2021-22 Team: San Diego Gulls (AHL, Anaheim Ducks organization)
2021-22 Season: Rafferty had a bit of a down year offensively from his first season in the American Hockey League (AHL). He scored four goals and 24 assists in 65 games with a minus-1 rating and 36 penalty minutes (PIMs). In two playoff games, he didn’t register a point.
Type of Acquisition: Signed on the opening day of free agency, July 13, 2022.
Rafferty’s Pre-Kraken Career
The West Dundee, Illinois, native took his time en route to professional hockey. He played two full North American Hockey League (NAHL) seasons for the Coulee Region Chill after a lone game with the Topeka Roadrunners in 2012-13. He scored two points in that lone game and added on seven goals and 55 points more in 108 games with the Chill from 2013-2015. He then moved on to the United States Hockey League (USHL), scoring 28 points in 60 games.
He took a trip to Hamden, Connecticut, to play college hockey for the Quinnipiac University Bobcats, starting with the 2016-17 season. He led the team in assists as a freshman with 22 and finished with 24 points in 40 games. He spent three years with the Bobcats, playing 116 games and scoring 10 goals and 65 points. Rafferty also could impose some physicality from time to time, despite being just 6-foot-0. He went pro after his junior season, where he matched his collegiate-high of four goals and 24 points and set a new one with 60 PIMs.
Following the 2018-19 collegiate season, he signed and got into two games with the Vancouver Canucks; he didn’t score and was minus-1. He solely played in the AHL for the Utica Comets during the 2019-20 season and had a very strong year offensively. He led defensemen in goals with seven and scoring with 45 points; that point total was fifth on the team, while his 38 assists led the team.
Rafferty played one game for the Canucks in the 2020-21 season and tallied an assist, his first NHL point. Last season with the San Diego Gulls, he scored 24 points in 65 games. THW’s Adam Kierszenblat mentioned Rafferty as a player the Kraken should target this offseason, and it appears they listened.
Rafferty’s Fit With the Kraken
Rafferty brings a versatile option to the Kraken organization, as he will likely be starting out and spending most of his time with their AHL affiliate, the Coachella Valley Firebirds. He can play both the left and the right side and could be a decent secondary power-play option. Due to their prospect pool, it’s likely that his position on the depth chart could slide to give those younger prospects more of an opportunity.
If Rafferty makes it to the big club, it could be as an injury call-up and is aided by his ability to play both sides. He likely wouldn’t escape a bottom-pair or seventh defenseman role, but that doesn’t mean he can’t impress within that role. Players who learn to adapt end up sticking with their clubs. If he can do that, he may be able to find more than just a two-game NHL stint, though he’ll really need to have a strong start with the Firebirds to open up that option due to the players ahead of him.
Was Signing Rafferty a Hit or a Miss?
Rafferty may be coming off a down year, but that doesn’t mean that this was a bad signing. Right-handed defensemen who can move the puck aren’t easy to come by, and while his professional hockey experience is limited, he can be a good addition to the organization. It’s another hit for Kraken general manager Ron Francis.
“Although his 2021-22 season could be seen as a down year, that partially had to do with him not playing for such an extended amount of time. This is a player with a lot of potential who was on the AHL All-Rookie Team just three seasons ago. The Kraken would be wise to add him to the Firebirds roster if he is available this summer as a free agent.”– Adam Kierszenblat
This is especially true, as Rafferty only signed a one-year deal at a very low cap hit. He’ll add depth to the overall roster and can bring some offense to the blue line for the Firebirds in their inaugural year. He’s now one of two right-handers poised to start on defense with them.
Francis has evidently kept us guessing with many of his decisions since the team was born. However, signings like these, low risk and high reward, have been his bread and butter. If worse comes to worst, he could be another chip to trade at the deadline. At best, he contributes in a depth role for the Kraken and helps the Firebirds to the postseason.
Sean Raggio lives for hockey. He will be covering the Seattle Kraken, and is a co-host of “What’s Kraken” for THW. Sean gained experience in writing for television, print and radio while studying journalism at Quinnipiac University and being an active member in the student media organizations there. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out on Twitter! A link can be found at the bottom of his articles, such as this one.