SEATTLE (AP) — At seemingly every stop of his hockey journey, goalie Joey Daccord ended up being overlooked.
He was originally a seventh-round draft pick — No. 199 overall — of the Ottawa Senators. His only offer of a full college scholarship came from a fledgling program at Arizona State that was just getting started as an NCAA Division I member when he arrived in the dessert.
Even after becoming a star in college, Daccord couldn’t consistently get on the ice with Ottawa. When he was nabbed by the expansion Seattle Kraken, he was the third of three options on the depth chart.
That background makes Daccord grateful and perhaps a little humbled by what’s happened over the last two months where he’s become entrenched as the starting goalie in Seattle and been one of the top goaltenders in the entire league.
“I think like any goalie will tell you that they just want a chance to prove themselves,” Daccord said. “And I feel like I’ve really gotten that opportunity in the last month, month and a half here just to play a lot of games and get in a rhythm and feel really comfortable at the NHL level.”
As the All-Star break arrives, the third-year Kraken find themselves in the middle of a crowded field for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Seattle stumbled in its final game before the break on Tuesday night with a 2-0 loss in San Jose. Despite the setback, Seattle is one of six teams headed into Wednesday night separated by five points for the two wild-card playoff spots out West.
The Kraken wouldn’t be in this position if not for what Daccord has provided.
He’s played more games at the NHL level in the past seven weeks than the previous four seasons combined during brief snippets with Ottawa and Seattle and his numbers are reinforcing the eye test of how well he’s played.
In 16 of his past 20 games, Daccord’s allowed two goals or less. He posted the first two shutouts of his career, including the Winter Classic. His save percentage during that span is .937. Seattle is 12-5-3 during that stretch.
His advanced metrics are just as impressive. Per Natural Stat Trick, Daccord is third in the league in goals saved above average at 16.76, trailing only Connor Hellebuyck and Thatcher Demko.
“I mean, he’s just very steady for us, which is awesome,” forward Tomas Tatar said. “He’s given us a lot of confidence.”
Aside from his performance in goal, Daccord has brought a fresh personality to the ice. While the Kraken have done well to carve out a portion of the sports landscape in their hometown — an unexpected playoff run last season helped — their roster is not filled with big personalities.
But that’s who Daccord is. He’s fun. He’s energetic. He loved the chance to soak in all the “Joey, Joey,” chants after shutting out Vegas before 47,000-plus fans on New Year’s Day. A few nights later after another stellar performance against Ottawa, Daccord tackled the team mascot in a bear hug at center ice following the win.
On nights when Daccord isn’t starting, he will stay out at the end of pregame warmups practicing one-time slapshots with his goalie stick. And he has every intention of trying to score an empty-net goal at some point this season.
As Daccord noted, hockey can be a little stodgy when it comes to showing personality on the ice. He thinks that is changing.
“I think hockey kind of has a code where you’re supposed to keep to yourself and put your head down and work hard and be humble. I agree with all those things,” Daccord said. “But at the same time, I am a very passionate person and I like to show my passion and I like to be energetic and I like to celebrate when we score and fire up the crowd. I like all those things and I think that’s one of the fun parts of playing hockey.”
Daccord’s emergence does create a conundrum for Seattle’s management that will be closely watched as the trade deadline approaches in early March. The best goaltending the Kraken have received for an extended period in their three years is coming from their lowest-paid goalie.
Outside of last year’s playoffs, Philipp Grubauer hasn’t played up to his six-year, $35.4 million deal. Grubauer’s lower body injury in early December handed the net to Daccord and led to his run. Chris Driedger, making $3.5 million, has appeared in only two games this season and spent most of the year at Coachella Valley in the AHL.
Meanwhile, Daccord continues to play at a level worthy of Vezina Trophy consideration on a $1.2 million deal.
“He’s worked for it,” Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after Daccord’s Winter Classic shutout. “You look at all the steps he’s gone through, he didn’t just land here out of nowhere.”
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