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Draft Day Wake-Up Call

The Kraken's 2021 second-round draft choice, defenseman Ryker Evans, reprises the day, July 24, last year when his hockey dream of playing in the NHL took a huge stride forward

by Ryker Evans / @RykerEvans41 / nhl.com/kraken

I was both anxious and hopeful about last summer's NHL Draft. In my first draft year, my 18-year-old year, I was passed over. I thought I had a pretty good season, but it didn't work out.

Going into the 2021 draft last summer I was hopeful. We had a shorter season due to the pandemic, but I thought I had another good year [three goals and 25 assists in a shortened 24-game season in 2020-21 with the Western Hockey League Regina Pats].

That morning, last July, I wasn't sure where I was going to go. I was on the ice the night before, so I thought I would sleep in until 9 a.m. when the second round started. I was just waking up, brushing my teeth, when I heard my parents yelling upstairs. My sister and my mom were screaming. I knew something was going on.

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Show of Appreciation

Dan Bylsma is familiar with hockey out West and in the desert. He loves to develop young prospects into NHL players. He's proven his case to be Coachella Valley's first-ever coach

by Bob Condor / @ByBobCondor / nhl.com/kraken

For Kraken fans, there's a lot to like about Dan Bylsma being named the first-ever head coach for the Coachella Valley Firebirds as they embark on their own inaugural season in the American Hockey League as the 32nd franchise.

"We looked at it from an organizational standpoint, it's such a critical part of the process," said Seattle GM Ron Francis in his opening remarks to the media Tuesday about why Bylsma is the right AHL coach at the right time in the Kraken organization's history. "We draft these young men and we ask them to go play in the American Hockey League to develop [into NHL players] ... To have a guy with such pedigree as Dan - he's coached at all levels, AHL, NHL, Olympics, he's won a Stanley Cup, been coach of the year in the NHL - we feel very fortunate to have somebody like Dan to lead that charge."

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Bylsma Named Firebirds Coach

Stanley Cup winner Dan Bylsma guided Pittsburgh to the prized NHL championship in 2009. He joins Coachella Valley as first-ever head coach for Kraken's AHL affiliate

by Bob Condor / @ByBobCondor / nhl.com/kraken

In a milestone move for the brand-new 32nd franchise in the American Hockey League, the Coachella Valley Firebirds named Stanley Cup-winning Dan Bylsma head coach Tuesday. He joins Seattle's AHL affiliate after a season as assistant coach with the Charlotte Checkers, which won the AHL's 2021-22 regular-season Atlantic Division title with a split roster of developing pros from the Kraken and Florida Panthers. 

"We're excited to name Dan Bylsma the first head coach in Coachella Valley Firebirds history," said Seattle Kraken General Manager Ron Francis. "The head coach of our AHL affiliate plays a critical role in developing future Kraken players.  

"Dan worked with our prospects this past season in Charlotte and brings a wealth of NHL and AHL experience to our new AHL club. We look forward to Dan guiding our team." 

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Parade First, Play Next

As Kraken 2021 third-round draft choice Ryan Winterton and OHL Hamilton embark on potential 10 days of winning the elite juniors Memorial Cup, he looks back and ahead

by Bob Condor / @ByBobCondor / nhl.com/kraken

There was a parade in Saint John, NB, Sunday afternoon as part of 2022 Memorial Cup festivities leading up to Monday's opening game between the Ontario Hockey League champion Hamilton Bulldogs and the host-city Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. All four teams, including the QMJHL champion Shawinigan Cataractes and the Western Hockey League winner Edmonton Oil Kings, were feted along the parade root.

"All right, it was good. It was cool to see everyone and the city come together," said Ryan Winterton, the Kraken's 2021 third-round draft choice and one of OHL Hamilton's leading scorers during a high-performance playoff run. "It's going to be an exciting 10 days here ... the hockey should be pretty good."

The "10 days" of Memorial Cup represents a storied tournament that rewards champions of the three leagues comprising the elite junior Canadian Hockey League, plus affords a chance to become national champions at the highest level. The nightly games (7 pm. local and 3 p.m. Pacific) begin with a round-robin tournament with each team playing a game each against other opponents.

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Season to Savor, Be 'Proud Of'

Thunderbirds fall just short of advancing to Memorial Cup for third time since 2016 playoffs. But Seattle players and fans can appreciate a thrilling postseason

by Andy Eide / @AndyEide / nhl.com/kraken

After surviving six elimination games during the Western Hockey League playoffs, the Seattle Thunderbirds' elite juniors season ended Monday after losing 3-2 in Game 6 of the WHL Championship Series to the Edmonton Oil Kings. Monday's win gave the Oil Kings their third league title and denied the Thunderbirds a third trip to the Memorial Cup, which is the major junior hockey championship that begins Monday.

While the loss was disappointing for the Thunderbirds, they can and should hold their heads high for the season just completed. As coach Matt O'Dette said after the game, "There's a lot to be proud of."

Despite dealing with a ton of injuries and players out due to COVID-19 protocols, the Thunderbirds turned in a 44-18-4-2 record, good enough for fourth place in the Western Conference standings. Seattle started to get healthy at the regular season's end, finishing one win behind the conference's top-seeded Everett Silvertips.

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Scoping the NHL Combine

The Kraken hockey operations group spent a recent week in Buffalo getting to know more about 96 draft prospects. A closer look at the fitness tests and in-person interviews

by Bob Condor / @ByBobCondor / nhl.com/kraken

During the last 12 months, the Kraken hockey operations group has put together a list of 300 prospects deemed possible selections for the 2022 NHL Draft July 7 and 8 in Montreal. Ninety-six of those players were in Buffalo in late May and early June for the league's Scouting Combine, providing a chance to test the athletes' fitness, conduct medical exams and connect during in-person interviews. 

It marked the first combine in three seasons. The last two were canceled due to COVID-19 protocols. The Kraken, like all NHL teams, turned to video conferences to get a feel for the personalities of players like top Seattle draft choices such as center Matty Beniers, defenseman Ryker Evans and forward Ryan Winterton (who is still playing meaningful hockey with his team qualifying for the elite juniors Memorial Cup tourney June 20 to 29 by winning the Ontario Hockey League championship Wednesday).

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Winterton, Team Win Twice

Kraken prospect Ryan Winterton plays key role in two weekend wins for OHL Hamilton, moving the Bulldogs within one victory of playing for coveted Memorial Cup

by Bob Condor / @ByBobCondor / nhl.com/kraken

Seattle's third-round draft choice last summer, forward Ryan Winterton, and his Hamilton Bulldogs teammates are one win away from qualifying for the coveted elite juniors Memorial Cup tournament. Hamilton beat Windsor twice over the weekend, going up three games to two, turning around the best-of-seven Ontario Hockey League championship final.

Hamilton will be in Windsor Monday night with eyes on closing out the series in Game 6. If a seventh and deciding game is necessary, it will be back home for Hamilton.

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Rounding Out, Trending Up

With 12 draft picks overall in July, including four second-round choices and three fourth-rounders, let's consider potential 'treasures and truths' about future Kraken NHLers

by Bob Condor / @ByBobCondor / nhl.com/kraken

There is near-consensus among NHL draft experts - and even scientists rarely reach pure consensus - there are five players available this summer who will be future solid pros to star performers once they suit up to play in the world's best professional hockey league.

That puts the Kraken in promising position picking No. 4 overall to collect a treasure of a cornerstone player in the 2022 NHL Draft July 7 and 8. Kraken center Matty Beniers' impressive 10-game NHL debut is Exhibit A.

For the remainder of the first round, picks No. 6 through 32, there are lots of opinions about which players are top 10 or will be surefire NHL players who log 100 games or more in their careers. One or more franchises at the top of the draft order might concede the presumed top five players are all fine choices, but nonetheless pick a prospect not in that quintet, possibly to fill a need but more likely because that team's scouting staff projects sky-high potential for their selected player.  

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Winterton's Form of Overtime

Kraken prospect Ryan Winterton missed 31 games this season with junior elite Hamilton, plus a canceled 2020-21 hockey year. He's making up for it with stellar playoffs

by Bob Condor / @ByBobCondor / nhl.com/kraken

After sitting out nearly half the regular season with the Ontario Hockey League's Hamilton Bulldogs, coupled with a completely canceled 2020-21 schedule, Kraken prospect Ryan Winterton is glad for the opportunity to be playing high-stakes hockey in June.

To date, Winterton has scored six goals and added 11 assists in 15 playoff games that have included winning the OHL Eastern Conference title. He tallied his latest goal Monday to tie Game 3 of the OHL championship final at 2-2 in what turned out to be a 6-3 Hamilton loss to the Windsor Spitfires.

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Kraken Sign Finnish Forward

Center-left wing Ville Petman, 22, progressed markedly over four seasons in Finland's top pro league. Seattle contract is two years at $791,250 average annual value

by Bob Condor / @ByBobCondor / nhl.com/kraken

With the NHL Draft less than a month away and NHL free agency set to begin July 13, the Kraken front office is busy with scouting meetings along with evaluating and signing free-agent prospects no longer eligible for the draft. To that end, Seattle signed forward Ville Petman to a two-year contract Thursday with an average annual value (AAV) of $791,250.

The 22-year-old Finn has been playing in his country's top professional league, Liiga, over the past four seasons while also appearing in more than 70 games on national teams in world championships tournaments. He exhibited significant progress over those four seasons, culminating with a 2021-22 season in which the center and left wing scored 15 goals and 24 assists in 59 games played for SaiPa, the pro team in his hometown of Lappeeranta.

In total, Petman has played 153 Liiga games (54 with Lukko as a 19- and 20-old and 99 since with SaiPa) scoring 18 goals and adding 34 assists competing against men who are five to 15-plus years older.

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