Seattle Kraken name Dave Hakstol as their first head coach

The Seattle Kraken have named Dave Hakstol as their first head coach.

"I view it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of something that we have an opportunity to build from the ground up," Hakstol said Thursday. "Communication is going to be very, very important, not only over the next few weeks of building the roster, but from there, it's planning on how everything fits together."

Hakstol, 52, was an assistant coach for the Toronto Maple Leafs for the past two seasons. He previously coached the Philadelphia Flyers for three and a half seasons before he was fired in the 2018-19 season. When he was hired by Philadelphia in 2015, Hakstol -- a longtime coach at the University of North Dakota -- became the first head coach to jump from the NCAA to the NHL in 33 years.

The Kraken begin play next season as the NHL's 32nd franchise. They will hold their expansion draft on July 21, using the same rules as when the Vegas Golden Knights joined the league in 2017.

"It's really about building with good quality people to begin with, building it the right way," Hakstol said. "Making sure that we're building not only a team that can come out of the gate and play with a lot of pride, passion and have success, but also work towards building the depth of the organization for not only that early success, but to have that sustainable success."

The relationship between GM Ron Francis and Hakstol was formed during a car ride in Slovakia and the Czech Republic, according to sources. Both men have strong ties to Hockey Canada. Francis appreciates attention to detail. According to a source close to the interview process, Hakstol was "incredibly well prepared for the interview process, clearly laying out his philosophy to take the players from the draft into the inaugural season."

"I got to know him as a person and kind of watch his work ethic and how he operated and sort of building that respect for what he can do," Francis said Thursday of their time abroad.

The Kraken cast a wide net to identify a coach and were quite secretive through the entire process, with Hakstol's selection a surprise.

"On our end, we just had the conversations, we talked about things and I think a lot of that credit goes to Dave," Francis said. "He just didn't talk about it to anybody, and when you don't do that, it doesn't get out there."

Former Arizona Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet had multiple interviews with Seattle, and the team also considered former New York Rangers coach David Quinn, Buffalo interim coach Don Granato, AHL coach Kevin Dineen, San Jose Sharks assistant coach Rocky Thompson and Boston Bruins assistant Joe Sacco. Gerard Gallant, the first coach for the Vegas Golden Knights -- who led the team to the Stanley Cup Final in its inaugural season -- was long rumored to be a target but recently signed a four-year deal to guide the Rangers.

Hakstol, the head coach at North Dakota for 11 seasons, is a native of Warburg, Alberta. Thirty of Hakstol's players at North Dakota went on to play in the NHL, including Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews and Capitals winger T.J. Oshie. Hakstol was named a finalist for national coach of the year in eight of his 11 seasons, and he compiled a 289-143-43 record (.654 winning percentage). North Dakota reached the Frozen Four seven times under Hakstol, the most of any program during that span.

Hakstol went 134-101-42 (.560 points percentage) in his three-plus seasons with the Flyers. He took the team to the playoffs twice, although they were eliminated in the first round each time.

Hakstol has been coaching hockey -- across the NHL, NCAA and USHL -- for 26 consecutive seasons.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.