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Kraken Prospects Show 'Ugly' Grit in AHL Final (And That's a Good Thing)


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Vince Carbonneau
June 19, 2024  (6:32 PM)
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Coachella Valley players celebrating in the Calder Cup
Photo credit: The Desert Sun

Excitement Builds for Kraken Fans as Prospects Shine in AHL Final

Although the Seattle Kraken's season ended two months ago, fans have plenty to look forward to. The arrival of a new head coach and the development of future stars are keeping the excitement alive, particularly visible in the ongoing Calder Cup Finals.
The Coachella Valley Firebirds, the Kraken's American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, are vying for their first championship title against the Hershey Bears. This series is particularly noteworthy for several reasons.
First, the Firebirds' roster is packed with Kraken prospects, including Ryker Evans, Shane Wright, Logan Morrison, and Ryan Winterton—players who made appearances in Kraken jerseys toward the end of the season. This high-stakes championship experience is incredibly valuable for their development.
"It's tough being a little patient. We draft them, then we have to wait almost two years before we get to see them at the American League level and starting to play there," Kraken General Manager Ron Francis said. "But I think our development staff has done a real good job working with our prospects, getting them to this point. While they're there, we get to see some of those players play some games up here, as you mentioned, you know, Evans and Wright and Winter, Morrison, but it's really exciting.
"These kids are, you know, we forget, they're 19 turning 20 or 20 and turning 21. And yet, here they are in a really good league. I mean, this is our equivalent to the Triple A. It's a real good league. And they found a way to get to the finals and challenge and hopefully win the cup. So just a great experience for them, currently, but it also bodes well for them moving forward."
Another significant aspect is that the Firebirds are led by Dan Bylsma, the newly appointed head coach of the Kraken.
"He certainly got his hands full, all right," Francis said of Bylsma staying with the Firebirds through this championship run. "He was adamant. We hired him and he wanted to make sure he got to finish the job down there and win a Calder, so he's focused on doing that. There's also other things that go with it. You're trying to interview for people on your staff, you're trying to reach out to staff members we have. So there's a lot of things that are in play.
"I think once this series is done, you'll have a little bit more time to have communication with our players and sort of get really settled in here in Seattle and with our organization, but for the time being, we're enjoying watching them compete for the Calder Cup again and hoping that he has a different outcome and that they can bring the Calder Cup to Coachella Valley in a few weeks."
Bylsma has demonstrated his coaching prowess by leading two very different teams to the Calder Cup Finals. Last year, he guided a veteran-laden team to the finals, where the Firebirds narrowly lost in Game 7. This year, he's taken a young squad full of Kraken prospects to the brink of victory.
"He's done a really good job in developing our young talent down there," Francis said. "But at the same time, he's done a really good job building relationships and getting the most out of our experienced guys, our veteran players. So we think those are all traits that will bode well as he moves up here to coach the Kraken. It's pretty exciting for the team to get back to where they are with a turned-over roster.
"As I mentioned, a lot of lot of our young players are playing and playing important roles as we get into this final series, so it bodes well for the future of our franchise up top."
Watching the Firebirds compete isn't just about cheering for a championship—it's about glimpsing the future of the Kraken. While it doesn't mean the Kraken will immediately contend for the Stanley Cup, it showcases the potential of these young players and the effectiveness of a coaching style that can adapt to different rosters.
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Kraken Prospects Show 'Ugly' Grit in AHL Final (And That's a Good Thing)

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