Nathan Bastian has been in the Kraken’s starting lineup one time. It was the fourth game of the season, when the Kraken were in New Jersey to face the Devils.

Bastian was Seattle’s expansion draft pick from New Jersey. He said he had that game circled on his calendar from the moment the schedule was released.

That’s no surprise. After all, the Devils decided he was expendable enough to leave unprotected in the draft.

“I would think so, that guys are motivated,” Bastian said when asked if facing a former team has extra meaning. “Unless I was the only one. I thought about it for a while. It was kind of nice to get it out of the way early. … As soon as the schedule came out, the first game I looked for was the first game back (in New Jersey). That was a bit of motivation.”

For Kraken coach Dave Hakstol to give Bastian that start, there had to be an awareness of what those matchups — commonly called revenge games in the NHL — mean to players. Hakstol also started Alex Wennberg in his return to Columbus in front of fans for the first time.

Because the Kraken’s roster is full of players who were picked from other NHL teams, this will be a revenge-game season.


Defenseman Haydn Fleury says players “absolutely” think about revenge games. He didn’t play in his first opportunity to face a former team, Anaheim, which left him unprotected in the expansion draft. But the Hurricanes traded him to the Ducks at last season’s trade deadline, so he has another shot Wednesday night when the Kraken face Carolina at Climate Pledge Arena.

“You absolutely think about it,” he said. “That’s all I’ll say about that.”

Forward Morgan Geekie is in the same boat. He was selected by the Kraken from Carolina.

“Everyone comes from one team or another, so it’s fun when you get to play your old team and see all your friends; you see guys whether the relationship was good or bad,” he said. “I think it’s good; you want to put your best foot forward and show them what they’re missing out on.”

The revenge narrative could become a rallying point for the Kraken — extra motivation that could fuel them.

“Maybe we should start,” forward Jared McCann said. “Yeah, we should start that. That’s what you want. You should kind of look at it that way, that should light a fire under your butt and give you an extra bit of energy.”


McCann was selected from Toronto, which had acquired him from Pittsburgh a day before the draft to protect other players. The Kraken are the fourth NHL team for McCann, 25, and he has experienced the revenge narrative before.

He already played the team that traded him at 19 — the Canucks. He’ll see his former Panthers squad Saturday and another, the Penguins, in December. He doesn’t feel the need for vengeance, though; instead he’s looking for extra motivation for the entire team.

“Every once in a while some guys do need that,” he said. “That extra kick in the butt. … I’ve been on a couple teams now, so I don’t really have that need to feel like every night I have that fire (against former teams). … But maybe we should look at it like, the teams that didn’t want you. Maybe that will light a fire.”

Ryan Donato, also 25, is on his fourth NHL team as well. His hometown Bruins traded him to Minnesota in his second season, then he was sent to San Jose and wasn’t re-signed before joining the Kraken.

He had two early revenge games with Minnesota, and he has seven points in 12 games against the Wild. Ahead of Friday’s game against the Avalanche, he was keenly aware of his teammates’ revenge games.

“I always joke about it, but I do think I personally feel that way,” he said. “I’m sure individually when a guy plays against their team they feel it. They might not voice it, but they definitely have that passion. I was giving (Joonas Donskoi) a hard time about it (Friday), saying, ‘Hey, revenge tour, let’s go, let’s get ready,’ and he got a chuckle out of it.”


Donskoi watched his former team crush the Kraken 7-3. Going in, he took a more friendly approach.

“I’m motivated for sure,” he said before that game. “It was a couple of years and a lot of great memories, there’s a lot of good guys there, and hopefully we’re friends for life. It’s always exciting to play a former team.”

Goalie Philipp Grubauer didn’t start against the Avalanche, the team he left to sign with the Kraken. Unlike Donskoi, he had a choice to leave.

Hakstol said it’s something they do consider.

“That’s always a piece we look at,” he said of revenge games. “But ultimately, you make the decision based off what is right for the team in terms of schedule, performance, everything else comes into play.”

The Kraken didn’t have great luck with early revenge games. Calle Jarnkrok missed returning to Nashville. Colin Blackwell didn’t get to see the Rangers. Carson Soucy didn’t play in the first game against the Wild.

Not everyone resonates with the revenge narrative. Vince Dunn, the Kraken’s selection from St. Louis, said he hasn’t felt much excitement or motivation to see his former team.


“I don’t really look forward to those games,” Dunn said. “I think I focus more on just whatever game is ahead and one thing at a time. It’s a long season.”

For players who don’t have pent-up angst to face their former teams, there’s still the potential for teammates to find extra motivation for them.

“Everyone’s trying to help the guy out and just come together a little extra for whoever the guy is, just to help him put his best foot forward,” Geekie said. “Everyone knows about it, for sure. There’s a little bit of ribbing that goes on, but it’s super fun.”