With the “Year of the Kraken” nearly upon us, it’s time to take a gander at the five players, to date, with the most successful playing careers born near the city of Seattle.
- Tom Bissett – the only player in NHL history to be born in the city of Seattle and drafted to the National Hockey League. Drafted in the 11th-round of the 1986 NHL Entry Draft, Bissett would play a total of five games for the Detroit Red Wings.
- Dylan Gambrell – there’s not a large enough sample size. Drafted 60th overall by the San Jose Sharks in the 2016 Entry Draft, the centerman has just now become a regular in the lineup. If his path continues, he could find himself on this list in no time.
- Kailer Yamamoto – like Gambrell, it’s still too early to tell. Born in Spokane, Washington, Yamamoto learned to skate from the mother of our second-ranked player on this list. A few years later, the Edmonton Oilers drafted him 22nd overall at the 2017 Entry Draft. In 53 games played, Yamamoto has tallied 31 points in total. The future is bright for the talented winger.
With the honorable mentions out of the way, here are the top five most successful players born in the state of Washington:
5. David Wilkie
Hailing from the city of Ellensburg, WA, David Wilkie began his amateur hockey career in 1990 playing for the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds. He would play an additional four seasons in the Western Hockey League before the Montreal Canadiens drafted him 20th overall. He would go on to skate in the NHL from 1994 to 2001.
In his first five seasons, Wilkie split his time between the Canadiens and the Tampa Bay Lightning. From there, he would play a single game for the New York Rangers in the 2000-01 season. A right-handed defenseman, he tallied 10 goals and 26 assists. He paired those 36 points with a grizzly plus/minus of -62 and 165 penalty minutes in 167 total games played.
A protegé of the great Scotty Bowman, Wilkie now coaches AAA hockey and aims to spread hockey in a non-traditional market.
4. Patrick Dwyer
The first of three Spokanians…Spokaners? Spokanese? Anyway, Patrick Dwyer is the first of three born in the city of Spokane, Washington.
Drafted by the now-defunct Atlanta Thrashers in 2002, Dwyer played the entirety of his NHL career with a then divisional rival, the Carolina Hurricanes. In 416 games played, he scored 42 goals and assisted on an additional 51 for 91 points.
Not known for their drafting, or their hockey, the Thrashers only drafted fifteen players in their twelve-year cup of coffee who would go on to play more than 400 games. Dwyer is one of those fifteen but is the only one to not play a single game for the Thrashers.
3. Derek Ryan
Would you look at that mustache? That’s one gorgeous lip-mitten.
Born and raised in Spokane, Derek Ryan is an anomaly in the league today. After playing years overseas, he signed a two-way deal with the Hurricanes in 2015 and played his NHL rookie season at the young age of 29.
Ryan has since played a total of 302 games and has balanced that out with 51 goals and 85 assists for 135 points. That’s not bad for a guy who started his junior career with the Spokane Braves, followed by playing major-junior in the WHL for the Spokane Chiefs, and then wouldn’t play in the United States for nearly a decade.
Still in the league, playing for the Calgary Flames, Ryan will be a free agent after this season. With Calgary being only an eleven-hour drive, the 33-year-old could be an easy acquisition for the Seattle Kraken.
2. Tyler Johnson
Our third Spokane-native, Tyler Johnson, was the 11th overall pick in the 2005 WHL Draft, which was made by his hometown team, the Spokane Chiefs. With the Chiefs, Johnson potted 282 points in 266 games but was overlooked by scouts due to his size.
The 5-foot-8 Johnson went undrafted, but the talented skater was offered an opportunity and an entry-level contract in 2011 by the Lightning. Nine seasons and 116 playoff games later, Johnson has established himself as a fan favorite and playoff performer.
Still only 31 years of age, Johnson has had a productive and lucrative career with 161 goals and 202 assists for a total of 363 points in 594 regular-season games.
1. T.J. Oshie
One of only four players born in Washington to be a first-round draft pick at the NHL Entry Draft, T.J. Oshie is far and away the best player to come out of the state. Hailing from the city of Everett, the soon-to-be 34-year-old has accrued 238 goals, 329 assists for a total of 567 points in 803 games played. Combine that with 57 playoff points in 91 playoff appearances, and Oshie has had one heck of a career.
A Stanley Cup champion and an Olympic icon, Oshie could be leaving one Washington for another. Since the league’s approval of the expansion, his name has been linked to the Kraken and can almost be considered a lock.
Seattle will be looking for the face of the franchise, and Oshie, the most successful player from the state of Washington, could be that face. His work ethic on and off the ice would be admired and appreciated in Seattle, inspiring a whole new generation of Washington-born skaters.
So there you have it? Do you agree with the list? Comment your thoughts below and comment where you think Yamamoto will finish when his career is all said and done.
Daniel Blanda, a Journalist, Playwright, and Screenwriter based in Boston, MA covers the Seattle Kraken for The Hockey Writers. He has previously contributed work to “Snipetown: The Voice of Hockey” magazine and the “Hockey Addict’s Guide New York City.” He was a youth hockey coach and a professional skate sharpener for Westside Skate & Stick while living in Queens. Daniel also writes for BlueLineStation.com covering the New York Rangers.