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Kraken’s Alex Wennberg Wielding New Weapon of Choice

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Wennberg’s bringing white-glove– or, rather, white-stick– service to the Seattle Kraken’s offense.

Last week, the centerman took the ice against the Calgary Flames equipped with an all-white stick, a striking departure from his usual black model. Both are Bauer, and made from boron, intended for lightweight and speedy stickhandling. Nothing about it is different aside from the color.

When asked about the change of gear, Wennberg smiles and alludes to a preference for the unorthodox choice of gear. “I played with a white stick several years ago. I used to have [a white] CCM and they stopped making them,” he explains. “I kind of got forced to have a black one.”

During the 2016-17 season with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Wennberg donned the eye-catching white sticks to rack up a career-best 59 points in 80 games. He switched to white again in early 2020, although ensuing games didn’t fare so well on the scoresheet. No worries– superstition’s not a motivating factor for him.

“I had some success in the past with the white sticks,” he acknowledges. “There’s so many different options, this is just the one I prefer at the moment.”

Over his now 10-year career, Wennberg’s rotated through Bauer, Warrior, and CCM sticks all varying in style, color, and accents. No matter what model he reaches for, his tape job remains the same: liberally around the handle, capped off at the toe, and always corresponding with the heel. Contrasting tape color is commonplace for many of his Kraken teammates, but Wennberg finds cohesion works best.

Few in the league have dared to go so bold as to test the ivory waters. Among those that have, reasons vary.

Anthony Mantha finds white monochrome eases the difficulty inherent to playing with his specific vein of color blindness. Joe Pavelski’s signature white twig has terrorized goaltenders net-front for years– speculation is the white paint functions as camouflage against the ice, making anticipating plays nearly impossible.

What about a white stick works for Wennberg? “The only secret behind it is I like to have white tape and I want it to be one solid color,” he confides. “I feel like that looks better for me, on my eyes.”

Be it the good fortune of a fresh twig or simply streamlined stickhandling, Wennberg’s offensive play has sharpened.

Alex Wennberg’s stick swap isn’t about strategy. Via Jennthulhu_Photos on Instagram

“Wenny’s starting to feel better about his game, offensively. It looks like he’s gaining that confidence,” head coach Dave Hakstol noted following the Kraken’s win over the San Jose Sharks. “He’s doing things that a lot of people don’t notice.”

Typically, if Wennberg blends in on the attack, he’s doing his job and he’s doing it well. Net-front deception is his area of expertise, and, under a guise of subtly, he’s able to help the Kraken find success where they’ve lacked it in the highest danger areas of the ice. Screens, deflections, and sneaky passes comprise his trademark moves, all benefiting from nimble bladework.

Wennberg says the team has discussed targeting the net-front area “quite a bit,” emphasizing that it’s tough to do, yet when the opportunity presents itself, doing so “makes such a big difference.”

Keeping up with a pair of straightforward, speedy wingers in his usual linemates Jaden Schwartz and Brandon Tanev, however, is no small task. Wennberg’s compelled the second line to a new level of offensive dominance by adapting to their intensity and orchestrating chances with a newfound decisiveness, all without sacrificing his eye for offensive detail.

These keen net-front instincts are ones Wennberg will need to be adamant about maintaining with Tanev sidelined once again.

There’s no timeline for his return after sustaining an undisclosed ailment against the Vancouver Canucks on Friday. With Coachella Valley Firebirds forward Andrew Poturalski recalled on Monday and replacing him Tuesday night against the Chicago Blackhawks, Tanev, classified as “day-to-day,” could end up missing the majority of this four-game road trip.

As the second-line center, the Kraken need Wennberg to step up in Tanev’s absence. But since switching to the white stick, Wennberg’s recorded three points in four games, included a shorthanded goal last night in the Windy city.

Coincidence? Maybe. But not an unwelcome one.

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