Seattle Kraken, Dave Hakstol, Matty Beniers

Kraken’s Hakstol And Beniers Talk Ahead Of Awards

Kraken Coach

As we’d expect, Seattle Kraken Head Coach Dave Hakstol passed along the credit for his Jack Adams Award nomination right from the get-go while speaking to media on Sunday afternoon.

“Lot of pride in what our players did, and the amount of work they did, and just how competitive as a group that they were,” Hakstol said of this past season. “As a staff we take some pride in the reflection of that and in how all-in our guys were. It was a great group to work with and we were able to find some belief and rhythm throughout the year. I think everybody should be able to enjoy that a little bit.”

The Kraken club improved by 40 points over the inaugural season, made the playoffs, and battled its way to within one win of the Western Conference Final.

“Year one was a challenge,” he said. “There were a lot of days when you came to the rink after losses and you just had to refocus, re-energize ourselves and go back to work, and I think at the end of year one, you take a step back for a couple of weeks, and I think it was pretty motivating for all of our players and for sure ourselves as a staff.”

Hakstol brought up the names not often heard by casual Kraken fans.

“I can’t say enough about our staff with (assistants) Paul McFarland, with “Leachy” (Jay Leach), with “Lowz” (Dave Lowry), Tim (Ohashi) and Brady (Morgan), those two, the video guys don’t get a lot of of the spotlight, but they sure are a big part of it. And (goalie coach) Stevie Briere was new with us this year and our goaltending really solidified and stabilized, and was a big part of our success throughout the regular season and playoffs.”

After five seasons as a minor league defenseman in the early 1990’s, Hakstol coached in the United States Hockey League (USHL) junior circuit for four seasons before returning to his alma mater of North Dakota to become an associate coach and then head coach of the Fighting Sioux turned Fighting Hawks.

Those teams twice lost in the national final, and oddly enough, won the NCAA championship the year before Hakstol arrived and the season that followed him. From there he jumped to the Philadelphia Flyers where as head coach he won a majority of his games over three-and-a-half seasons and made the playoffs twice.

After two seasons as an assistant coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Hakstol was hired by the Kraken.

Lindy Ruff of the New Jersey Devils and Jim Montgomery of the Boston Bruins are the other coach-of-the-year finalists.

Kraken Rookie Center

As we’ve pointed out, based on points and responsibilities, Kraken rookie center Matty Beniers is the favorite to win the Calder Trophy. Defenseman Owen Power of the Buffalo Sabres and goalie Stuart Skinner of the Edmonton Oilers are the other two finalists for rookie-of the-year.

It just so happens that Power was Beniers’s teammate at the University of Michigan and the man picked just ahead of him at the 2021 NHL Draft. Power went 1st-overall, Beniers went 2nd.

“It’s pretty cool, if you told me a year ago that this would be the case, I’d probably say ‘pinch me’, so it’s pretty awesome that we’re both here and we’re both up for this award and he had an awesome year, so it’s just fun to be here and experience it,” Beniers said of his college teammate.

The 20-year-old Massachusetts native played for USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program as a teenager, and then two seasons for the Wolverines, during which he was drafted. He had 57 points in 80 games his rookie season with the Kraken.

“There’s a lot of guys (that helped me), I’d start off with my linemates most of the year (Jordan) Eberle and (Jared) McCann, those guys were huge for me, so many different things, on-ice and off-ice. Our captains on our team, Yanni (Gourde) was really helpful, (Adam) Larsson, “Schwartzy” (Jaden Schwartz), those guys you could look to when you needed pretty much anything, or if things aren’t going your way and you need a little advice, those guys were always super helpful for me. Not just those guys, we had such a great room, I probably went to all the older guys at some point.”

“Stats tell a little bit of the story, but in Matty’s case that’s just a real small piece of the story,” his head coach said Sunday. “You can’t make up presence, and Matty’s got presence. He’s got a ton of it. When he walks into a room, it’s not his physical stature, it’s the way he carries himself, it’s his demeanor, it’s his confidence, it’s his work ethic, it’s that whole package.”

The Awards show begins at 5 pm pacific on Monday.

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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.