The Seattle Kraken hired a surprising name for their first head coach in franchise history last week: former Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol.
Hakstol made his professional coaching debut with the Flyers after a very successful stint with the University of North Dakota. He was hired by Ron Hextall on May 18, 2015.
Dave Hakstol was an interesting hire at the time but it turned into a disaster before long. His handling of young players was especially suspect, which wasn’t ideal given the Flyers’ up-and-coming prospects at the time. Nevertheless, Hakstol joined the Toronto Maple Leafs as an assistant coach in 2019 and is back as the head honcho behind the bench in Seattle.
Last week, we looked at the Flyers Expansion Draft options. The Seattle Kraken are going to have a few good players available to them from the Flyers roster. Hakstol knows most of those players well and could have an impact on who Seattle selects.
Will Seattle waver from current plans?
The Kraken should be set on taking James van Riemsdyk, who only played for Hakstol for a few months –– including a month-long injury. Hakstol coached 31 games in the 2018-19 season, van Riemsdyk’s first back in Philadelphia. JVR played in 15 of them, scoring three goals and adding four assists for seven points. Two of those goals came on the power play.
The unknown: Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Hakstol only coached Aube-Kubel for nine games, but he didn’t seem impressed. It was Aube-Kubel’s rookie season and he was sent down in the middle of November. In those nine games, Aube-Kubel had zero points and played a total of 50:18 –– 5:35 per game. He played more than six minutes in just two games and less than five minutes in three games.
Aube-Kubel has progressed a bit so maybe we shouldn’t read too much into it, though. I don’t think the Hakstol hiring should affect too much here. Aube-Kubel is a good low-risk option as a bottom-six grinder.
Hakstol’s history with Gostisbehere
Gostisbehere had some of his best and worst seasons with Hakstol behind the bench. Gostisbehere broke onto the scene in both his and Hakstol’s rookie years but took a step back in the 2016-17 season. The team –– and Gostisbehere –– bounced back for a strong 2017-18 season with Hakstol at the helm.
However, it seemed like Gostisbehere and Hakstol may have butted heads at times given the benchings. Gostisbehere wanted to play his game as an offensive defenseman that takes some risks while Hakstol wanted a more responsible style. If anything, hiring Hakstol only decreases the chances of Gostisbehere being selected.
Voracek an option with Hakstol at helm
Jakub Voracek remains an option for the Kraken with Hakstol hired. He had a career-high 85 points (20 goals, 65 assists) in the 2017-18 season and will be one of the best players available to Seattle. However, he’ll also have one of the largest contracts.
If Seattle does take Voracek, I think Hakstol would have pushed a bit for him. JVR should be the choice if they want a top-six winger and Aube-Kubel should be the backup low-risk option.
Hakstol could steer Seattle off the board
What is interesting with Hakstol as Seattle’s head coach is the possibility of the Kraken going off the board a bit. Hakstol was rather fond of Robert Hagg, who could be considered another low-risk option at 26-years-old with a $1.6 million cap hit for just one season.
What we know for sure is that Hakstol brings a lot of inside information about the Flyers and their available players to the Kraken. They will undoubtedly use that to their advantage and make the best selection for them. I still think it’ll be James van Riemsdyk, but we’ll find out in a few weeks.
Photo: Heather Barry Images