After sharing one in 2021-22, the Seattle Kraken will begin the 2022-23 season with their own American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate. The Kraken shared the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers with the Florida Panthers for their inaugural season, patiently awaiting their own. Geographically, it was a struggle to loan players back and forth to the east coast. While the Checkers provided a place for their prospects to develop, a closer-to-home affiliate was desperately needed.
To solve this problem, the Kraken tabbed the Coachella Valley Firebirds as their new affiliate. They begin their AHL journey in 2022-23, and the player pipeline could be key to the Kraken’s success. The team itself will ice some impressive talent in the upcoming season, and many of those players could find their way onto the NHL roster.
After lighting up the AHL last season, Andrew Poturalski signed a two-year, one-way deal with the Kraken. Recording 101 points in 71 games for the Chicago Wolves, the 28-year-old forward was the AHL’s leading scorer.
The Kraken seemingly believe in Poturalski’s ability to produce, which is confirmed by the signing of a one-way deal. This allows him to be paid the same salary regardless of if he’s playing in the NHL or AHL. With this in mind, the Kraken appear comfortable in believing he will play NHL games in the not-so-distant future. He will begin his season with the Firebirds, but given his waiver eligibility, his call-up could result in a long-term NHL stay.
If Poturalski continues to dominate in the AHL, all it takes is one injury and he could find himself with the Kraken. He brings a great deal of versatility to a team, playing on both the power play and penalty kill. Not only that, but he produces at a high level, as he tallied 12 goals and 41 points on the Chicago Wolves’ power play in 2021-22, which led the team.
Performance aside, he also adds a level of positional flexibility with experience playing center and wing. The Kraken have a wealth of depth down the middle, so his ability to play both positions is quite valuable. Despite his professional success, he has only played in four NHL games in his seven-year professional career. After his strongest season to date, he could see that number climb.
The 2022-23 season will be Ville Petman’s first in North America. After spending the first five years of his young career in Finland, the 22-year-old will begin with Coachella Valley. He needs to learn how to be effective on the smaller ice, but his skill could be utilized to fill injury holes that may open up.
Petman spent last season in Finland’s SM-Liiga playing for SaiPa Lappeenranta. In 59 games, he recorded 15 goals and 39 points to lead the team in scoring. His point total also placed him in the top 20 in league scoring. This was a massive leap from previous years, where he struggled to produce. Until his breakout in the 2021-22 season, his previous career high in points was eight.
Related: Kraken Prospect Report: Ville Petman
Petman requires a fair amount of time in the AHL to prove worthy of a call-up. If he can get up to speed and start producing, the Kraken will have yet another solid depth option. He certainly has the skill set to become a successful player in North America.
If he can get adjusted to the speed and size of the ice, he can use his physicality to his advantage. In Finland, he was a hard worker and would play with an edge to gain puck possession. His aggression isn’t reckless, however, as he works well to position himself off the puck as well. That’s a skill that will translate well to the smaller ice, and could see him succeed as early as this season.
After spending the past five seasons in the Washington Capitals organization, Michal Kempny joins the Kraken. Signing a one-year deal worth $750,000, he will begin his season in the AHL with Coachella Valley.
Kempny’s 2021-22 season was split between the Capitals and their AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears. After being a constant on the Capitals’ blue line for several years, he saw his career derail due to a series of leg injuries. Now, he joins Seattle in hopes to revitalize his NHL journey.
Kempny will look to use the Firebirds as a way to sharpen his game, while also showing the Kraken he’s worthy of a call-up. However, he will have a long road back to a full-time NHL spot, as the left side is a strength of the team. That said, an injury or two could open the door for the veteran, as Seattle will likely opt for a more proven defender when filling a hole, which he most certainly is.
Looking to prove himself in his first professional season, 20-year-old Ryker Evans seems ready to take on the challenge. The young left-handed defender will debut with the Firebirds this season, making his first jump to the pro ranks after four years in the Western Hockey League (WHL). Evans signed his entry-level contract with the Kraken following his final WHL season.
Evans, a smooth skating lefty, could impress after four successful years with the WHL’s Regina Pats. Drafted 35th overall in 2021 by the Kraken, he has a great deal of skill on the back end. His hockey sense was heralded as one of the best in his draft class, leading to an effective transition game. Using his passing and hockey IQ to influence the offensive side of the game, he was an effective contributor at the junior level.
Defensively, Evans is able to place himself in the correct spots to help break up rushes. The skill he possesses will be the reason he could be an impact player with Coachella Valley in 2022-23. Some have doubted his success in recent seasons, as he was playing over the age of 18 in the WHL. That said, if his skills and work ethic translate to the professional level, he will be able to silence those doubts quickly. If he shows well with the Firebirds, expect him to make at least one appearance with the Kraken this season.
Following a strong season with the Checkers, Joey Daccord appears to be the starting goaltender for the Firebirds. With him in the AHL, Seattle enters the season with a goalie tandem of Philipp Grubauer and Martin Jones.
The 2022-23 season will be an important one for Daccord, as he is the true “next man up” as Chris Driedger, who backed up Grubauer last season, won’t see the ice until early 2023. Driedger tore his ACL in the IIHF World Championship gold medal game and was slated to be out for 7-9 months.
With Driedger sidelined, Daccord is now the most direct depth option as an injury replacement. If one of Jones or Grubauer goes down with an injury, he will be thrust into the NHL yet again. In five games for the Kraken, Daccord has struggled, posting a 0-4 record and a .850 save percentage (SV%). Despite his NHL struggles, he has been solid in the AHL. In 34 games with the Checkers last season, he went 19-11-2 with a .925 SV%.
Despite being a brand-new member of the AHL, the Firebirds should be primed to compete in their first season. What this also means, however, is that the Kraken have the cupboards stocked with a lot of talent. A lot of that could even find its way to the NHL this season. Every team suffers injuries, but some teams find real value in those summer depth signings that fly under the radar. The Kraken have done just that, adding both skill and positional versatility to create a deep pipeline of players ready to step up when needed.
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Brian Finlayson is a lifelong hockey fan, and has spent recent years writing for hockey-based websites and blogs. Now, Brian joins THW as a Seattle Kraken contributor and is very excited to help cover the NHL’s newest team.
Brian spends most of his time as a student, working towards a communications & media degree at Canadian Mennonite University. He hopes to combine his loves of sports and storytelling to find a career in sports media.