Training camp for the Seattle Kraken took another step for position battles on Friday with six players sent down to the Coachella Valley Firebirds of the American Hockey League.
Goaltender Jack Lafontaine, forwards Jacob Melanson, Logan Morrison, Tucker Robertson, Ryan Winterton, and defenseman Ville Ottavainen rounded out a series of moves coming 12 hours after the Kraken defeated the Vancouver Canucks, 3-1 before a preseason sellout crowd at Climate Pledge Arena, and helping fill the AHL roster for players set to report in time for Firebirds camp.
All six players are eligible to start the year in the minor leagues, with the two youngest as Robertson and Morrison, who have now hit the 20-year old threshold for graduation out of the Canadian Hockey League ranks. It still leaves the Kraken with a glut of 48 players in camp, but still with three pre-season games to go, while players such as Shane Wright, Tye Kartye, Ryker Evans, Devin Shore, Kole Lind, and more still hanging around for an impression to make roster decisions extremely difficult.
“You know for those that are in those games, they’re going to be real important games where there are some cases that you're competing to start the year here,” said Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol. “Other kids might be competing to show that you can come here at some point in time in the year and help when we need it. So, a lot of different levels of play here. But I'm sure first and foremost on everybody's mind is, you know, is to be here start of the year.”
Robertson, Morrison, Melanson, and Winterton are four forwards who could be in line to contribute with the Firebirds offensively – Winterton averaged a point per game in limited action last year after recovering from injury, while Melanson, Robertson and Morrison come off 90 point seasons in the CHL. Ottavainen, a towering 6-foot-5 and 218 pound defenseman, could possibly slot in with a valuable right shot, “stay-at-home” presence.
What remains are three more games offering raised stakes for limited roles available for opening night.
“Everybody that’s here has an opportunity,” said Hakstol. “Most of the guys, I don't know that we'll get everybody in another exhibition game. But we'll look closely at who does get that opportunity and why they're going into those spots.”
With a Monday matchup against Edmonton around the corner, exactly who will get those opportunities is an unknown. But it’s undeniable that virtually the top nine forwards, centered by Matty Beniers, Alex Wennberg, and Yanni Gourde, a large chunk of the defense, and Philipp Grubauer have roles very well firmly in their grip. That leaves a scant number of jobs available in a depth situation, where the Kraken must trim the roster to 23 players by opening night.
It’s likely that very good players, even well deserving of an NHL opening night roster spot, will get moved down to the AHL to start the season. But when it comes to the unpredictable nature of health, opportunity could be waiting. The last sent down are often times the first called up.
Shore told 93.3 KJR-FM even within the spirit of competition, cohesiveness remains a valuable element, sitting present across the dressing room.
“There’s a high level of compete,” said Shore. “There’s good camaraderie. Even playing against them and seeing it up close, this team is successful when they do it by committee.”
“Everyone was talking about their depth in the playoffs, which showed. It’s a fun group to be a part of, and a lot of good players here.”
Fun will take over for the weekend, with the Kraken staying away from the ice for team bonding activities.
“I think we’re going to play some golf, so that’s going to be fun,” said Shore.