Five non-Kraken NHL storylines for the 2021-22 season

Five non-Kraken NHL storylines for the 2021-22 season

With all the coverage and attention we are giving the Seattle Kraken these days, it is hard to believe there are other teams that play hockey in the NHL. To shed a little bit of light on the other 31 teams in the league, here are five non-Kraken NHL storylines that we are keeping an eye on for the 2021-22 NHL season.

2019 NHL Entry Draft class

The 2019 NHL Entry Draft class was loaded with talent and storylines. Some of the players have already been in the NHL for a while, but this is the year we can expect the 2019 draft class to make their presence felt. Jack Hughes (NJD) and Kaapo Kakko (NYR) have been playing in the NHL since they were drafted, but expect them to take a major step forward and showcase why they were drafted first and second overall.

The US National Team Development Program (USNTDP) had one of its biggest drafts in 2019 with eight players selected in the first round. Trevor Zegras (ANA), Cole Caufield (MON), and Spencer Knight (FLA) played limited NHL games last season and are a few of the preseason favorites for the Calder Trophy this season. All three of them are exciting to watch and even if they do not log a lot of minutes, they could show off some of their potential.

In addition to those three, keep an eye out for Alex Turcotte (LAK), Cam York (PHI), and Matthew Boldy (MIN). Those three might not start the season with their respective NHL clubs, but they are on the edge of breaking into the NHL.

There are also two Europeans from that draft class that are expected to be regular contributors to their respective teams this NHL season. There are huge expectations for Moritz Seider (DET) and Vasily Podkolzin (VAN) and both are expected to step in and contribute right away. The two played professional hockey in Europe and should have an easier time adjusting to pro hockey in North America.

We should also keep an eye on Alex Newhook (COL) who could center the third line on a very talented Colorado Avalanche team. He is exciting to watch and is my personal sleeper Calder Trophy candidate.

The Colorado goalie situation

It should be no surprise to Seattle hockey fans that the Colorado Avalanche lost their Vezina finalist goalie, Philipp Grubauer, via free agency to the Kraken this offseason. Enter Darcy Kuemper who was acquired from the Arizona Coyotes this offseason to fill the void left by Grubauer’s departure. Kuemper is a great goalie when healthy but has missed several games due to injury each of the last three years. If he goes down for any significant time, this could be an issue for the Colorado Avalanche who are a near consensus to win the Stanley Cup this year.

Pain for Shane

Shane Wright is the consensus first overall pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, and a couple teams have signaled they are going to tank this season to get a crack at him in the draft. Finishing in last place will not guarantee a team the first pick overall, but it will give them the best odds in the NHL Draft Lottery. Even for teams that don’t win the lottery, Ivan Miroshnichenko or Brad Lambert would not be bad consolation prizes.

The tank strategy seems to be in play in Arizona and Buffalo. Neither team added players of value this offseason and both teams got significantly worse in net. Buffalo is relying on the goalie trio of Craig Anderson, Aaron Dell, and Dustin Tokarski. Meanwhile, Arizona is going with the tandem of Carter Hutton and Karel Vejmelka. These teams are expected to be horrible.

What teams take a step back?

Some of the best teams in the past decade are due for a decline. The core players of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals have been aging for a while without a lot of young reinforcements waiting in the wings.

In Pittsburgh, Sidney Crosby will be missing a few games to start the season, while Evgeni Malkin will miss a multiple months. Even when those guys are healthy, both are on the downward sides of their careers. Malkin and Kris Letang are also on the last year of their contracts and could be moved before the trade deadline to start the rebuild process in Pittsburgh.

The Capitals are facing a similar fate. The top-two goal scorers from last season, Alex Ovechkin and TJ Oshie are 36 and 34 respectively. Both continue to play well but Father Time will eventually catch up with them. They do have two young and promising prospects in Connor McMichael and Hendrix Lapierre, but both need another year or two to make a real impact on the NHL team.

Chicago Blackhawks

As other teams step back, others will step up. The Chicago Blackhawks are primed to be one of those teams.
The Blackhawks have not advanced beyond the first round in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since they won the Stanley Cup in 2015. And apart from the expanded postseason of 2020, they have not qualified for the playoffs since 2017.

Last season they were without Jonathan Toews, and Kirby Dach spent much of the season on injured reserve. Both are starting is year healthy and ready to go. In addition to a healthy Toews and Dach, the Blackhawks will have the most recent Vezina trophy winner, Marc-André Fleury in net and elite defenseman Seth Jones on the blue line. This team might not be a Stanley Cup favorite, but they have loaded up to a point where they should be able to punch a ticket to the playoffs.

Breaking down the national NHL TV schedule

Breaking down the national NHL TV schedule

Earlier this week, the Walt Disney Company and Turner Sports announced their US NHL TV schedules for the upcoming season. Disney will air 103 NHL games across their platforms of ESPN, ESPN+, Hulu, and ABC, while Turner will air 50 games on TNT. In this week’s data dump, we dig into some of the numbers in the schedule.

Increase in televised games

This will be the first year the NHL will have two TV partners with Disney and Turner sharing the duties, which has created the opportunity to have more games televised nationally.

The most interesting component of the national TV schedule is the ESPN+/Hulu piece of the Disney contract. For those that don’t know, ESPN+ is a standalone streaming service that does not require a typical MVPD subscription.

ESPN+/Hulu will air 75 games, the most of all the channels airing national games this season. Turner will carry the most games in the traditional TV space (i.e., cable, satellite, and IPTV).

Seasonality of the national NHL TV schedule

Here is a look at how games are spread throughout the season.

The schedule is predictably light in the first several months because of all the football programming that tends to suck up sports media airtime in the fall. The large drop in February is due to the Olympic break in the NHL schedule.

For those of you that like to build routines in your schedule and might want to dedicate a certain night of the week for watching the nationally televised game, here is how the games are distributed by day of the week.

Looking at it by day of the week is where you can really see the impact football has on the schedule, as there are no Thursday or Sunday NHL games aired until January. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are clearly the most common and consistent night for nationally televised games, and it will be fun to see if Disney and Turner do any unique shoulder programing or intermission shows on those nights.

NHL TV schedule by team

Here is a look at how many nationally televised games each team will get this coming season.

It’s amazing to see the Kraken with 13 nationally televised games this season. The Vegas Golden Knights only had three nationally televised games scheduled in their inaugural season. Canadian teams like Calgary, Ottawa, and Winnipeg have traditionally not had any US nationally televised games, so it is no surprise they do not have any games on the schedule.

What is refreshing to see is Carolina and Florida have eight games each. Both clubs are fun and exciting to watch but traditionally get de-prioritized as small market teams. In 2019-20, the Hurricanes and Panthers had just one game each on the NBC/NBCSN schedule, so it is exciting to see that Disney/Turner are giving these teams the national stage they deserve.

Kraken national TV games

As noted above, the Seattle Kraken will have 13 nationally televised games this upcoming season. Here is a list of those games.

The ESPN+/Hulu games will be a different experience for hockey fans, since they will require an app/login if you are new to that platform. ESPN+ will also get you the out-of-market NHL games that will replace the NHL.tv package.

It should be an exciting time for NHL fans as the partnerships with Turner and Disney could push the game into new levels of exposure and coverage. If you have any questions or thoughts about the TV packages, drop a note in the comments.

Jasper Weatherby, a standout hockey player and purposeful stand-up guy from Oregon

Jasper Weatherby, a standout hockey player and purposeful stand-up guy from Oregon

Jasper Weatherby is an anomaly. The University of North Dakota senior was the only Oregon-born player in NCAA Division I hockey (by comparison, Mississippi and Hawaii also have one apiece) last season, according to College Hockey News. He’s also just one of seven players from Oregon who have been drafted by an NHL team, according to Elite Prospects.

On their own, those distinctions set Weatherby apart from most everyone else. He also boldly uses his platform as a high-performance athlete to draw attention to social justice issues in a manner that’s unusual for most hockey players.

Taken in the fourth round of the 2018 draft by the San Jose Sharks, Weatherby has decided to play out his upcoming senior season at UND instead of turning pro. His decision was made more difficult by the fact the Sharks are a team dear to his heart and nearest geographically to his hometown of Ashland.

“I’d drive down there six hours, my stepdad had season tickets since they were (an expansion) franchise, and I’d go to games. I think that it was an unbelievable opportunity, and at the same time I think that another year in college is only going to benefit me and maybe leaves me entering, hopefully, an NHL roster that much more prepared,” Weatherby, 23, said during a phone interview last month from his father’s home in Bend, Ore.

Completing his college eligibility and not signing with the Sharks could allow him to become a free agent next year, but he said that didn’t really influence his decision because of his attraction to the team and respect for general manager Doug Wilson and others in the organization.

“It was obviously a really tough decision,” Weatherby, a marketing major, said. “I really respect everything San Jose does from their GM to their player development coaches and even some of the younger prospects on the team. They’re great guys, but at the same time I was kind of thinking about my development and trying to get that degree. Just trying to build on my on-ice things that I can do well and trying to improve so when I do hopefully make that jump, I’m the best prepared I can be.”

As one of the top college hockey programs in the country, North Dakota is accustomed to having some of its best players turn pro before completing their NCAA eligibility. Fighting Hawks head coach Brad Berry is excited to have Weatherby back, especially after losing eight seniors and seeing junior defenseman Jacob Bernard-Docker and sophomore forward Shane Pinto leave early to sign with the NHL’s Ottawa Senators.

“To have a player like Jasper come back four years, that says a lot about him,” Berry said by phone last month. “You know, I’m sure there’s probably opportunities for him to sign a pro contract with San Jose, but just talking with him and how mature he is (it’s great for UND) knowing that he wants to continue to round his game out and get better.”

After improving his production each year at North Dakota, including 14 goals and 24 points in 29 games last season, Weatherby is poised to continue his progression in 2021-22. In addition to training and watching his nutrition this offseason, he said he’s making sure to be mentally prepared so he shows up refreshed and feeling good for the start of the hockey season.

“He’s a big-bodied centerman, extremely smart, competitive, can make plays and also finish plays scoring goals,” Berry said of the 6-3 and 212-pound Weatherby. “So you know when you get players in college, when you recruit new players it’s sometimes tough finding big-bodied centermen that have all those attributes that I just described to you, and we’re very blessed and fortunate to have him in our group here for another year.”

Chasing a college hockey dream across a continent

Weatherby’s cross-continent hockey journey began in Ashland, which is better known for Shakespeare than slapshots. Weatherby was born in Portland, grew up in Ashland, and played his minor hockey 13 miles away at The Rrrink in Medford

“In high school I kind of knew I was serious about the game, (so) I was going to have to leave the Rogue Valley in Oregon. There just wasn’t quite enough there to fulfill the dreams of trying to play college hockey and then hopefully pro hockey,” Weatherby said.

At 13 he enrolled in the Canadian International Hockey Academy outside of Ottawa where he played Bantam AAA in 2012-13 and Minor Midget AAA the next season. Weatherby had been in a spring league in Vancouver, B.C., in eighth grade, but immersing himself in the Canadian prep school hockey environment took things to another level. 

“They’re unbelievable. I wouldn’t be here without them,” Weatherby said of the academy instructors at the boarding school in Rockland, Ontario. “It was an eye opening experience for sure.”

Weatherby had seven points in 29 games in his first season, and 18 points in 32 games in 2013-14 at CIH. The big jump in the quality of skills from Medford – “Oh my gosh these kids can really play,” he recalled about his introduction – greatly helped his hockey development.

While many classmates at CIH were eyeing the Ontario Hockey League route, Weatherby was focusing on playing college hockey instead of major junior. He moved to Nebraska where he finished high school and played two years for the Omaha AAA Lancers program in the North American Prospects Hockey League where he scored 23 points in 25 games for the 18U team in 2015-16.

After Omaha, Weatherby returned to the Pacific Northwest in 2016-17 to join the Wenatchee Wild of the British Columbia Hockey League. He said he “didn’t play a ton” in the first season, scoring 12 goals and 32 points in 46 games, but he learned a lot from veteran players and head coach Bliss Littler and his coaching staff.

“I think you can’t really go to Wenatchee without being a good human being,” he said. “They would rather have somebody who’s a good human being and maybe not as good a hockey player. But they want that team environment and everyone’s growing and looking to go and play college.


A painful longest game

Nearly three months after North Dakota lost a five-overtime epic to Minnesota-Duluth in the longest game in NCAA tournament history, the wounds were starting to heal for Fighting Hawks forward Jasper Weatherby.

“I think that as time goes you will look back on that as more of a positive memory. It’s just such a unique game to be a part of,” he said. “It was a lot of fun, and you learn a lot about the guys in that locker room, and you definitely think about it. Just happy and excited to be part of something kind of special like that.”

After falling behind 2-0 in the third period, North Dakota scored twice in 47 seconds with the goalie pulled for an extra attacker to even it up at the end of regulation. The teams had played an NCAA record 142 minutes and 13 seconds when the Bulldogs scored to win the game.

“You just kind of go back into your locker room and just kind of almost collapse in there,” Weatherby said. “They were just bringing us in all the food from the concession stand, and everything, you know, protein bars and anything that could get us calories. 

“It’s pretty crazy. We have an intermission clock in the locker room that’s ticking down and (I’d) be like ‘all right, you know, two more minutes I gotta stand up here.’ I stand up and you’re just like kinda going into the zone and you’re like ‘all right, I’ve got a job to do.’”

That 3-2 loss March 27 in the Fargo Regional final cost the Fighting Hawks a spot in the NCAA Frozen Four and will provide Weatherby and his teammates with motivation to make it further next postseason.

“The big thing is you want to win those last four games of the season, if you were lucky enough to get in the tournament. So for us, my goal is always to win a national championship,” he said. 


Jasper Weatherby
Jasper Weatherby had 14 goals, 10 assists and was a plus-seven as a junior for the University of North Dakota last season. (North Dakota Athletics photos)

“So that was a great experience. My first year we ended up losing in the playoffs the second round. And then the second year I came back and a lot of the guys, better players, had moved on to college, and I just kind of got given some opportunities and tried to put the work in that summer. Luckily they gave me some opportunities.”

In his second year he seized those opportunities, leading the league in scoring (74 points) and tying for the lead in goals (37) en route to winning the Vern Dye Memorial Trophy as the league MVP. Weatherby then led the BCHL playoffs in goals (15), assists (23), and points (38) as the Wild won the Fred Page Cup as league champions.

Weatherby’s successful stint in Wenatchee almost never happened, however. He wasn’t someone who was a top recruit guaranteed to get a roster spot. Weatherby got there with some hard work and good fortune.

“Not a lot of people know this, but I didn’t make a lot of junior teams and I think I must have been cut from like eight junior teams throughout those two years in Omaha and even before Omaha,” Weatherby said. “So Wenatchee was kind of like my last chance to make a good junior team. And I came in, there was I think five guys, and there was one spot. You know, I just played well and got lucky, and they ended up giving me that last spot.”

Oregon was not one of Wenatchee’s territory states from which it could recruit, but fortunately Weatherby’s mother was living in Lummi Island at the time. She had been filing his taxes from Washington state, so he was considered a resident and could compete for the Wild’s one opening for a Washington local (which explains why hockeydb.com lists his birthplace incorrectly as Lummi Island).

“It’s kind of funny how sometimes the stars align in that way,” Weatherby said. “I look back, if I hadn’t been from Washington, I wouldn’t have ever been able to play for Wenatchee because they did not have an opening for another import slot.”

A leader on and off the ice

Weatherby was an assistant captain last season and has a chance to become captain this year. Although the players vote to decide who wears the C and the A’s, Berry said he expects Weatherby to be wearing a letter again this season.

“I think he’s one of those guys that he doesn’t say probably a whole lot, but when he does it resonates in the locker room,” Berry said. “But you know the good leaders are the ones that back it up on the ice, or in the weight room, or in the community. They always do things at the highest level and every day. We call those guys ‘everydayers.’ And he is an everydayer, and guys follow that. And your bar is only going to go as high as your leaders, and he’s been an outstanding leader for us, especially over this last season. We’re really looking for great things for him and his leadership this year.”

Weatherby’s leadership extends beyond the dressing room and the ice rink. He’s one of three National Collegiate Hockey Conference representatives on the College Hockey for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion task force, and he’s a member of the UND Student-Athlete Inclusion and Diversity group.

After George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25, 2020, Weatherby and Bernard-Docker took part in a Black Lives Matter march in Grand Forks, N.D. Before the Fighting Hawks’ 2020-21 season opener, the two players knelt during the playing of the U.S. national anthem to protest racial injustice. 

Believed to be the first Division I hockey players to kneel during the anthem, Weatherby wasn’t afraid of anyone’s criticism or trolling on social media. He said he and Bernard-Docker, who is from Canada, expected the mixed responses they received.

“So we kind of talked that summer, and I said I was going to do it. And he took his time … and decided that this was something he wanted to do,” Weatherby said of his close friend and former roommate of three years. “So we came out with an article beforehand kind of explaining why we’re doing it

“The positive stuff for us really outweighed the negative stuff. We had minority people messaging us on campus saying, ‘Thank you for that; sometimes we feel that North Dakota isn’t the most welcoming place for people like ourselves.’ And for us that’s all we needed to hear. If we can make UND and North Dakota welcoming for one person who doesn’t feel like it’s welcoming then we’ve done our job, and we’ve done the best we can.”

Preceding that season opener was a team meeting where everyone had a chance to share their views while others respectfully listened. By the sounds of it, a good percentage of our society could take a lesson from how the Fighting Hawks players from various parts of Canada and the U.S. learned about each other’s perspectives.

“It was really powerful to hear people’s opinions of what they believe in. And at the end of the day that’s kind of what makes these two countries so great is that people can have different opinions and still fight for the same cause,” Weatherby said. “I wasn’t gonna tell anyone that not kneeling is a bad thing, and I wasn’t gonna, hopefully, wasn’t gonna hear from my teammates that kneeling was a bad thing either. So we came to a mutual respect, and it brought our team a lot closer, which was a great thing.”

Family history of standing up against injustice

Weatherby’s grandmother and step-grandfather’s activism for social justice issues had significant influence on Weatherby and his family. Ann Macrory took part in the Selma to Montgomery, Ala., civil rights march in 1965 and was a civil rights lawyer. Ralph Temple, who was Jewish, moved to the United States from London at 7 because of Nazi advances across Europe, and he went on to become a civil rights lawyer who worked at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the ACLU. (Read the Grand Forks Herald’s coverage to learn about many more examples of Weatherby’s family’s passion for social justice.)

Jasper Weatherby is on the College Hockey for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion task force and UND’s Student-Athlete Inclusion and Diversity group. (North Dakota Athletics photo)

To those who make knee-jerk complaints that socially conscious athletes should be quiet and “stick to sports,” that’s not how Weatherby was brought up. To his critics, his response is, “educate yourself.”

“I’m a human being first, I have beliefs and feelings, and I’m an athlete second,” Weatherby, whose adopted brother is Black, said. “I think that sometimes in this world we like to put athletes on a pedestal and say just because you can shoot a ball through a hoop … that’s the only thing you are. And that’s so not true. I think that when you look at athletes who are able to voice their opinions and really become the people that they want, they’re just going to flourish in life. So I challenge those people and I say that my sport does not define who I am. Being a human being defines who I am and making choices for myself.”

Berry suggests Weatherby also developed his maturity, empathy, and some worldliness from moving around North America, living in different places, and being around different people.

“He’s a very deep thinking person. He’s a guy that is very sensitive, and he has a lot of care for everybody, and a lot of care for his teammates, and a lot of care for the people around him,” Berry said. “You know, he always approaches his day with kind of a deep thought process and that’s great to see.”

Being unafraid of standing out and drawing attention to yourself is quite unusual for hockey players. The culture of the sport has historically forced individuals to conform to certain restrained behaviors as a group. Being outspoken or drawing attention to yourself would be breaking one of those old “codes” that discourage actions that some might consider as individualistic. 

Unfortunately it took awful events such as the killing of George Floyd, the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin, racism directed at former NHLer Akim Aliu, and other incidents to prompt more players to change old habits, but it’s a start.

“I think for a long time it has kind of been a sport that’s been so stoic maybe, and not in a bad way, but hockey players are tough and they’re good people. I think that sometimes that can be misled for staying in line and don’t step out of the boundaries, but I think what we’re realizing now is that it’s good to be unique,” Weatherby said.

Becoming the seventh Oregon-born player to skate in the NHL would be unusual. Courageously standing up against racial injustice, trying to make college hockey more inclusive, and working to improve diversity on UND’s campus are proof that Weatherby isn’t just an anomaly in hockey; he’s someone truly exceptional.

Jim Wilkie is a longtime Northwest journalist, former NHL editor and NHL Insider writer for ESPN.com, onetime GSHL All-Star, and SJHA hockey dad. Follow him on Twitter @jimwilkie.

Seattle Kraken fan’s guide to the NHL calendar

Seattle Kraken fan’s guide to the NHL calendar

The 2020-21 NHL season might have ended last week, but we are headed into two of the busiest weeks on the league’s calendar. We thought it would be a good idea to lay out the key dates and milestones and call out what to look for from a Seattle Kraken fan’s perspective.

Key Dates and milestones from the NHL calendar

Mid-July – There has not been a release day set for the 2021-22 NHL schedule, but we anticipate it will be announced around this time.

What to look for: Rivalry games and road trips. Let’s go!

July 13 – Last day NHL clubs can ask players to waive their no-movement clause (NMC) for the Seattle Expansion Draft.

What to look for: There are a couple teams that would love to have a player waive his NMC. Calgary has already gotten Milan Lucic to waive his, but other teams to watch are the Colorado Avalanche (Erik Johnson), Buffalo Sabres (Jeff Skinner), Florida Panthers (Keith Yandle), and Minnesota Wild (Zach Parise, Ryan Suter). Expect bits of information to leak out about the status of these players and their NMC’s. Colorado and Minnesota are probably the most intriguing from a Seattle perspective because if they do not get these players to waive, someone very talented should be exposed.

July 17 – Rosters freeze at noon PST and Expansion Draft protection lists are due to the league by 2 p.m.

What to look for: News will leak about who is protected and who is not, but the NHL will not publish the official protection lists until the 18th.

July 18 – Expansion protection lists released. The Seattle Kraken can negotiate with any restricted or unrestricted free agents that are unprotected.

What to look for: All the mock drafts and projected protection lists are out the window at this point. It is important to understand that there will be side deals in the Expansion Draft and the Seattle Kraken might not always select the best player available if there has been a pre-arranged side deal with the respective clubs.

July 21 – Seattle Kraken must submit their list of expansion players to the NHL by 10 a.m. PST and the selections will be announced at 5 p.m. PST on ESPN2 that day.

What to look for: Selections will be leaked throughout the day as players are informed of their selection. The mystery will be in the trades and side deals that will happen as part of the Expansion Draft.

July 23 – Round 1 of the NHL Entry Draft begins at 5 p.m.

July 24 – Rounds 2-7 of the NHL Entry Draft

What to look for: Barring any big trades, the Kraken will have at least one pick in the first round, but if the Vegas Expansion Draft was any indicator, they could accumulate a few more first-round picks. Most of the players drafted in the first round will not play in the NHL during the 2021-22 season, but they will be the foundation of the team down the road.

July 26 – The deadline for teams to extend qualifying offers to their restricted free agents.

What to look for: In previous years, this deadline hasn’t been that interesting, but with the salary cap crunch the league is facing right now, teams might be unwilling to extend qualifying offers to players with arbitration rights. If teams extend qualifying offers to players that are eligible for arbitration, players could exercise their rights and potentially force the team to use more cap space on them. Players like Alex Nedeljkovic (Carolina), Andreas Athanasiou (Los Angeles), and Teddy Blueger (Pittsburgh) all fit in this category and could be surprise players to not be extended a qualifying offer. By not receiving a qualifying offer, they will enter unrestricted free agency and could sign with any team.

July 28 – Opening of NHL free agency.

What to look for: The Vegas Golden Knights were not big players in their first year of NHL free agency. We do not expect Seattle to make a big splash in its first year either, but because of the salary cap situation, Seattle could be a great destination for some value players that might not be able to find the dollars they want elsewhere. We anticipate a few players in the second tier of free agents – perhaps guys like Tyson Barrie or Brandon Montour – to be candidates for signing in Seattle.

Early September – No firm date has been communicated, but the Kraken Community Iceplex is expected to open to the public within the first two weeks of September.

What to look for: Learn to Skate, Learn to Play, Adult Hockey, etc.

Middle of September – Seattle Kraken prospect camp begins. No dates or communications have gone out about this, but Ron Francis hinted at a prospect camp right before training camp to minimize the travel and complications of crossing borders during a condensed offseason.

Mid-to-Late September – Seattle Kraken training camp begins.

What to look for: Expect a healthy number of practices that are open to the public. Open practices are an excellent way to connect with the community and with fans that might not have the ability to attend regular-season games.

September 26Preseason begins in Spokane. Seattle Kraken vs Vancouver Canucks.

Mid-October – 2021-22 Seattle Kraken Regular Season begins

What to look for: Everything!

It goes without saying that the next three weeks will be the biggest three weeks of the Seattle Kraken’s brief history. Anticipate a wide range of national coverage that will speculate wildly about future success or failures of the franchise. Read with caution. Most post-Expansion Draft articles from the Vegas draft picked the Golden Knights to finish dead last in the league. The Golden Knights then proceeded to play in the Stanley Cup Final. It would be foolish to expect the same type of success in year one for the Kraken, but we will not have a great idea about how this team will look until mid-November. No matter what, this is when the fun begins, enjoy it.

Get to know a Seattle Kraken rival: Los Angeles Kings by the numbers

Get to know a Seattle Kraken rival: Los Angeles Kings by the numbers

When the NHL puts the Pacific Division back in place for the 2021-2022 season, the Seattle Kraken will see a lot of the once mighty Los Angeles Kings. It seems like just yesterday they won two Stanley Cups in three years – the last win was 2014 – but since then the Kings have missed the playoffs in five of seven seasons.

Their two playoff appearances – in 2016 and 2018 – both ended in first-round knockouts.

The key players, like Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, and Jonathan Quick, from those Cup teams are still on the roster. So, what gives? Why are they bad? Time has played a role as those players are not as effective as they once were, but also, the supporting cast is gone, replaced by younger players.

Seattle should beware, however, because the Kings have cap space and some promising young prospects on the rise. Could an improving Kings team turn a division rivalry into a full-on hate fest? It’s easy not to like Doughty so the chance is definitely there for Seattle to lean into some Kings abhorrence.

Let’s get to know the Kraken division rival Los Angeles Kings

Established:  1967

Nickname history: The name ‘Kings’ came from a fan contest and was liked by original owner Jack Kent Cooke. The team’s original colors were ‘Forum Blue’ and yellow. The colors were changed to black, silver, and white for the 1997 season.

First season in NHL: 1967-1968 (31-33-10 record)

AHL affiliate: Ontario Reign

ECHL affiliate: None

Stanley Cup Final appearances: 1993 (lost to Montreal), 2012 (beat New Jersey), and 2014 (beat New York Rangers)

Presidents’ Trophies: none

Division titles: One (1990-1991)

All-time leading scorer: Marcel Dionne (1,307)

All-time leading goals: Luc Robitaille (557)

All-time leader in assists: Marcel Dionne (757)

2020-2021 record: 21-28-7 (sixth in West Division)

2020-2021 leading scorer: Anze Kopitar (13 goals, 37 assists, 50 points in 56 games)

Cap space: $9.1 million

Highest-paid player: Drew Doughty, D, $11 million through 2026-2027

Players with no-move clauses: Drew Doughty

Top prospect: Quinton Byfield

Potential Expansion Draft exposures: Austin Wagner, Lias Andersson, Olli Maatta, and Jonathan Quick

Chance of becoming heated Kraken rival: Fair

Scary Tavares injury, spectacular NHL Playoffs – Weekly One-Timers

Scary Tavares injury, spectacular NHL Playoffs – Weekly One-Timers

Sometimes, hockey fans just need to express their feelings, especially during the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. I am a hockey fan. I am a long-suffering Minnesota Wild fan. Currently, my feelings are injured. If you happened to watch Game 3 of the Minnesota/Vegas series on Thursday, you understand that being a Wild fan really is a miserable state of being. After Minnesota jumped out to a 2-0 lead and dominated the first period, then appeared to take a three-goal lead, it felt like it was going to be smooth sailing. But wait! There’s an offside challenge! And it’s successful!

Boom. Back to 2-0.

Vegas predictably owned every inch of the ice the rest of the way, and Minnesota lost 5-2 while getting outshot 40-16 in total.

Sometimes I think I’m cursed as a sports fan. Sometimes I think I’m ready to throw 100 percent of my fandom behind the Seattle Kraken. Sometimes I think that me being a fan of the Kraken is actually the worst thing that could happen to that brand-new franchise that frankly does not deserve this brand of constant sports-induced agony. 

Anyway, if you haven’t yet gathered, playoff hockey is here, and it’s been electric, with the highest of highs for some (Avalanche fans, Hurricanes fans, etc.) and the lowest of lows for others (Wild fans, Blues fans, et al). 

Seattle Kraken news

After the big announcement last week that Seattle had signed its first ever player in Blainville-Boisbriand Armada center, Luke Henman, this was a much quieter week on the Kraken front. 

Instead, we had just a couple of very small tidbits. The team unveiled some more details about its plans for youth programming at the new Kraken Training Center, and also announced a Covid vaccination pop-up at the Kraken Team Store at Chandler’s Cove on Tuesday, May 25. Get a shot and get 25% off on Kraken gear! How about that? 

We are also happy to share that Seattle had a pretty good troll job on the Canucks this week, after that franchise continued its downward spiral into the abyss. 

A little of everything in these NHL playoffs

With the first round no deeper than Game 3 in any one individual series, it really does feel like we’ve already seen it all at this point. Goalie duels, back-and-forth affairs, overtime thrillers, you name it, we’ve already seen it. One can only hope that this riveting band of hockey continues as we move forward, and if history is any indicator… It will.

Imagine not being an NHL hockey fan during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

Scary moment in Toronto

The hockey world held its collective breath on Thursday when Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares got hit in the neutral zone in Game 1 against the Montreal Canadiens, then fell awkwardly into Corey Perry’s knee. The video was downright scary, as medical staff rushed onto the ice and supported Tavares’s head while he went in and out of consciousness.

Tavares was eventually carried off on a stretcher and gave a thumbs up.

Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe told media on Thursday night that Tavares was conscious and communicating and his test results were coming back “clear.” 

The Canadiens came away with a surprising 2-1 victory to open the NHL Playoffs, thanks to a spectacular goal by Paul Byron.

IIHF World Championship starts Friday

With the NHL Playoffs in full swing, people tend to forget there’s another world-class tournament that happens around this time, in which the best of the rest all get together to try to prove that they are good at hockey, despite not being able to carry their respective NHL teams. Yes, the IIHF World Championship starts on Friday in Riga, Latvia. 

What’s most interesting about this tournament, though, is that it often gives some top prospects an opportunity to compete against professional players on a big stage. This year is no different as draft-eligible forward Matty Beniers will suit up for Team USA, while his Michigan teammate Owen Power and Winnipeg Jets prospect Cole Perfetti will play for Canada. 

Canucks prospect Michael DiPietro will also be there, sporting one hell of a look. 

Canada gets underway Friday against Latvia at 10:15AM Pacific. Team USA will start against Finland on Saturday at 6:15AM Pacific. Most of the interesting matchups throughout the tournament will be on NHL Network.

Everett Silvertips part with GM 

The Everett Silvertips announced on Thursday that they would not extend the contract of general manager Garry Davidson. 

Here’s SOH’s resident Silvertips expert, Josh Horton, with his thoughts on the matter:

The Silvertips and Davidson have been synonymous with one another, and Everett’s success as an organization is very much thanks to Davidson’s efforts over the years. 

Around the boards

Speaking of hockey executives named Davidson (I just couldn’t resist that segue), the Blue Jackets hired John Davidson as president of hockey operations and alternate governor. Davidson was canned by the Rangers on May 5 in the midst of the Great Tom Wilson Fiasco of 2021. He had previously worked for the CBJ’s in the same role up until 2019, when he left to join the Rangers. Davidson re-kindles his connection with Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen, who also signed an extension with Columbus through the 2024-25 season. 

Team USA legend Meghan Duggan was hired by the New Jersey Devils as a player development manager this week. Duggan, 33, has seven IIHF World Championship gold medals, two Olympic silvers, and one Olympic gold. 

After a cross-up behind the net between Ilya Samsonov and Justin Schultz led the Capitals to a double-overtime loss to the Bruins in Game 3, Alex Ovechkin let (presumably) Samsonov have it. In times like these, it is important to remember that it is never the goalie’s fault.

Bad boys

Nazem Kadri has been offered an in-person hearing from the NHL after nearly taking Justin Faulk’s head off in Colorado’s Game 2 win over the Blues on Wednesday. 

And speaking of the Great Tom Wilson Fiasco of 2021, I was texting with a Colorado fan about the Kadri hit on Thursday. He made a fair point that it’s hard to justify suspending for a split-second, blink-of-an-eye play like this when Wilson nearly smashing two players’ heads through the ice only earned him a $5,000 fine a couple weeks ago. 

But the thing is, the NHL has absolutely set a precedent that it does not want this type of hit happening on its watch. Since the Department of Player Safety was established in 2011, it has been very consistent in always suspending for these Raffi-Torres-Matt-Cooke-lookin’-a$$ hits. 

Kadri will absolutely miss a couple games for this one. 

Darren Brown is the Chief Content Officer at Sound Of Hockey and the host, producer, and editor of the Sound Of Hockey Podcast. He is an inconsistent beer league goalie who believes that five players have to make a mistake before the puck gets to him. Follow him on Twitter @DarrenFunBrown or email darren@soundofhockey.com.