Just how close is Yanni Gourde, potential face of the Seattle Kraken, to his debut?
Your jaw will drop the first time you go inside the state-of-the-art practice facility for the Seattle Kraken, but that wasn’t the reason many people were stunned and slack-jawed in Northgate this week. No, that would be because forward Yanni Gourde was skating around in baby blue for the first time instead of the red no-contact jersey he had been wearing all training camp.
This development with Gourde, who is coming off helping the Tampa Bay Lightning win back-to-back Stanley Cup championships, lends itself to speculation and optimism that he will make his Kraken debut ahead of schedule. Initially after Seattle made the 29-year-old forward one of its more prized acquisitions in the NHL Expansion Draft, general manager Ron Francis reported that Gourde would miss the first two months of the Kraken’s inaugural season after undergoing shoulder surgery in July.
Hockey is notoriously secretive with releasing information about injuries. This is the sport that simply designates “upper body” or “lower body” injury regardless of the severity. We’re all left to simply speculate until after the season ends when the teams inevitably reveal how hurt their players truly were. With that in mind, there were no definitive answers given by Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol or Gourde himself, who both downplayed the situation during interviews on Monday.
“I need to get reps. When I have a red on guys are super careful, a little too much,” Gourde said. “I need to get a few more bumps in. It doesn’t mean much, just a different color.”
Despite boiling the situation down to a simple case of laundry, Gourde being allowed to take contact is a big indication that he is close to being inserted into the lineup. The Kraken would not take liberties with a projected top six player and arguably the most important forward on the roster.
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“There is a plan in place, and we have executed it every day, but I won’t get into a specific timeline,” Hakstol said about Gourde. “Everything he does is at 110% and that will help him in his return.”
It won’t be a formal announcement whenever Gourde is ready, perhaps simply just another change in jersey to a blue or white one at practice, and then suddenly he will be listed on one of the lines. With the start of the NHL season just days away – Tuesday night in Las Vegas – an opening night debut is unlikely for Gourde, but he is ahead of schedule in his recovery and will certainly shatter the initial expectations of being out until November.
There is one date which seems to fit this adjusted timeline perfectly, and it comes after a five-game road trip where the Seatle Kraken will get a good sense of what they are and where Gourde can fit in: Oct. 23, the home opener at Climate Pledge Arena against the Vancouver Canucks. The unveiling of a new building, new team, and perhaps the new face of the franchise.