Meet the Kraken: Forward Yanni Gourde

In anticipation of the Seattle Kraken‘s inaugural season, we at The Hockey Writers will be doing a deep dive on each player. This installment of the series focuses on versatile forward Yanni Gourde, who the Kraken selected from the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Yanni Gourde

Age: 29
Position: Center/Wing
2020-21 Team: Tampa Bay Lightning
2020-21 Season:  Gourde was a key cog to arguably the best third line in the NHL. He scored 17 goals and 36 points for the Lightning with career-highs of 56 Corsi-for percentage (CF%) and 64.8 shots through percentage (SThr%). He was utilized on both the power play and penalty kill. Playing through injury, Gourde scored six goals and seven points in 23 playoff games to help the Lightning win their second consecutive Stanley Cup. 
Method of Acquisition: Gourde was selected by the Seattle Kraken during the expansion draft.

Gourde’s Pre-Kraken Career

Gourde went undrafted despite some strong years for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s (QMJHL) Victoriaville Tigres. He played three full seasons in Victoriaville, but the highlight was his final season. He scored 37 goals and 124 points in 68 games.

His professional career didn’t start off with the success that his junior career ended with. Following a first-round exit from the QMJHL playoffs, he stepped into the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Worcester Sharks, and scored three points in four games. However, his production dropped during the 2012-13 season and he found himself in the ECHL. 

Tampa Bay Lightning Yanni Gourde
Former Tampa Bay Lightning center Yanni Gourde (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)

He played well in the ECHL, putting up 19 goals and 44 points in 38 games for two teams over parts of two seasons. This is where his career started to kick off. His production with the Sharks improved during the 2013-14 season, before he was moved from the Sharks to the Syracuse Crunch. He finished the season with six goals and 32 points in 43 games.

Gourde played 22 NHL games for the Lightning over the next three seasons, but spent a majority of that time with the Crunch. In all, he scored 65 goals and 149 points in 197 games over that span. He scored 20-plus goals twice, and had 27 points in 22 games during the 2016-17 playoffs. That’s the last time he saw AHL ice.

Once he cracked the Lightning roster full time, Gourde found immediate success. He enjoyed two 20-plus goal seasons and scored a career-high 25 goals, 39 assists and 64 points during the 2017-18 season. The 29-year-old is now a two-time Stanley Cup champion, and provided integral depth for the Lightning’s back-to-back wins. 

Gourde’s Kraken Expectations

Gourde earned his spot with the Lightning, not cracking the NHL roster full-time until he was 25 years old. He was undersized and undrafted, yet left Tampa as a star. He had to pay his dues, which is a big reason that fans are going to love him in Seattle. 

He’ll miss the start of the season due to shoulder surgery. However, his positional flexibility will help head coach Dave Hakstol integrate him back into the lineup when he returns. Gourde will likely be finding a home as a top-six center, and will also see power play and penalty killing time. Ironically, his durability is something to note. He’s only missed two regular season games throughout his four full seasons in the NHL.

Considering Gourde’s rate of production over those seasons, he will be expected to be one of the Kraken’s most stable and productive players. Given that he’ll be missing the first few months of the season, producing 20 goals and 40 points would be a good year for him. He did score 36 points in 56 games this past COVID-19 shortened season, so it looks promising.

If the Kraken want to make any sort of a postseason push, Gourde is going to be one of the key contributors. He’ll have fresh legs, coming into the lineup later into the season, and his style of play will bring energy to the team and the building. 

Was Selecting Gourde a Hit or a Miss?

The Kraken could’ve gone with a younger player, such as Cal Foote or Ross Colton, whose Game 5 goal clinched the 2020–21 Stanley Cup. They could’ve taken other proven veterans in Alex Killorn or Tyler Johnson, a Washington native. However, selecting Gourde was the right call. They have him locked up for the next four seasons on what could prove to be a team-friendly $5,166,667 cap hit, relative to his production and importance to the team.

Gourde will bring more than just veteran experience, as someone who rose from the bottom to succeed at every level. He brings winning experience. That could prove invaluable to a team looking to make a push for the playoffs in their inaugural season.

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