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Spokane Chiefs

Former Spokane Chiefs star Berkly Catton, new coach Dan Bylsma make debuts with Kraken

By Kate Shefte Seattle Times

SEATTLE – Berkly Catton was drafted into the Seattle Kraken organization Friday, the No. 8 pick in the NHL draft. He was already in the thick of it by Tuesday, surrounded by his fellow Seattle prospects at Kraken Community Iceplex, covered in slush after being tossed off the puck and into the net during a physical one-on-one drill.

“It felt good to get out on the ice and just play hockey,” Catton said. “With all this extra stuff going on, it was nice to (simplify) and do what I love.”

New Kraken coach Dan Bylsma oversaw practice and noted Catton was “quick with the stick.”

“I really enjoyed watching him there in the last game we played because he was fully on display, skill and ability and playmaking,” Bylsma said. “He’s put 50 goals in the net (in juniors). He’s clearly a great goal-scorer.”

Catton was so wrapped up in drills, he managed to forget about a high-stakes engagement that evening. On Tuesday, he was set to continue the proud tradition of Kraken first-rounders throwing out the first pitch at a Mariners game. Matty Beniers did it in 2022, followed by Eduard Sale last year. Sale said he’d never thrown a baseball before, not even in warm-ups.

Catton, 18, didn’t want to go in quite that cold.

“Hopefully, they have a bullpen or something for me to warm up,” he said.

Catton comes to the Kraken from the other side of the Cascades, where the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League helped push him to where he is today. He had a quick, nine-game test run in 2021-22, then put in two full seasons. He’s eligible to return this fall.

“It’s professionally run by good people,” Catton said of the Chiefs. “When you have a whole bunch of good people around you, it’s going to make you a better player and person.”

Spokane General Manager Matt Bardsley was in Las Vegas with his staff to see Catton drafted on Day 1, then teammates William McIsaac (St. Louis Blues) and Nathan Mayes (Toronto Maple Leafs) found landing spots on Day 2. In a crush of well-wishers, including Kraken minority owner Marshawn Lynch, Bardsley shook Catton’s hand.

“Really going to enjoy this journey, to see where he gets to,” Bardsley said.

Last season, Catton was one of 10 WHL players to surpass the 100-point mark – Jagger Firkus, on the ice with him at KCI, was another – landing at 116 in 68 games. He’d worked hard on his shot over the summer and saw dramatic results.

“He winds up with 54 goals for us this year and you have people still describing him as a puck distributor,” Bardsley said.

Catton is clearly gifted on offense, but trusted enough at the other end to kill penalties. He led the WHL with seven short-handed goals.

“Hockey sense is just at a whole ’nother level,” Bardsley said. “The way he sees the ice, the anticipation. He always feels like he’s one step ahead.

“There were times he would put the team on his back and take over a game.”

He was the U.S. Division nominee for a pair of awards celebrating his on-ice play and studies. Even as his stock rose, the son of two teachers kept up his grades. There were more demands from all over, as local fans wanted to celebrate his achievements. He remained engaged and humble, Bardsley said.

“Everyone wanted his time and he handled it very graciously,” the GM added.

Catton plans to train in his hometown of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, after development camp, which runs through the end of the week.

Bylsma, too, was happy to simplify things out on the KCI ice. It’s been a whirlwind few weeks for the coach as well. When he was introduced as the Kraken’s new bench coach May 28, he was in the thick of a playoff series with the Coachella Valley Firebirds of the American Hockey League. The Kraken’s top affiliate fell just short of a championship for a second straight season, dropping the title series to the Hershey Bears last week.

That’s where his focus needed to be, and it was. He called it “bittersweet” losing in Game 6.

“Partially because I immediately turned my mind to being the head coach of the Kraken, right away,” he said. “It’s good to get here and get focused on just the Kraken.”