When Nathan Bastian was looking at players available to the Kraken during the NHL expansion draft, he wasn’t sure he stood out as an option.
Now as a Kraken player in its first training camp, he’s trying to prove himself to a team a second time — this time to crack the bottom six and get consistent ice time.
“I’m pretty early in my NHL career,” he said. “I’ve been a pro and kind of grinding. I think I did well in New Jersey last year, but as soon as I got picked, and a schedule came out the first game I looked for was the game back there.”
Bastian is one of several young forwards vying for a couple of spots in the bottom two lines. In 41 games with the Devils last season, the 23-year-old tallied 10 points. That came after a 38-point season in the AHL, and a history of being a midrange scorer in juniors.
He’s similar to a lot of other early-career players gunning for the same spots. Morgan Geekie, also 23, was equally surprised to be in this position but is using the intensity of a short training camp to make the most of it.
“I think it’s something everyone was thinking about,” Geekie said of getting selected. “I was definitely caught off guard, but it’s a good change and a good opportunity.”
Geekie was drafted by the Hurricanes in the third round in 2017, when Kraken general manager Ron Francis was in the same role in Carolina. In parts of two NHL seasons, Geekie has shown flashes. He scored his first three goals on his first three shots with the Hurricanes.
It wasn’t enough to break into consistent playing time, but his experience at center might give him an advantage in camp battles.
“I’m just trying to play my game,” he said. “Everyone who got selected here, they saw something in, so I’m trying to bring my game here and do the best I can.”
Bastian brings a 6-foot-4 frame and physical edge some others might not have. Alexander True, a pick from the Sharks, has size as well, but Bastian is a bit of an analytics darling for someone with so few games.
Of forwards with at least 400 minutes last season, Bastian was 171st in the league with a 49.93 Corsi for percentage. That’s not a mind-bending number, but it’s a solid sign.
“There are a lot of forwards, some similar, some not so similar,” Bastian said. “But everybody here is in the same boat. There’s some more established players, and as you move down the lineup there’s more competition. I believe in myself and the way I play in a role and the value I can bring the team.”
Geekie was a standout Friday, with a few solid shots and a play in which he collided with goalie Philipp Grubauer in a battle drill. All were OK. And Geekie said after he checked with Grubauer, all was well.
The play speaks to the intensity of the early practices of a short camp.
“Everyone’s trying to come out here and show the coaches what they can do,” he said. “I think sometimes that’s going to happen, so yeah, just going out there and leaving it all out there.”
Friday’s lines were for the most part the same as Thursday, and a good indication of what Saturday’s scrimmage will look like.
The only change in the second session was Kole Lind skating with Luke Henman and Brent Gates.
Jared McCann centered Jaden Schwartz and Jordan Eberle for a second day, so with the short turnaround they’ll likely stay together for Sunday’s preseason game in Spokane.
The all-Swedish line of Alex Wennberg with Marcus Johansson and Calle Jarnkrok made another appearance as well, which coach Dave Hakstol said developed due to off-ice chemistry.
“Those three guys for sure seem to have that chemistry,” he said. “Away from the surface of the rink, and we’re seeing some of the chemistry coming through with the different skill packages that they have. They really do fit together. … I said yesterday I want to try to give most of the combinations that we’re starting with an opportunity.”
Gourde skates again
Yanni Gourde skated in the noncontact red jersey for the second day in a row, and Colin Blackwell remained off the ice.
Hakstol said a “good number” of veterans would play in Sunday’s game in Spokane, so aside from those two, expect to see most of the expected-NHL roster to get a look in the first preseason game.
Hakstol also noted that they had yet to have a discussion for who would, if anyone, serve as team captain this season.