Kraken draftee Jagger Firkus comes through Seattle with Moose Jaw as WHL scoring leader

While the present of the Seattle Kraken remains somewhat uncertain ahead of next week's NHL trade deadline, the future of the team looks highly promising with a number of upcoming draft picks having standout seasons in junior hockey.

Perhaps the most accomplished of all of Seattle's prospects this season is 2022 second-rounder Jagger Firkus of the Moose Jaw Warriors. And if you want a chance to watch him play, Moose Jaw plays in the Seattle area the next two nights in games against the Everett Silvertips and Seattle Thunderbirds.

Firkus, 19, is the leading scorer throughout the Canadian Hockey Leagues, which encompasses the Western Hockey League (WHL), Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and Quebec Maritimes Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). Firkus was the first player this season to reach 100 points on the year. He has 101 points on 46 goals and 55 assists in just 53 games played for the Warriors.

"I think individually there's lots of expectations that you want to meet and I think trying to be a scoring leader is one of them for sure," Firkus said. "It's something that I've always wanted to do and this year I've been with the team I have and the guys that I play with it's very capable of hitting it."

An 80-point season in 2021-22 made Firkus into a second-round pick despite his slight frame. Firkus is listed at 5-foot-11 and just 160 pounds. However, that lack of size hasn't kept Firkus from improving and showing he can shine against the best competition junior hockey has to offer.

Firkus backed up his draft season with an 88-point year last year for Moose Jaw as he reached the 40-goal mark for the first time in his career. But Firkus has made another massive leap this season in helping carry the Warriors toward the top of the standings in the WHL's Eastern Conference. He was invited to training camp with Team Canada for the World Junior Championship and was called up during the tournament due to injuries, but did not play in a game.

"It gives you confidence," Firkus said. "It gives you courage to go into every game and you want to play the game even more. You go into games and you're just so excited to be a part of it and be a part of the team we have here with Moose Jaw. It's such an exciting year. Throughout the entire year I feel our team has taken a lot of strides and I have too personally."

The success of fellow undersized players in the NHL such as Toronto's Mitch Marner, New Jersey's Jack Hughes, Seattle's Kailer Yamamoto, and recently rookie Logan Stankoven in Dallas show that players of slighter stature can play at that top level and thrive.

"There's no doubt in my mind that I can play at that level," Firkus said. "It's obviously not my choice when I get to play at that level, but to see guys like Marner and Hughes be so successful at that level, it shows that it's not about size. It can be just about who wants it more."

Firkus has been with the Kraken in training camp each of the last two years after being taken with the 35th overall pick in the 2022 draft. He's played in just one preseason game each year with the plan being for continued development in the WHL. Per a CHL-NHL agreement, players that aren't yet 20 years old can't play in the American Hockey League and must be returned to their CHL affiliate if not playing in the NHL.

Firkus made it a point to work on his defensive play and tracking the puck this season with Moose Jaw. It was one of the points of emphasis the Kraken gave to Firkus as he returned to juniors this year.

"For myself, I've been having a great year," Firkus said. "I believe it came from the summer that I had. I had a really good summer and made a lot of strides."

In addition to Firkus, the Kraken have had strong years from several other top draft picks. Carson Rehkopf (2023 second-round pick) leads the OHL in goals, while David Goyette (2022 second-round pick) leads the OHL in points. Additionally, 2022 second-round pick Jani Nyman is tied for second in goals in Liiga, the top league in Finland. With Shane Wright having a strong season in the AHL with Coachella Valley, and Ryker Evans on the verge of breaking into the everyday lineup with the Kraken at the NHL level, the development arm of the Kraken seems to be setting the table for a bright future.

"It's very exciting," Firkus said. "I think those guys are really good guys too. We all get along with each other really well and I'm super happy with those guys having success."

Firkus and Moose Jaw got to catch the Kraken's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night while on their western road trip. The Warriors played in Portland on Wednesday before playing three games in three days through the weekend against Everett, Seattle and the Wenatchee Wild before the long bus trip home to Saskatchewan.

It was the first Kraken regular season game Firkus has had a chance to see in person, though he has seen the Edmonton Oilers play several times growing up in Irma, Alberta.

"Everyone was just kind of in awe," said Firkus, who played tour guide for his teammates in getting to see Climate Pledge Arena for the first time. "It's quite the facility there and I think getting to watch an away team with Sidney Crosby on it was pretty special. It's my first time ever seeing him live. I got to see a lot of the staff as well and say what's up to them, so it was awesome. I enjoyed every moment of it and hopefully I can get back there soon."

The 2-0 Kraken win also gave Firkus bragging rights over his teammate Brayden Yager, who was a first-round selection with the 14th overall pick by the Penguins last year. However, Yager got a different kind of bragging rights, too.

"I do get some bragging rights, but he got to talk to Sid so I think that's kind of a bragging right on me too," Firkus replied.

Firkus is eligible to play in the AHL next season for Coachella Valley. But first, he's hopeful for a lengthy playoff run with Moose Jaw when the playoffs get underway later this month.

"Our staff has had this year circled for quite a while with the guys that kind of came up throughout this organization and we don't want to let them down," Firkus said. "It's an important year to the players. Lots of guys it's their last year in juniors, so we want to end off on a winning note."