Seattle Kraken, Pierre Edouard Bellemare

The Kraken Frenchman Who’s 1 Of A Kind

It’s rare enough to have a French player in the NHL who’s actually from France and not from French-speaking Canada, but the Kraken truly have a one-of-a-kind in Pierre Edouard Bellemare. Still kicking at age-38 in hockey’s top circuit, the left-shot forward from the northeastern suburbs of Paris brings a unique background and energy.

As a much younger man, Bellemare played in the top French league for three seasons, which isn’t saying much on the global scale, before hopping to Sweden for eight years playing between that country’s top two leagues.

In 2014 as a 29-year-old he finally made it to the NHL when he joined the Philadelphia Flyers. A decade and four organizations later, he signed with the Kraken on July 7th.

“I had the experience with Vegas (in their 1st two seasons as an expansion team) right, the fact that it’s fresh, new, and you stamp your culture into the culture of the organization is always something interesting. Also, you saw the progression from year one to year two (in Seattle) and I was like, ‘OK, I want to be a part of that.’ I’m an older player, but I still have a chance to go with a team that can win the Cup and I want to help the team do that.”

Kraken Needs

Bellemare is touted as a good face-off guy and a solid penalty killer. Whatayaknow, two areas the Kraken struggled with last season.

In hockey it’s obviously helpful to start with puck possession. Seattle was abysmal at the dots, winning just 45.3% of their draws, second-worst in the NHL. Bellemare was at 52.3% with the Tampa Bay Lightning last season. Simple math.

Also, the Kraken penalty kill took quite awhile to get going in 2022-’23, improving gradually, but still finishing with a number no one would be proud of, 76.7%, good for 21st best in the league. The happy news: they were much better when it mattered most, 82.9%, fourth best among playoff teams.

Keep in mind, Seattle beat the team with the best PK thru the 1st round, the Colorado Avalanche. Proof of the Kraken’s ongoing effectiveness at even strength, even without winning faceoffs.

The Competition

Pencilled in as a 4th-line center, Bellemare knows there are prospects practically or literally half of his age gunning for his job.

“That’s awesome, you need those young guys to come and be competitive,” he said. “I feel it’s different than ten years ago, I feel now the young guys that are coming, they are more in the manly shape where it used to be they were more in kid shape, Now they’re ready to push and to move and I said I will always keep playing hockey as long as I keep learning stuff, and those guys are the reason I can keep learning because I can’t sit, I have to challenge myself to improve and to be better. I see it as a good thing.”

Prospect Shane Wright, age-19, would be one of those hoping to make Bellemare take a seat.

In the meantime the Frenchman will use his many well established relationships to make the most of his own Kraken opportunity. He’s tight with former Colorado Avalanche teammate Andre Burakovsky and he’s been working out in the off-seasons with defenseman Adam Larsson for a decade-and-a-half. All three of them speak Swedish.

“We’ve always been chirping each other in the summer and now were on the same team, it’s really cool,” Bellemare said. “Those two guys, because they speak Swedish and I lived in Sweden so long, it feels like I’m home, far away from home, so it makes it much, much easier.”

Bellemare has been on the losing side in the Stanley Cup Final twice, with Vegas in 2018 and in 2022 when his Lightning lost to Burakovsky and the Avalanche. His window of opportunity to hoist the chalice is nearing a close, whether he sticks with the Kraken or not.

Bellemare can play left wing or center. His value is clear cut. Whatever his “spot” is, it’s presently his to lose.

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Kraken Friday scrimmage highlights.

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.
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8 months ago

The 2023-24 Seattle penalty kill, taken as a whole, was bad, but the whole only tells half the story. For most of the year, the penalty kill was not just bad but atrocious. The big change seemed to me to occur when a desperate Coach Hakstol defied all convention by trying a high-scoring sniper, Jared McCann, on the penalty kill. On the face of it, it makes no sense whatsoever that such an assignment should work, right? I don’t know enough to say why it worked so spectacularly or even if McCann was personally responsible for the night-and-day turn-around that the penalty kill made upon his assignment, but thereafter the McCannified PK was among the better PKs in the league.

Now, Bellemare is a singularly good penalty killer, so the prospect of seeing him paired with McCann and backed up by Larsson and either Dunn or Oleksiak is pretty danged exciting. That is the kind of PK–at least on paper–that can stand up to the Edmonton, L.A., and Las Vegas power plays. To people who wonder why Ron Francis picked up a guy who may block Shane Wright on the roster, just imagine seeing the frustration on Jack Eichel’s and Connor McDavid’s faces after Pierre-Eduard Bellemare and company ice the puck for the fourth time in a minute-fifteen of play.

Speaking of Shane Wright, it is pretty obvious who Bellemare is talking about when he says that the young guys these days have more manly physiques. Wright hit a growth spurt this year, and it is already apparent that the guy is going to be big–the kind of big that can muscle past opponents along the boards and hold position in front of the crease. Pair that with his already solid defensive skill and his uncanny ability to predict passing lanes, and you have the kind of rare player who can slot into just about any forward spot on the roster. Hakstol will not have to shelter him like coaches usually have to do with rookies. I expect that this year for Wright will be mostly about him learning how to incorporate his adult strength into his already broad skillset. Once he gets that down then watch out.

Now, how do we get Bellemare and Wright both on the ice?