Berkly Catton locked in: 1st round pick signs entry level contract

2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Portraits

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JUNE 28: Berkly Catton poses for a portrait after being drafted by the Seattle Kraken with the eighth overall pick during the 2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft at Sphere on June 28, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Candice Ward/Getty Images)Photo: Candice Ward / Getty Images Sport / Getty Images

The countdown clock for forward Berkly Catton to the NHL has begun. 

Though it’s not a guarantee, he’s now in the system, and by many accounts - well on his way. The first round pick of the Seattle Kraken signed his three-year entry level contract with the team on Friday, just before he taking the ice for the week-long development camp scrimmage finale. 

“He brings elite hockey sense, an ability to score and a high compete level,” said Kraken general manager Ron Francis in a team statement. “He has had an impressive three seasons in the WHL, and we look forward to seeing him continue to develop.”

Francis brought some flair to the moment, greeting and addressing a packed house at Kraken Community Iceplex before the game, along with the announcement that Catton and the Kraken agreed to terms on the deal. Moments later, Catton emerged to join Francis at center ice and sign his contract on a clipboard to a loud ovation from the crowd.

It was shades of the pomp and circumstance that surrounded Shane Wright two years ago, except that Wright’s deal was done after the game. And this time, the Kraken won’t have to go far to watch Catton, presumably set to return to the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League this fall. 

“Our budget just went down for travel,” said team director of player development Jeff Tambellini, tongue firmly planted in cheek. 

Catton’s week has been a whirlwind. He took the draft stage before the masses at an entertainment behemoth in The Sphere, then immersed himself in an up close experience in Seattle, ushered to T-Mobile Park to throw the ceremonial first pitch at a Mariners game - all of this to crown a potentially substantial piece in the Kraken future. 

Catton lit up the WHL with prodigious numbers last season: 116 points and 54 goals as a 17-year old, known more as a playmaker with deft touch but torturing the league’s goaltenders with a quick release. Both attributes were on full display this week for a player with scant red marks on his scouting report – size being one of them at 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds. 

“I’m an offensive guy who likes to push the pace of a game,” said Catton on Tuesday. 

“If he’s six foot one, we’re probably not getting him at eight,” said Francis at the NHL Draft last Saturday. “But we got him at eight, so we’re excited about him.” 

But even in a draft where many predicted the Kraken would get in on the surplus of skilled defensemen, a position they're not deep at compared to the drafted forwards, his electrifying skill set was too good to ignore - so much where Kraken brass had him target well before the first round got underway. 

There are only three other players besides Catton in the last 25 years, among draft eligible skaters from the Canadian Hockey League, who have topped 115 points and 50 goals in one season: Patrick Kane, Connor Bedard, and Sidney Crosby. 

“Obviously my goal is to play in the NHL as soon as possible,” said Catton. 

There’s a good chance that Catton will require a different path than the aforementioned trio, who made their NHL debut at age 18 as the first overall pick in each of their prior draft classes. There is little need to rush Catton in this instance, whose offense is tempting but needs to leap a significant queue ahead with Matty Beniers, Chandler Stephenson, Shane Wright and Yanni Gourde already lined up as the likely center quartet to suit up on opening night. 

Catton said first and foremost, lower body strength training and play without the puck are next on the agenda. 

“Looking at those guys (in the NHL), they’re developed with the lower body, with legs and stuff," said Catton. "So that’s definitely one thing I want to improve on – getting a little bit bigger and stronger. Probably the defensive side a little bit - if you want to be trusted in the NHL, you have to be good defensively.” 

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