Four years after it was announced that Seattle would get a National Hockey League team, one year of being branded as the Seattle Kraken, 3 months after the expansion draft: Seattle hockey fans didn’t have to wait anymore. The first official game of the Seattle Kraken’s maiden season against the last NHL expansion team: the Vegas Golden Knights.
Concerns were high as many of the high-profiled Kraken players were on the COVID protocol list however most of them managed to be in the game including the player who took the first face-off.
The first of firsts for the Kraken was the very beginning of the game at T-Mobile arena on Tuesday (Oct 12). Jared McCann took the first ever face-off. McCann played for Pittsburgh last year and was an obvious choice for the Kraken to take in the expansion draft with 32 points in 43 games. However, knowing this, the Penguins flipped the forward to the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Kraken took McCann from them. He’ll pop up later in this historic game again.
The first shot was taken by Mark Giordano 18 seconds into the first period. Giordano was another prime candidate to be taken in the expansion draft when protected lists were released. Giordano had been a long time player of the Calgary Flames. He played with the Flames since 2004 and became team captain in 2013.
Giordano won the Mark Messier award in 2020 which is given to a recognizable leader on and off the ice. Giordano also won the James Norris award as best defenseman in the league in 2019. With a resume like that, Giordano was taken from the only team he had ever known. Flames fans were sad but probably became even more sad when Giordano was named captain of the Kraken and scored his first (unofficial) goal with the team in a preseason game against the Flames.
The Kraken’s first game and the whole momentum behind this new team was shortly cut off. 3 minutes and 10 seconds into the first period, the Knights scored to make the score 1-0. Welcome to the NHL. 6 minutes and 36 seconds into the period and the Knights score another goal making it 2-0 to end the 1st period. The Kraken would go down 3-0 at 6:43 in the second period. Not a great way to start an inaugural game or season.
11 minutes and 32 second into the second period and history was made. Joonas Donskoi was selected in the expansion draft from the Colorado Avalanche. He had been a solid point producer for the past 3 seasons with the Avalanche and Sharks. Donskoi makes a pass to Vince Dunn. Dunn was another selection in the expansion draft from the St Louis Blues. Dunn is a Stanley Cup champion, winning it with the Blues in 2019. Dunn shoots the puck on net and Vegas goalie Robin Lehner makes the save. The puck rebounds in front of the net where an unlikely player would be.
That is where Ryan Donato stands. Ryan Donato unlike most of the Kraken’s players didn’t come from the expansion draft. Donato has bounced around the league for a little bit. He was drafted by Boston, traded to Minnesota where he played for 2 seasons, and then traded once again this time to San Jose where he played last season. Donato went to free agency after the Sharks didn’t offer him a contract and didn’t actually get signed until August where the Kraken signed him to a 1 year, league minimum contract. Donato gets the puck and backhands it into the net. First goal for the Seattle Kraken in franchise history. Ryan Donato becomes a trivia question answer. Not bad for a player who has been across the league the past couple of years.
Shortly after Ryan Donato’s goal, Jared McCann scores the Kraken’s second goal. He is assisted by Jordan Eberle who was selected in the expansion draft by the Islanders and Jaden Schwartz who was signed in free agency by the Kraken. Schwartz is another Stanley Cup champion winning with the Blues in 2019. McCann’s goal makes the score 3-2. A comeback in their first game? Kraken fans hoped so. The Kraken fans who had waited so long to see their team hit the ice and so long for their city to even get a team got their wish.
The 3rd period brought the 3rd Kraken goal. 7 minutes and 58 seconds into the game and Morgan Geekie: selected in the expansion draft from the Carolina Hurricanes, shoots a wicked shot to beat Robin Lehner. He is assisted by Jeremy Lauzon: the expansion draft pick from the Boston Bruins. The game is tied 3-3. The score was 3-0 at one point of time, now it’s 3-3.
Unfortunately, the Kraken wouldn’t get their Cinderella story that night. Soon after Geekie’s goal, Chandler Stephenson would score to make the score 4-3 Vegas and although the Kraken would get some good shots on goal, that would remain the final score.
“We did a lot of good things, being down 3-0 in this building and being able to push back to get it back to even. It says a lot about this group in terms of sticking together and making plays but it’s disappointing not to come away with 2 points,” said head coach Dave Hakstol.
“I think we gave them too many grade A opportunities right away and it came to bite us so we need to correct some things and obviously we’ll learn from that,” Ryan Donato told the media after the game.
The Kraken would win their next game against the Nashville Predators which became the first win in franchise history. Meanwhile, although their debut in the NHL ended on a low, it was worth it all the same to Kraken fans everywhere. The sold out crowd on October 11th in T-Mobile arena, although consisting of a lot of Knights fans, had Kraken jerseys dispersed in the crowd as well. A dream 4 years long that came true.