For Firebirds' Hayden, Calder Cup Final Serves as Kraken Tryout

Vince Carbonneau
June 20, 2024  (5:41 PM)

Firebirds player celebrating a win
Photo credit: The Desert Sun

Calder Cup Final: Firebirds' Audition for the Kraken

The Coachella Valley Firebirds have an added incentive in the Calder Cup Final—each game doubles as a direct audition for the Seattle Kraken, overseen by coach Dan Bylsma, who is also the Kraken's next head coach.
"It's an excellent audition," said Troy Bodie, Firebirds Director of Hockey and Business Operations, in a KDGL-FM interview. "This is the start of tryouts for next season. Some of these guys have taken notice."
Bodie's observation extends beyond top Kraken draft picks like center Shane Wright, defenseman Ryker Evans, and winger Ryan Winterton.
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John Hayden, depicted in the photos, exemplifies the less-publicized AHL players still aspiring to reach the NHL. Drafted in the third round by the Blackhawks in 2013, Hayden has played 240 NHL games across stints with Chicago, Arizona, Buffalo, and New Jersey. The 29-year-old center signed a one-year contract with Seattle in 2022 and a two-year deal last summer, playing nine games with the Kraken since then.
Hayden's remaining 112 games over the past two years have been with the Firebirds. Recently, he's been performing exceptionally well, mirroring the triple-digit temperatures in Palm Desert. The Chicago native scored a hat trick in the Game 5 clincher against Milwaukee and followed it with two goals in the Game 1 Final victory over Hershey.
Bodie can relate to Hayden's journey, having played 159 NHL games and made numerous AHL stops in his career.
"John Hayden is really vying for a spot," Bodie said. "He's a big, strong guy, he skates well, and he's found his scoring touch. Dan's very impressed with him. We all are, and it's great to see him contributing."
Another group of Firebirds comprises recent draft picks and free agent signings who joined Coachella Valley after their junior and college seasons ended.
"They're tremendous young players," Bodie noted. "Jagger Firkus, CHL player of the year. David Goyette led the Ontario Hockey League in scoring. We've got some young kids even further down the line.
"We're getting a good look; a lot of them are here. They're practicing, they're training. They're going to try out for coach Dan as well. They're making the most of it and getting great experience just being here, whether they're in the lineup or not."
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For Firebirds' Hayden, Calder Cup Final Serves as Kraken Tryout

Do you think John Hayden will secure a spot with the Seattle Kraken next season?

Yes1157.9 %
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