Haydn Fleury is moving on to his third NHL team of 2021, and the Seattle Kraken are hoping that the 25-year-old defenseman can finally figure it out at hockey’s highest level. After being selected in the Expansion Draft, he will now join brother Cale Fleury with the Kraken.
Fleury, who was acquired from Carolina back in April, saw just 12 games of action for the Anaheim Ducks, although he did average more than 20 minutes of ice time. He is seven years removed from being taken seventh overall in the NHL Entry Draft. For the Kraken, this represents the classic flyer on a player whose stock has dropped significantly, but is still young enough to offer considerable promise.
Fleury struggled to crack the Hurricanes’ deep blue line while in Carolina and didn’t show enough in a small sample size with Anaheim to warrant protection, even as the Ducks probably would’ve liked a longer look. Seattle general manager Ron Francis was in the same role with the ‘Canes when they selected the former Red Deer Rebel in 2014.
2014 NHL Entry Draft – First Round, seventh overall pick (Carolina Hurricanes)
Playing in the Western Hockey League (WHL) as a member of the Rebels, Fleury stood out for his adept playmaking from the back end. Heading into his draft year, he recorded eight goals and 38 assists in 70 games while finishing the season at plus-15.
Related: THW’s Expansion Draft Tracker
Fleury returned to the WHL after being drafted for two more productive seasons before reaching the NHL at age 21, where he played 67 games, but managed just eight assists (he wouldn’t get his first career NHL goal until 2019). After parts of four seasons spent bouncing in and out of the lineup in Carolina, he was shipped to Anaheim for Finnish blueliner Jani Hakanpaa and a 2022 sixth-round pick.
In just 12 games with the Ducks, Fleury teased some of his top-10 potential, scoring twice and adding an assist while enjoying a bigger role on the struggling club. Anaheim general manager Bob Murray surely would’ve loved more of an opportunity to see what they had in the Saskatchewan-native, but not at the expense of making one of Josh Manson, Hamphus Lindholm or Cam Fowler available, nor moving away from their 7-3-1 structure.
What Fleury Brings
There’s a reason why Francis was so eager to bring a player he had originally drafted in Carolina back into the fold and Seattle. Fleury is a coach’s dream, willing to stay back, block shots, deliver hits, join the rush and generally do whatever is asked of him. Struggles producing offense have made him rather expendable, but there are worse things to have than a reliable depth defenseman who could still find another level at some point.
Who Seattle Passed On
In selecting Fleury, the Kraken took a pass on a few other notable unprotected Ducks. They include:
- Adam Henrique – Henrique could have been among the Kraken’s top scorers, but the remaining three years and nearly $17.5 million remaining on the 31-year-old’s contract likely scared Seattle away.
- Anthony Stolarz – John Gibson’s backup hasn’t proven himself over a full NHL season, but could have offered inexpensive insurance in net
- Kevin Shattenkirk – The former Stanley Cup champion is signed for two more years at a reasonable $3.8 million cap hit, but is 32 and has shown signs of regression.
- Alexander Volkov – The 23-year-old has looked promising in short bursts and could be poised to challenge for a top-six role this season.
I may be a Leafs fan at heart (I’ve witnessed their highs and lows first-hand as a Scotiabank Arena employee), but I’m also a veteran freelance sportswriter who loves a good story. And there’s been no better story in hockey over the past few years than the Vegas Golden Knights. I’m excited to be covering the NHL again on the Golden Knights’ beat.