In this first edition of the Kraken News & Rumors column, I’ll discuss recent developments with a player the Seattle Kraken have their eyes on with the No. 2 overall pick at this year’s draft, as well as updates on some of the team’s top head-coaching candidates and a new restaurant set to open at the team’s practice facility. As a busy summer approaches, the Kraken are gearing up to build the first roster and bench staff in franchise history.
Owen Power Leaning Toward Return to University of Michigan
In an interview with NHL Now on Friday, Owen Power revealed that he would likely prefer to play another year for the Michigan Wolverines before making the jump to the NHL. The 18-year-old defenseman tallied 16 points (three goals, 13 assists) in 26 games during his 2020-21 NCAA freshman campaign. He was also part of Team Canada’s 2021 IIHF Men’s Ice Hockey World Championship team that brought home gold earlier this month, recording three assists in 10 games.
“Right now, I’m probably leaning more towards going back to school,” said Power. “It’s something I’d like to do just trying to get the true experience of playing college hockey. At the end of the day, it obviously depends on what the team wants and what everyone around me thinks is best.”
If the Buffalo Sabres — who are set to select first overall at the upcoming draft — pass on Power, there is a very good chance the Kraken land the highly touted, two-way defensive prospect. There is no reason to be put off by Power’s temptation to play another year at college before jumping to the professional level, as young superstar NHL defensemen Cale Makar (Colorado Avalanche) and Quinn Hughes (Vancouver Canucks) can likely attest after playing their sophomore years prior to making their debuts at the top level.
Some prospects take longer to develop, especially defensemen, and that is O.K. It’s much better to draft a player and continue developing them for a year than rushing them into the NHL when they aren’t ready, which could lower a player’s confidence and overall potential. If the Kraken are fortunate enough to draft Power, another year at the University of Michigan would be the right call in my eyes.
Potential Coaching Candidates Brind’Amour and Gallant Finding Success
Rod Brind’Amour, one of the Kraken’s potential candidates for the head coach position, is a finalist for the Jack Adams Award, given annually to the best coach of the year. Brind’Amour guided the Carolina Hurricanes to a 36-12-8 (80 points) season, good for first in the Discover Central Division and third in the NHL, before getting eliminated in the second round by the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning. Although his postseason run was short, he became the first head coach in Hurricanes history to lead the team to three consecutive playoffs. If he wins the award, he will be the first to do so in franchise history.
Another head coach candidate finding recent success is Gerard Gallant, who led Team Canada to a gold medal win at the World Championship earlier this month. He is back on the hunt for an NHL job after getting fired by the Vegas Golden Knights during the 2019-20 season. The firing was a puzzling one for many hockey fans as Gallant was able to lead the new expansion franchise to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final and 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs in their first two seasons before getting sacked. He was the recipient of the Jack Awards Award for the 2018-19 season and finished his time behind the Golden Knights’ bench with a respectable 118-75-20 record.
Brind’Amour and Gallant would both be fantastic options for the Kraken in their inaugural season. General manager Ron Francis is very familiar with Brind’Amour as the two of them played and worked together in Carolina, while Gallant brings a proven track record that he is capable of leading an expansion franchise to immediate success. We’ll have to keep a close eye on the coaching situation and see if anything else develops in the coming days and weeks. If the Kraken do manage to hire a Jack Adams finalist or recipient this summer, it would surely give the team a huge boost.
32 Bar & Grill Set to Open This Fall at the Kraken Training Center
On Friday, the Kraken announced the name of their new restaurant set to open at the Kraken Training Center this fall; 32 Bar & Grill. The team explained their reasoning for the name choice in a statement released on NHL.com: “It is fitting that we honor the number 32, as 32,000 fans made it possible for us to become the NHL’s 32nd franchise, and the freezing point for ice which our players and community will skate on at the facility is — you guessed it — 32 degrees.”
The statement adds that “the menu will consist of quality, locally sourced food and drink, with some FX McRory’s influence and spirit courtesy of our restaurateur, Mick McHugh. The bar overlooks two of the center’s three rinks, so there isn’t a bad seat in the house — fans can enjoy ice-cold beer while watching the team practice or take in a game from one of 17 TVs.”
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It’s an exciting sight to see the city of Seattle preparing to welcome home their first professional hockey franchise since the 1917 Stanley Cup champion Seattle Metropolitans folded in 1924. The 32 Bar & Grill will offer a place for Kraken culture to develop and fans to unite and cheer together. It will also give a unique opportunity to eat, drink and chat while watching team practices in person.
There will be plenty more news and rumors surrounding the Kraken in the coming weeks as the franchise begins to structure its on-ice product. With the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft taking place next month on July 21, expect the team to announce a head coach fairly soon, whether that be Brind’Amour, Gallant or someone else. A very busy summer lies ahead that will shape the future of the NHL’s 32nd franchise.