Seattle Kraken general manager Ron Francis will be watching the Firebirds closely

While Seattle Kraken general manager Ron Francis was the general manager of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, he was meticulous about the type of players he wanted and his staff went to great lengths to find them. . He would have his team scout every corner of Canada, the American college ranks, and even Europe for the guys who would eventually lay the groundwork for the Hurricanes organization.

Most of the players Francis and the Carolina front office discovered began their careers with the Charlotte Checkers, the Hurricanes’ affiliate in the American Hockey League at the time.

Five years after Francis was hired, the Checkers won the 2019 Calder Cup – the AHL’s Stanley Cup – with the players his staff brought into the organization.

“Those were our prospects,” Francis said. “They were the base. Having that quality player base makes you a solid organization from top to bottom. Everyone needs this young talent to develop and eventually win.

Ron Francis and the Kraken will be watching the Coachella Valley Firebirds closely.

Francis was in the Coachella Valley this week for the naming rights announcement for what will now be called Acrisure Arena, a $300 million hockey and entertainment arena being built north of Interstate 10 , off Cook Street, next to the Classic Club golf course. .

While in town, Francis checked on construction of the facility that he hopes will be the foundation for a future NHL championship team in Seattle.

That’s why, Francis said, the Coachella Valley Firebirds aren’t just of interest here in the Valley. There is a fan base that has sold out every home game in Seattle and will be watching the Firebirds and their every move very closely.

“You have to have players who can be good NHL players and help your young players develop and know what winning is,” Francis said. “Also, if we have any injuries up top with the Kraken, then we can call someone, and they can step in and play a game.”

The Coachella Valley Firebirds will play at Acrisure Arena beginning in the 2022-23 season.

Following:Coachella Valley’s new sports and entertainment venue to be called Acrisure Arena

Following:Arena construction on schedule despite supply chain and commercial construction delays

The flip side, Francis said, is finding teens who have the potential to be stars. A lot of them aren’t ready to play in the NHL right away, so the Kraken want to bring them to the Coachella Valley where they can grow. Francis believes Valley fans will enjoy watching the young players who will one day play, and maybe even play, in the NHL.

“It’s a great little benefit for the fans here,” Francis said, “to see a kid kind of come in raw and grow. When they come to the NHL (those fans) can say they’ve watched this kid four years ago when he was trying to find his way.

The Firebirds are scheduled to begin their inaugural season in October, with the first home games at their new arena by December. This season, the Kraken have their minor league players in Charlotte, for the Checkers. Several of the players who dress for the Checkers are part of the Kraken organization, and Francis expects some to play in the Coachella Valley next season, provided they are still with the franchise and not playing. not for the Kraken.

Seattle Kraken's Adam Larsson (6) celebrates with Calle Jarnkrok after scoring the game-winning goal in overtime of an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022. The Kraken won 2-1 in overtime.  (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Ryker Evans is a player fans should be excited to potentially see next season. The 20-year-old from Regina, Sask., had 37 points (31 assists, six goals) in 34 games with the Regina Pats, a Western Hockey League junior hockey team.

Evans said at Kraken’s training camp in September that the goal was to eventually play in the NHL in Seattle, but he said he was looking forward to developing his game and understood that might mean spending time in the Coachella Valley.

“The goal is to play 100% for the Kraken,” Evans said. “Until then, I will work to be ready when they need me.”

Firebirds President Steve Fraser will lead the day-to-day local operations of Oak View Group, the sports and entertainment consulting firm that owns the Firebirds and Acrisure Arena. Former professional hockey player Troy Bodie serves as director of hockey and business operations.

Their leadership will come directly from Francis and the Kraken, including Kraken President and CEO Tod Leiweke, who previously worked for the NBA’s NFL, Seattle Seahawks and Sounders, Portland Trailblazers and Golden State Warriors. and the Minnesota Wild and Tampa. Bay Lightning of the NHL.

Francis said the efforts of everyone involved in the Kraken are focused on bringing in the best young talent in the game, and by default that will mean many players they expect to be staples for the franchise will arrive at some point. the Coachella Valley.

“The fan response in Seattle has been incredible,” Francis said. “Fans come to games, they make noise, they support. We want to have the same here.

Andrew John covers sports for The Desert Sun and USA Today Network. Email him at [email protected] and find him on Twitter at @Andrew_L_John.

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