From the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Seattle Kraken have selected forward Yanni Gourde at the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft.
About Yanni Gourde
Few players in the NHL will ever have the same career trajectory as Yanni Gourde. As an undersized but highly skilled forward, Gourde went undrafted at the NHL Draft, and eventually joined the Victoriaville Tigres of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) in 2009. Over the next few seasons, he honed his game before exploding onto the scene with a 124-point season in 2011-12, where he led the league in scoring and was named the MVP.
After this impressive scoring output, Gourde spent some time playing for the Worcester Sharks of the American Hockey League (AHL) and the San Francisco Bulls of the ECHL, where he put together a few solid if not unremarkable seasons. Eventually, he signed a show-me contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning to play with their AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch.
With this new opportunity, Gourde thrived, going on the lead the Crunch in goal scoring with 29 tallies, along with 57 points in 76 games. He followed that up with two solid seasons where he acted as a scoring leader for the Crunch while receiving the occasional call-up to play with Tampa Bay.
By the 2017-18 season, it was clear that Gourde was ready to take on a full-time role in the NHL. At age 26, he made the starting roster out of training camp, played in all 82 games, and set the Lightning’s rookie scoring record with 25 goals and 64 points.
Now seen as a bona fide starter, the Lightning decided to lock down Gourde during the 2018 regular season with a six-year, $31 million contract. While this was an expensive deal that he sometimes struggled to live up to, he also was one of the most important players for the franchise in recent years.
When Gourde was on the ice for Tampa Bay, he was always noticeable, as he wanted to win more than any other player out there. Alongside Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman, he acted as a driving factor for the Lightning winning back-to-back Stanley Cups.
What Gourde Will Bring to Seattle
It takes more than just big-name superstars to win in the NHL. With Gourde, Seattle instantly added a legitimate top-six forward who can play a smart two-way game while having the skillset to chip in 20-plus goals each season.
It’s also worth noting that due to the Lightning’s incredible depth, Gourde largely played a middle-six defensive role with the franchise, meaning that he was often taking on tough shifts against the opponents’ top forwards. Depending on how the Kraken chose to use him, he could end up on the top line while getting some time on the first power-play unit, meaning that his offensive potential could be given more room to shine.
No matter how you look at it, drafting Gourde was a perfect move by the Kraken. While his contract pays him over $5.16 million a year, the production he brings to the ice each and every night is well worth that. He is that perfect forward who will instantly be beloved by the fan base, as his hard work on the ice and infectious attitude off it makes him a player that fans can’t help but root for.
So, to put it simply, Gourde will be missed by Tampa Bay.
Other Notable Lightning Left Unprotected
- F Alex Killorn
- F Ondrej Palat
- F Tyler Johnson
- F Ross Colton
- F Mathieu Joseph
- F Pat Maroon
- D Cal Foote
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.