Well, that was a sloppy, ugly, no-good, rotten preseason game, but it ended with the Seattle Kraken taking a 2-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks in Abbotsford, British Columbia. Both sides dressed a lot of guys bound for the AHL, and a few of Seattle’s bubble players did their best to make their final claims for NHL roster spots.
Eeli Tolvanen brought a fleeting moment of excitement when he cleaned up a Cale Fleury rebound at 12:23 of the third period, giving him his third goal of the preseason and second game-winning goal, with all of his goals coming against the Canucks.
Tolvanen’s goal was nice, but the real story in Wednesday’s game was how the “try-out” guys did in what we expect to be their last chance to make the opening-night roster. We anticipate Friday’s game in Edmonton to be a dress rehearsal of sorts, which means a big round of cuts should come before then.
Here are our Three Takeaways from a 2-1 Kraken win over the Canucks.
Takeaway #1 (Curtis): Shane Wright leaves a good impression
With cuts coming soon, Wednesday night could be the last time we see Shane Wright in a Kraken jersey for a while. If so, the young center’s solid effort left reason for optimism that he could contribute to the main club winning games at some point this season.
Wright joined skilled wingers Tolvanen and Oliver Bjorkstrand to form a makeshift “top line” in this one. The forwards played a fast and connected game, often hemming Vancouver into its own zone with possession plays, passes, and cycles. Wright looked comfortable on this line—perhaps more so than we have ever seen him in a Kraken game. He played to his strengths, delivering give-and-go passes and lurking in the slot and low circle areas for one-timer opportunities. And solid work on a contested puck below the offensive-zone goal line in the first period earned Wright an assist on Seattle’s first goal, a power-play marker tapped home by roster bubble player Andrew Poturalski.
Wright’s night wasn’t perfect. He conceded a turnover off a defensive-zone board battle that led directly to a high-danger opportunity for the Canucks. And he had a couple other turnovers on passes that he didn’t need to make. But the blend of skills that made him a top draft prospect fifteen months ago were on display.
Right now, we think Wright will at least begin the year in Coachella Valley. But this doesn’t feel like a “disappointment” to us. Wright has had a solid camp and has continued to build on his solid Calder Cup Playoff run from the end of last year. Our confidence is increasing that if/when bumps and bruises crop up in Seattle’s top-nine forward group this year, Wright could step in, and the team wouldn’t miss a beat.
Takeaway #2 (John): Joey Daccord locking up the back-up spot?
The battle of the back-up goalie position between Joey Daccord and Chris Driedger appears to be leaning toward Daccord. Both goalies got into the game last night and both played well. Daccord played the first two periods and made 15 of 16 saves for a .938 save percentage and made some spectacular saves in the process. That brings Daccord’s save percentage up to .972 across the three preseason games he has played.
Driedger also left a good impression, saving every shot he faced during the third period. He looked solid in the crease and made two huge saves to keep the narrow lead late in the game, but those were his only testers on the night. Driedger’s preseason save percentage is .923 across two games.
Both goalies played well enough to earn the backup goalie spot, but there is only room for one. I feel Daccord has shown a little more in this small window. The other variable to consider is that Daccord and his $1.2 million-per-year contract likely gets claimed by another NHL team should he be placed on waivers with the intent of assigning him to Coachella Valley. Meanwhile, Driedger has a $3.5 million cap hit and would likely pass through waivers unclaimed because most teams could not afford that big of contract on their roster right now.
Seattle will need a third goalie at some point in the season, so if Driedger is assigned to Coachella, we will likely still see him suited up for the Kraken at some point this season.
Takeaway #3 (Darren): John Hayden makes a final statement
This game didn’t have a lot of pizzazz for viewers, and with the lower quality of a streaming-only broadcast, it was borderline tough to watch at times. Before Tolvanen’s game-winning goal, and aside from some nice saves by Daccord and Driedger, the only other notable thing that happened in this game was 6-foot-3 John Hayden fighting 6-foot-8 Tyler Myers.
In this training camp, we don’t think Hayden has stood out enough to make the opening-night Seattle roster. But, it’s still hard to say who will be holding the 14th forward spot when the Kraken head for Vegas to take on the Golden Knights on Tuesday. So Hayden found a way to leave a lasting impression on the coaching staff.
Remember, it was Myers who injured Matty Beniers last season with a completely unnecessary, blind-side hit. When something like that happens in pro hockey, the offender always has to answer the proverbial bell… UNLESS the offender is 6-foot-8, and there’s nobody on the opposing roster willing to get his face punched in.
The fight Wednesday wasn’t so much about responding to the hit on Matty last season as it was about Hayden reminding the coaching staff, Hey, wouldn’t it be nice to have somebody like me in your lineup?
We still don’t think it will be enough to get Hayden onto the roster, but it was a bold and shrewd move. And we’re also glad nobody got hurt.
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