The Seattle Kraken have named Dave Hakstol as their first head coach.
Hakstol, 52, was an assistant coach for the Toronto Maple Leafs for the past two seasons. He previously coached the Philadelphia Flyers for three and a half seasons, before he was fired in the 2018-19 season. When he was hired by Philadelphia in 2015, Hakstol — a longtime coach at the University of North Dakota — became the first coach to jump from the NCAA to the NHL in 33 years.
The Kraken begin play next season as the NHL’s 32nd franchise. They will hold their expansion draft on July 21, using the same rules as when the Vegas Golden Knights joined the NHL in 2017.
The relationship between GM Ron Francis and Hakstol was formed during a car ride in Slovakia and Czech Republic, according to sources. Both men have strong ties to Hockey Canada. Francis appreciates attention to detail. According to a source close to the interview process, Hakstol was “incredibly well prepared for the interview process, clearly laying out his philosophy to take the players from draft into the inaugural season.”
“Dave possesses great experience, a strong work ethic, a solid technical understanding of the game, and the remarkable ability to communicate clearly and effectively,” Francis said in a statement. “I look forward to working with Dave as we strive to build a team our fans will be proud of.”
The Kraken cast a wide net to identify a coach, and were quite secretive through the entire process. Former Arizona coach Rick Tocchet had multiple interviews with Seattle, and the team also considered former Rangers coach David Quinn, Buffalo interim coach Don Granato, AHL coach Kevin Dineen, Sharks assistant coach Rocky Thompson, and Boston Bruins assistant Joe Sacco. Gerard Gallant, the first coach for the Vegas Golden Knights – who led the team to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season – was long rumored to be a target, but recently signed a four-year deal to coach the Rangers.
Hakstol, the head coach at North Dakota for 11 seasons, is a native of Warburg, Alberta. Thirty of Hakstol’s former players at North Dakota went on to play in the NHL, including Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews and Capitals winger TJ Oshie. Hakstol was named a finalist for national coach of the year in eight of his 11 seasons, and he compiled a 289-143-43 record (.654 winning percentage). North Dakota reached the Frozen Four seven times under Hakstol, the most of any program during that span.
Hakstol went 134-101-42 (.560 points percentage) in his three-plus seasons with the Flyers. He took the team to the playoffs twice, though they were eliminated in the first round each time.
Hakstol has been coaching hockey – across the NHL, AHL and USHL – for 26 consecutive seasons. “I am honored to be joining this tremendous group of staff and fans,” Hakstol said in a statement. “When I first saw the arena, I was blown away – it is such a unique venue. I am looking forward to being a part of the group that builds a team that plays with pride, passion and selflessness for the city of Seattle.”