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Adjusting to Seattle

Ex-Jets Appleton, Tanev regular Kraken contributors

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SEATTLE — The way Mason Appleton sees it, the trade was one-for-one.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 09/12/2021 (418 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

SEATTLE — The way Mason Appleton sees it, the trade was one-for-one.

“The snow for the rain,” he joked Thursday morning, a few hours before his new team faced his old team for the very first time at Climate Pledge Arena. “You need a rain coat, you need an umbrella, otherwise you’re going to get really wet.”

Of course, it wasn’t a swap between general managers that brought Appleton to Seattle from Winnipeg, but rather last summer’s expansion draft. And the 25-year-old is still dipping his toes in the proverbial waters after an early-season ankle injury put a damper on his Kraken debut. 

Thursday night’s game against the Jets was his eighth after missing a month. Both his goals, and one of his two assists, have come in that span. 

“It’s good to be back playing, healthy and feeling good again. Excited to face the old team. Should be a good game. I’m looking forward to it,” said Appleton.

Appleton had a career-best 12 goals and 13 assists in 56 regular-season games with the Jets last season, primarily on a third-line role with Adam Lowry and Andrew Copp. There’s was some thought the Kraken might select unprotected Winnipeg defenceman Dylan DeMelo, but they opted to go with the younger, cheaper player with more upside. 

“He came off an injury, and those are tough injuries to come off of,” Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said following his team’s morning skate. “He’s beginning to get to his level. He’s got some heaviness to him, he’s got the ability to get to the net and make some things happen. Those are the things that are really important for us, that he brings to our team on a night to night basis. We’re starting to see that from him, and that’s really positive.”

Appleton went out for dinner Wednesday night with several of his former teammates now turned on-ice enemies. 

“Might be a tad weird at first playing against them, but it’ll be fun,” he said.

Jeffrey T. Barnes / The Associated Press files Seattle Kraken centre Mason Appleton said it would be 'weird' facing his former teammates on the Jets before Thursday night's game.

If he needed any pre-game advice about what that would be like, he could always turn to Brandon Tanev. The beloved former member of the “TLC” line along with Lowry and Copp signed a free-agent deal with Pittsburgh in the summer of 2019, then packed his bags to head to the Pacific Northwest last summer after being selected by Seattle in the expansion draft

Tanev is already up to eight goals and five assists through his first 25 games, which is impressive for a guy with career highs of 14 goals and 15 helpers in 80 games with Winnipeg during the 2018-19 season.

“He’s got off to a good start. He plays the game hard, he plays the game the right way, so he gets a lot of easy goals around the net. That’s kind of his identity. He’s a good player, and he’s found success,” Appleton said of what he’s seen from Tanev.

Hakstol, who was a fixture at the University of North Dakota during a 15-year career behind the bench, had plenty of praise a guy who has become an instant fan favourite around here.

“What can I tell you about Turbo that you don’t already know?” he told the Free Press. “He started off really well offensively, and he’s continued to contribute. It’s all based off his intensity, his work ethic, his passion. He’s been really good for us in those areas. It’s important for us to have different areas of our lineup contributing offensively. And we’ve been able to do that, we’ve been able to have that. He’s been a huge part of that.”

Jets coach Paul Maurice isn’t surprised to see Tanev and Appleton doing well in their new environment.

“(Tanev) has flourished here. As we all remember in Winnipeg, the style of game he plays is fan friendly. He gets on the body, he’s tenacious, and he’s got a great personality and I think that comes out in his game,” he said.

“Mason had a bit of an injury there, but his years have always been the same. Play football, break your leg (which is what he did during the 2019-20 season in Winnipeg) come back and be real good at the end. He’ll continue to build and the fans will appreciate him as well.”

The Kraken have had some early-season struggles, but were on a 5-2-1 run heading into the game against the Jets. Appleton said players are starting to feel more comfortable in their surroundings.

“We’ve kind of built on our game, consistency is something we’ve struggled with a tad here. But we figure that part of our game out and we’ll be a fine hockey team. And we’ll win a lot of games here in the next 50, 55 games,” he said.

“The one thing I kind of took away from the beginning here is everyone’s in the same boat. You’re coming from every team around the league. You put all that together and it kind of just takes a little bit to mesh. I think that’s coming along well, and that’s why we’ve gotten a little bit better here down the stretch.”

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: It’s safe to say that aside from the gloomy weather, the NHL’s newest market is making a positive impression on everyone. That includes visitors such as the Jets, who got their first look at the state-of-the-art facilities on Thursday, 

“Vegas was the last one, kind of new experience. Never been to Seattle before so it was nice to come into the city a little bit, they’ve built a beautiful barn here and any time an expansion team comes in, it’s always exciting for the new guys and the teams coming in to check it out,” said Jets defenceman Nathan Beaulieu.

“This city obviously reminds you a lot of Vancouver. When you’ve been a pro for 10 years you kind of get to see a lot of cities around North America. It’s pretty rare that you get to go to a new one.”

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Seattle Kraken left wing Brandon Tanev is already up to eight goals and five assists through his first 25 games. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

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Updated on Thursday, December 9, 2021 7:35 PM CST: Adds photo

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