Seattle Kraken, John Hayden

Kraken AHL Playoff: Hayden Returns, Firebirds Regroup

Kraken Farm Team

Injured Kraken and Firebirds forward John Hayden officially returned from injury on Tuesday after clearing waivers and could jump into the Coachella Valley line-up for Game-4 of the Calder Cup western conference final on Thursday night against the Milwaukee Admirals. A building conflict provided for an extra day off in Wisconsin following Monday’s 3-1 victory for the Admirals that popped them right back into the series.

The home team has won every game in the match-up thus far. The Firebirds won Game-1 at Acrisure Arena 6-4 last Thursday and followed it up with a 5-3 win on Saturday night.

All three games will be necessary on Milwaukee ice after the Admirals pulled off the Game-3 win. Should the series continue, the Firebirds would host Games 6 and 7.

Kraken top prospect Shane Wright opened the scoring on Monday at 4:08 of the 2nd period with assists to Jeremy McKenna and Cameron Hughes, but the visitors couldn’t hold momentum.

Milwaukee’s Marc Del Gaizo tied the game just three minutes later and Finnish teenage phenom Joakim Kemell scored the eventual game winner at 16:08, his 7th goal of the postseason. The Nashville Predators 1st-round pick in the NHL Draft last summer just turned 19 last month.

Keaton Thompson added insurance for the home team at 5:39 of the 3rd.

Taste of Kraken

Hayden played most of his season in the American Hockey League where he posted 17 goals and 16 assists in 47 games, but he did get a taste of Seattle after New Year’s, spread out over seven games between January and March.

Hayden’s Kraken run was interrupted by injury, suffered when he fell awkwardly on his ankle at the end of a fight with Klim Kostin in a March 18th game against the Edmonton Oilers. The lower body injury required surgery on March 20th when he was placed on injured reserve.

Apparently Hayden is a quick healer; his recovery time went faster than expected, essentially nine weeks instead of twelve.

The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Connecticut native had 240 games of previous NHL experience with four different clubs before joining Seattle as a free agent last July 15th. Hayden’s best offensive year came with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2017-’18 when he had 13 points in 47 games, four of them goals. His heftiest penalty minutes season came with the Buffalo Sabres two seasons ago when he racked up 84 in 55 games.

He’s had 23 fights in his NHL career, five more in the AHL.

In terms of per-game productivity, Hayden blew away his previous shooting percentages in his limited time with the Kraken. He scored two goals in those seven games on just nine shots (22.2%).

Eastern Conference

The match-up in the east between the Hershey Bears and the Rochester Americans is a game ahead of the west with the Bears holding a 3-games-to-1 advantage. That, after losing Game-1 on home ice, 5-1 on May 23rd.

It didn’t take Hershey long to emphatically turn the tables. They have since won by scores of 2-0, 4-2 and 4-2 again.

The series will briefly be two games ahead of the west with Game-5 slated for Wednesday night in Hershey where the home team can wrap things up.

Centerman Aliaksei Protas, from Belarus, has led the way for the Bears, with eleven points in eleven playoff games.

Sam Anas has ten points while Mason Morelli has chipped in nine.

Depending on what happens with the upcoming results of the western conference games between the Kraken and Predators affiliates, it’s very likely the Calder Cup championship series will begin after the start of the Stanley Cup Final that begins Saturday night in Nevada between the Florida Panthers and Vegas Golden Knights.

Rob Simpson

Rob Simpson has covered the NHL in five different decades. He’s authored 4 books on hockey and is a veteran TV and radio play-by-play man and reporter.