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The Calder Cup Finals are underway between Coachella Valley (Seattle Kraken) and Hershey (Washington Capitals).

After the teams split the first two games at Hershey this past weekend, Coachella Valley took Game 3 at home with a 6-2 victory on Tuesday. Coachella Valley is 7-0 at home in the Calder Cup Playoffs and will host Game 4 of the best-of-7 series on Thursday. Hershey is the defending Calder Cup champion after defeating Coachella Valley in a seven-game series last season.

Several key figures with Coachella Valley are having success against Hershey; coach Dan Bylsma is going for his first Calder Cup championship before he departs to become Kraken coach. Seattle named Bylsma coach on May 28, and he will assume that position at the end of this series.

Helping to lead the way for Coachella Valley is forward Shane Wright, who is back in the lineup after missing the entire Western Conference Final against Milwaukee (Nashville Predators) because of an undisclosed injury. Wright returned for Game 1 at Hershey on June 14 and has 14 shots in the three games of the series. Selected by the Kraken with the No. 4 pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, he is playing top-line minutes after veteran Andrew Poturalski was injured in Game 1. Wright had a goal and two assists in Game 3.

This is Wright’s second trip to the Calder Cup Finals after he joined Coachella Valley late last season. During last year’s run, he had nine points (two goals, seven assists) in 24 playoff games. As a full-time pro for the first time this season, he was named to the AHL Top Prospects Team and finished with 47 points (22 goals, 25 assists) in 59 games to tie for seventh among AHL rookies.

He also played eight games with the Kraken and had five points (four goals, one assist); three of those points (two goals, one assist) came during a 3-1 win at the Anaheim Ducks on April 5.

Another rookie forward, Ryan Winterton, had two goals in Game 1. Seattle selected him in the third round (No. 67) of the 2021 NHL Draft, and he ended up playing nine games for the Kraken this season. He has nine points (four goals, five assists) in 15 playoff games after finishing with 35 points (22 goals, 13 assists) in 58 games for Coachella Valley.

Ryker Evans also returned to Coachella Valley for his second playoff run. He is fifth among AHL defensemen with eight points (three goals, five assists) in 15 playoff games. Seattle selected him in the second round (No. 35) of the 2021 draft, and he split this season between the Kraken and Coachella Valley.

Coachella Valley has also received contributions from two veteran forwards who are trying to work their way back to the NHL. John Hayden, 29, had two goals in Game 1, and his nine playoff goals tie him for second in the AHL. He also has four assists for 13 points (fourth in the AHL) in 15 playoff games. Hayden, who had 26 points (15 goals, 11 assists) in 65 regular-season games, signed a one-year contract with the Kraken on July 1, 2023, and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Hayden’s linemate, Devin Shore, 29, has played 443 NHL games and had four points (one goal, three assists) in 21 games with Seattle before being assigned to Coachella Valley. Shore went on to finish with 25 points (seven goals, 18 assists) in 39 regular-season AHL games and has 11 points (five goals, six assists) in 15 playoff games. Seattle signed him to a one-year contract August 31, 2023, and he can also become a free agent July 1.

Chris Driedger is another potential free agent on the Coachella Valley roster. The 30-year-old is 12-3 in 15 playoff games with a 2.46 goals-against average and .917 save percentage.

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Hershey goalie Hunter Shepard continues to make a case for time with the Capitals next season. Named to the AHL First All-Star Team and chosen as the league’s most outstanding goalie, he was 27-4-3 in 34 regular-season games to go with a 1.76 GAA (first in the AHL) and .929 save percentage (also first in the league). He is 11-5 in 17 playoff games and has a 2.46 GAA and .913 save percentage.

At forward, first-round picks Hendrix Lapierre and Ivan Miroshnichenko have shown well for Hershey.

Lapierre, 22, is first in AHL playoff scoring with 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) in 17 games. Washington chose him in the first round (No. 22) of the 2020 NHL Draft. He played 51 games with the Capitals this season and had 22 points (eight goals, 14 assists). Miroshnichenko, 20, was selected in the first round (No. 22) of the 2022 draft by the Capitals; he played 21 games with them and had six points (two goals, four assists). In 17 playoff games for Hershey, he has 12 points (seven goals, five assists) to tie for fifth in AHL scoring.