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Kraken Prospect Kaden Hammell Notches First-Ever Playoff Goal in Silvertips’ 6-4 Loss to Giants

Player photography provided by @Jennthulhu_Photos on Instagram

EVERETT— Kaden Hammell still has growing to do.

Not physically, that is. At 6-foot-1 and 182 pounds, Hammell already clears expectations of towering stature for Seattle’s defensive corps. Rather, the Kraken’s 2023 fifth-round pick exhibits a rough-hewn potential craving refinement only the fervor and stakes the postseason can provide.

Thankfully, playoff hockey has arrived in Everett, and it’s not holding back.

If the remainder of the round one series between the third-seed Everett Silvertips and the sixth-seed Vancouver Giants is anything like their Friday night opener, Hammell and company have an uphill battle ahead of them in pursuit of bracket survival.

Blistering, opportunistic Vancouver poked holes in Everett’s defense from the drop of the puck, taking only 43 seconds to open the scoring with a slick breakaway completed by Cameron Schmidt. Tumult ensued— the visitors beat goaltender Tyler Palmer three additional times to force a relief appearance by backup Ethan Chadwick— and not without vehement physicality. Flying hip checks and dangerous, near-boarding plays were delivered by both side, each team pushing the limits of what they could sneak past officiating, unpenalized.

Vegas Golden Knights’ prospect Ben Hemmerling’s back-to-back goals for Everett softened the score, yet Vancouver persevered, heading to first intermission with a 4-2 lead— the writing was on the wall.

Tensions cooled over the next forty minutes, and the home team failed to tie the game at any point despite launching 42 shots on Vancouver netminder Brett Mirwald, tied for third-best regular season save percentage in the WHL (.913%). Everett fell 6-4 in their postseason opener. Unsmiling, Silvertips assistant coach Mike Field traced the failure all the way back to the first period.

“Honestly, I thought we came out real sleepy, weren’t engaged. A lot of things that we talked about throughout the week trying to prepare the guys— I felt like it took them a minute to go ‘oh yeah, okay, we talked about this.’ And that can’t happen this time of year.”

On ice for three of Vancouver’s first four goals, it was Hammell’s struggle in particular which proved disastrous for the junior club.

Blueline breakdowns were frequent, made the perfect weakness for the rush-inclined Giants to exploit— the Silvertips’ constricting offensive structure lacked the awareness and speed from defensemen to properly insure against collapse.

Hulking and slow to action, Hammell’s routine positional lapses contributed to all three of his on-ice goals against, but were particularly lethal on the penalty kill. Kylen Gronick and Ty Halanburda’s power play tallies would not have been possible had Hammell prevented Vancouver from sneaking behind him or attempted to intercept passes once caught behind the opposing attack.

Misguided but motivated is perhaps the best way to describe Hammell’s performance. For all his defensive missteps, he demonstrated a keen pinching instinct which excelled on the man advantage. Everett deployed their second unit early in the middle frame, on which Hammell was able to creep high-slot and score through traffic— his first postseason goal ever.

No other ‘Tips defenseman consistently sought out and accurately nailed shooting lanes. Hammell’s five shots on goal tied for second-most by any skater on his team. Better yet, he was not on the ice for either of Vancouver’s final two goals.

”I thought Kaden, really, as the game went on, started to find his groove a little bit more,” Field said. “Like a lot of guys, he was a little bit sleepy and then his defending really picked up as the game went on. He was playing hard on guys, didn’t give up a lot.”

Miffed as he was at the outcome, Hammell’s insistence upon his own shortcomings and realist take on the difficulty of the postseason indicated an earnest drive to improve unfazed by circumstance.

“It’s a playoff game, it’s gonna be harder than a regular season game. I think we learned that tonight.”

”Obviously, [the] penalty kill’s got to be better, that’s myself included. I gotta be better on it. We gotta find ways to keep the puck out of the net. Going into tomorrow, it’s going to be video-watching, going over things, and figuring out what we can do to come up with a better performance.”

There’s no rush to perfection for Hammell, freshly 19 and yet to sign an entry-level contract with the Kraken. And that’s okay, the Silvertips still need their alternate captain— opportunity to turn this best-of-seven around, and for Hammell to continue to mature his two-way game, awaits to be capitalized on.

Everett and Vancouver will meet again in Everett on Saturday night for Game 2.

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