season NHL’er, skating with Brandon Tanev and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. 

“(Kartye) did it the old fashioned way in terms of earning what he got in Coachella Valley, earning his opportunities and continuing to grow,” said Hakstol. “He showed that right from day one here, early in rookie camp, that was pretty apparent that he also had a good summer and was ready to compete for a spot.” 

Seattle Kraken v Arizona Coyotes

TEMPE, ARIZONA - APRIL 10: Joey Daccord #35 of the Seattle Kraken warms up before action against the Arizona Coyotes at Mullett Arena on April 10, 2023 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Zac BonDurant/Getty Images)Photo: Zac BonDurant / Getty Images Sport / Getty Images

What this means for Joey Daccord 

Daccord is now a full time NHL goaltender. Let that sink in, given the fact he was drafted in the seventh round by the Ottawa Senators, eight years ago. Sometimes, players – especially goaltenders – take more time than others to develop. 

The 27-year old netminder won the backup job behind Philipp Grubauer, beating out Chris Driedger for the role, partially by execution and circumstance. Daccord was third on the depth chart two years ago during the Kraken expansion season while Driedger entered the year with high potential, taken from Florida in the expansion draft. 

Then, Driedger got hurt, and missed nearly all of last season recovering from a torn ACL. Daccord meanwhile flourished in the starter’s role at Coachella Valley last season and was sufficient as an NHL call-up when needed. In the playoffs, he put Tucson, Colorado, Calgary, Milwaukee, and nearly Hershey on ice with three shutouts, a 15-11 record, and .926 save percentage while setting a new league postseason record for games played (26). 

Francis said Daccord swung the pendulum in his favor by more than just a couple of weeks, though he was impressive this pre-season with a .973 save percentage. The body of work back to last season also factored in the decision.

“He got some games last year, looked a lot more comfortable,” said Francis. “He’s arguably been one of the best goaltenders in the American League the last couple of years, handles the puck extremely well, and giving a real strong camp - he only gave up one goal in the exhibition game. So, he earned the opportunity.” 

Grubauer is expected to get the lion’s share of starts. He’s earned that title, especially with a solid last two months of the season and the playoffs, where he delivered some of the biggest games of his career and the biggest win in Kraken history, in Game 7 at Colorado. But in this day and age of needing two goaltenders – not just one – to endure the long haul of 82 games, Daccord’s play has translated into readiness at the NHL level. 

What this means for the Kraken 

There weren’t many open jobs to begin with, but the mechanism of a team relying on offensive depth means the open jobs are still fascinating – even if they may be for a spot on the fourth line or a backup goaltender.

The Kraken will carry 22 players, not the maximum allowed of 23. They could have kept Evans, or an extra forward, but health is on their side (knock on wood, for now). Francis also saves nearly three million dollars in cap space to add via waivers or trade if he chooses. 

They will also carry on with virtually the same lineup as projected, especially in the top three lines and across all defensive pairings. 

What this means for the Firebirds 

Let’s get right to the point – the Firebirds return a two-time scoring champ in Andrew Poturalski, will have Shane Wright as their second line center, Ryker Evans as a top pair defenseman, an experienced NHL goaltender in Chris Driedger in the starter’s role, and Dan Bylsma back behind the bench who nearly coached them to a Calder Cup title. 

The Firebirds won’t be just good, they’ll be scary good. 

“Development is at every level,” said Hakstol. “It's everybody in the organization involved - Dan (Bylsma) and his staff do an outstanding job in terms of building a culture there, where players feel free to go out and play - and mistakes are part of the game. But there's accountability that comes along with it. There’s obviously the culture of winning they've been able to establish with a lot of good veterans, which is really, really important.” 

The only hurdle in their way for another successful run might be the start, which will be four months after they ended a marathon season in late June. They will be loaded again with talent to advance a fantastic start to their franchise and culture in their second season.  


“Yeah, pretty high up there, probably with the first playoff game to be honest.” 

-       Tye Kartye on where he puts making the NHL roster up with his career and life moments.

“They thought it was pretty funny because they told me I made the team, right before the team meeting and I was trying to walk in like all serious, but I couldn't keep the smile off my face.” 

-       Kartye, smiling, on being playfully teased by veteran Kraken players right before his meeting with the coaching staff to confirm his roster spot  

“Honestly, just trusting myself. I still think back to when I signed my first NHL contract out of out of college, out of school. I played in the NHL four days later, and I can't believe how unprepared I was back then. And I was playing in the NHL. So now, starting my fifth year I think - just the self-belief, a self-confidence hopefully knowing that I'm good enough to be out here with these guys, and just trying to have fun every single day and enjoy every moment - just drawing on those experiences.

-       Joey Daccord on the key to maximizing his performance in training camp this year. 

“There's a there's a great quote from Kobe Bryant that he talks about, he says ‘there's no reason to have self-doubt because no matter what, whether you win or you lose, you got to wake up and go to practice again the next day.’ And I think each time I came up, I just tried to do that and just leave it all out there. The last time I came up at the end of the year, I just tried to be myself, have fun and enjoy the moment. The games went pretty well and I just built confidence off of that.” 

-       Joey Daccord on channeling his inner Kobe Bryant 

“(Kobe's) up there, Tom Brady's number one, Roger Federer number two, Kobe, probably an in the mix for three. Maybe Tiger Woods would be up there too. I actually was drafted 199 which is same as Tom Brady, and being a Boston kid, he was drafted 199. So, it's pretty cool to have that kind of connection with him. And then my mom's from Switzerland and I'm a big tennis fan and Roger Federer (fan) - I didn't miss a match for a long time. So big fan of those two guys and Kobe is right up there for sure.” 

-       Joey Daccord on where Kobe fits into his all-time favorite athletes 

Finally, Daccord didn’t actually find out he made the team until after practice. He and Grubauer were summoned to the ice before practice for early goaltending work, and said Hakstol and Francis couldn’t pull him aside and deliver the news until after practice was finished: 

“I think things were looking pretty good when there were only two goalies on the ice, and that I was one of them.” 

-       Daccord, when he figured out, he made the team 

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