Of all the people aspiring hockey player and future Kraken defenseman Haydn Fleury could have emulated growing up, the only one that really got his attention was his babysitter.

That’s not too surprising, considering the guy putting him down for naps was future Dallas Stars captain Brenden Morrow, who had regularly looked after Fleury at age 3 in their small town of Carlyle, Saskatchewan. Carlyle’s population barely tops 1,500 residents, and its only two NHL players before Fleury and his younger brother, Cale, had been babysitter Morrow and journeyman Jim McKenzie.

“I don’t want to say he changed my diapers — he probably didn’t — but it was at that age, I was pretty young,” said Fleury, 25, whose cousin dated Morrow for several years. “I do remember him, but later. When I was 6 or 7, he was in the NHL and playing for the Stars, and I’d watch him on TV. I thought that was pretty cool.”

Fleury wanted to wear the same number as Morrow, who is 17 years his senior, and follow the same hockey development path as the winger, who retired after 15 NHL seasons in 2015.

He knew Morrow had left their town to play for Portland in the Western Hockey League before being drafted 25th overall by Dallas in 1997. Fleury, likewise, played for Alberta-based Red Deer in the WHL, then was also drafted in the first round, seventh overall, by general manager Ron Francis and the Carolina Hurricanes.

Along the way, Fleury as a teenager began playing in some big international tournaments, including for a Canada West select squad at the 2013 World Under-17 Challenge. Morrow had played in the same tournament 17 years earlier and wished Fleury luck via Twitter.


 “Time flies … enjoy it,” he tweeted.

Fleury, then only 16, was thrilled to be messaged by an active NHL player. But he was even more excited during his rookie Hurricanes season in 2017 when playing in Dallas on a night the Stars honored the retired Morrow.

There was a ceremonial puck drop pregame featuring both men.

“He said the only way he’d do the puck drop was if I’d go to do it for Carolina instead of our captain,” Fleury said. “So it was pretty cool, him seeing me out there. I got to take the faceoff. It was a pretty cool moment.”

Fleury has since logged 179 games over parts of five NHL seasons, and he feels this one could be a career turning point. Somewhat overshadowed in Carolina, he was dealt to Anaheim at last season’s trade deadline before being selected in the expansion draft by former Carolina boss Francis, now the Kraken’s GM.

“I think it’s a huge opportunity for me,” Fleury said. “I think everybody comes here as kind of an outcast group — this team didn’t want me, but this (Kraken) team did. It’s a clean slate for everybody. 

“For me, it kind of started last year getting traded to Anaheim. That was the best thing that could have happened to me at the time. I had a really strong end to the season, and ultimately that led to me coming here.’’   

The 6-foot-3, 208-pound Fleury now seems a natural partner for 6-5, 211-pound Carson Soucy on the Kraken’s third defensive pairing. Though they were paired in only one preseason game together, they have complementary skill sets.


“I think we’re both big guys,” Fleury said. “Big guys that can skate. That’s the way the league is now; you’ve got to be able to skate and take away time and space from the other team.”

Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said Fleury’s game “has continually progressed throughout camp” to the point he has become a strong defender who can help the team quickly exit its own zone.

“Those are the first two building blocks,” Hakstol said. “Everybody brings something else to the table along with that, but I think Fleury’s done a really good job of concentrating on defending with his feet, with his stick, with his body.

“He’s got great length and size. And then he’s used his skating and puck-moving ability and thought processes to get us out of the zone. And those are the two combinational pieces for any defenseman.”

Honing his skating ability has been a priority for Fleury throughout camp. 

So was enjoying the chance to play with his younger brother for the first time since they were 9. There’s a two-year age gap between them, and they’d played together back then only because Haydn’s team didn’t have enough players for a tournament. 


That is, until last week, when the defensemen suited up for the Kraken against the Flames in Calgary, Alberta, where much of their family has since relocated. 

“We had probably 20 family members at the game, so that was really special,” he said. “All of our cousins were on the JumboTron wearing Kraken jerseys, so it was a really special moment. I know my mom was watching from the crowd, and she was very proud. And my dad was watching at home and wishing he could be there.”

His brother was reassigned last weekend to the Kraken’s AHL affiliate in Charlotte, North Carolina. Fleury said the demotion was tough for both, but he told Cale anything can happen going forward, and to “sharpen your tools and go to work” so they can resume being among the four NHLers to hail from their tiny town.

“A town that size, to have four NHL players come out of there is pretty cool,” he said. “Especially when one’s your brother and the other’s your babysitter.”