Philipp Grubauer stepped onto the second sheet of ice at approximately 9:30am at Kraken Community Iceplex on Thursday, and figuratively stepped into a new scenario the Seattle Kraken are happy to embrace:
A new beginning.
By many accounts, after their expansion season, expectations are raised. They drafted a potential future star in Shane Wright, consensus first overall pick before the July draft saw him slide into Kraken hands at the fourth pick after Montreal opted for Juraj Slafkovsky.
They signed Andre Burakovsky, fresh off winning his second Stanley Cup.
They traded for Oliver Bjorkstrand and only had to surrender two draft picks to cap-crunched Columbus.
Brandon Tanev is back.
Grubauer seeks a return to form.
Matty Beniers passed his ten-game test last season.
Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol had an idea.
“Let’s make progress,” he said.
Grubauer minced no words about the pure goal of winning and projecting a tighter bonded nucleus than 12 months ago, when nearly every player in one room was brand new to each other.
“Everybody knows each other, everybody is comfortable with each other,” said Grubauer.
SHANE WRIGHT SIGHTING
The Kraken started with a morning session split between two sheets of ice and included the first official reps of Wright, expected to form the highly important core with Beniers for the Kraken to build around for years to come.
At just 18 years of age, he has been answering questions for several months – even before he was drafted – on his ambition in the NHL. After he arrived in Seattle to much fanfare while signing his contract at center ice following a development camp scrimmage in July, the work didn’t stop for Wright, according to Hakstol.
As Wright fights for an opening night roster spot as a teenager, the work is already paying off.
“Outstanding young man,” Hakstol said, who complimented his abilities in rookie camp and in Thursday’s session, when Wright predominantly skated with Jaden Schwartz and Kole Lind.
“He’s really well liked by the guys in the room. He has an easy way about him. He’s done some work. Coming in with a short day of testing, he did a good job there. I liked what I’ve seen.”
The flow, the energy, the pace, the speed, and the presence all make up Brandon Tanev.
The brand is all gas, no brakes. Sellout crowds were routine with elevating the volume with his hard charging pursuit on rushes through the neutral zone. It’s an energizing formula proven from 30 games last season, when he scored nine goals.
It was cut short by 52 games. Tanev’s season ended before Christmas when he blew out his knee in a game against Edmonton, requiring surgery for an anterior cruciate ligament injury.
Thursday, the page was turned and there’s no looking back.
“It’s like no other camp obviously, coming off surgery,” Tanev said. “But at the end of the day, you work hard and put yourself in position to succeed, ready to go and you’re excited to be back at camp.”
Tanev took the ice for the afternoon session, seen mainly with Morgan Geekie and Jesper Froden, taking line rushes and board work battle drills for the first time in nine months.
That’s a long wait being away from teammates, but also associated with prove-it opportunity.
“It’s something you’re not use to,” said Tanev. “Adversity didn’t hurt anybody.”
MATTY BENIERS – BIGGER ROLE, BIG TIME?
Beniers answered a lot of questions last spring, immediately jumping from the college game into high impact NHL minutes to churn out nine points in ten games.
Next question: what’s his role for the year?
He wasn’t sheltered from big minute players, teaming on Thursday as the pivot for wingers Ryan Donato and Bjorkstrand.
Hakstol, who previously has declined to publicly label his lines in numerical order, hinted there’s greater opportunity ahead for Beniers.
“Let’s see what the season brings, but Matty looks ready to jump into his spot,” said Hakstol.
By many accounts, Beniers is a pre-season Calder Trophy contender for the league’s rookie of the year. Beniers said earlier this week he gained 11 pounds, adding more muscle to withstand the strenuous endurance tests of the NHL schedule, 200 feet of ice, and matchups against jaw-dropping competition such as Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, and more.
Hakstol said it’s important to understand the roller coaster ride Beniers may face.
“There are going to be days things go really well, there will be days things don’t go quite as well,” Hakstol said.
“The biggest thing in being ready for that challenge, and for some of the ice time he’ll see and some of the matchups he’ll run into, are his mental maturity and belief in himself as a person. He’s ready to meet those challenges.”
NO CAPTAIN …. YET
The ride of Mark Giordano as captain of the Kraken lasted approximately five months. Following his trade to the Toronto Maple Leafs in March for a pair of second round draft picks and third rounder, the Kraken had a void.
Who’s going to fill it, next in line as captain?
Hakstol hinted there’s no rush to fill the spot, deferring leadership responsibilities to alternates Yanni Gourde, Jaden Schwartz, Adam Larsson, and Jordan Eberle.
“Right now I’m really comfortable with the group we have, and the continued ability to grow our leadership group from within, inside of this dressing room and carry itself onto the ice.”