In anticipation of the Seattle Kraken‘s inaugural season, we at The Hockey Writers are taking a deep dive into each player. This installment focuses on center Morgan Geekie, whom the Kraken selected from the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft.
The 23-year-old Geekie has appeared in just 38 NHL games but has shown signs of becoming, at least, a reliable bottom-six center. He excels in front of the net and scores off either deflections or second-chance opportunities. The 67th-overall selection from the 2017 Draft has one year remaining on his entry-level deal at $750,000.
2020-21 Team: Carolina Hurricanes
2020-21 Season: 36 GP, 3 G, 6 A, 9 PTS
Type of Acquisition: Expansion Draft
Geekie has the skill set of a power forward. After taking a faceoff, he quickly positions himself in the high slot or closer to the net, utilizing his 6-foot-3, 192-pound frame. His agile stick-handling can maneuver the puck into a comfortable shooting position, and then he picks his spot. He also excels at corralling rebounds and deflecting the puck, confidently making use of his backhand. With these abilities at both even-strength and on the power play, I liken Geekie to Joe Pavelski of the Dallas Stars.
Here’s how he reached the NHL.
Geekie played major junior hockey in eastern Washington with the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League (WHL). He developed slowly at first, scoring just 25 points in his first full season. Because of his lackluster productivity and skating abilities early on, NHL clubs passed on him at the 2016 Draft.
However, he broke out the following season in 2016-17 and wrapped up his WHL career strongly in 2017-18 with 65 goals and 109 assists in 140 games; he led the club in both seasons.
The Americans qualified for the 2018 Playoffs as a wildcard, and they leaned on Geekie to pull off a couple of upsets. The Strathclair, Manitoba native surged for 17 goals and 10 assists in just 14 games, helping the team advance to the Western Conference Final, where they fell to Player of the Year, Carter Hart, and the top-seeded Everett Silvertips in six games.
Geekie continued to blossom with the Hurricanes organization in his time with the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League (AHL). In the 2018-19 season, he recorded 19 goals and 27 assists for 46 points in 73 games — including a stellar 20.4 percent shooting percentage. Again he elevated his game in the postseason and scored eight goals and 10 assists in 19 games, helping the Checkers capture their first Calder Cup.
He followed up an impressive debut season in Charlotte with 22 goals and 20 assists in 55 games during the 2019-20 season. He also led the team with eight power-play goals and added nine power-play assists. The AHL did not host the playoffs in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Geekie made one of the most impressive NHL debuts in recent history when he appeared in a March 7, 2020 game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. In 10:22 of ice time, he scored two goals and an assist — which was nearly a third goal — to guide the Hurricanes to a 6-2 win.
He followed up that unprecedented performance by scoring a goal in his second game. Unfortunately, he couldn’t build on that momentum because, like the AHL, the NHL paused its season due to the pandemic. He later appeared in eight postseason games, registering a single assist.
Geekie played in 36 of 56 games during the 2020-21 season in a fourth-line role. Averaging just 9:47 of ice time (TOI), he recorded three goals and six assists, and 30 shots on goal. That said, he won 52.5 percent of his faceoffs (74 won, 67 lost) and was defensively reliable; while he was on the ice, Hurricanes goaltenders saved 92.9 percent of shots.
His best game of the season came on March 11 versus the Nashville Predators when he scored two power-play goals — his only two shots of the game — and won 12 of 15 faceoffs to help the Hurricanes triumph, 5-1. His best offensive stretch last season was in seven games between April 17 and 27, when he registered five points and a plus-4 rating. He also appeared in three playoff games, averaging just 6:40 TOI on a deep Hurricanes team, and did not record a point.
When it came to the expansion draft, I expected Kraken general manager Ron Francis to select another draft pick from his time with the Hurricanes, defenseman Jake Bean — although he was a restricted free agent. Francis also passed up middle-six standout Nino Niederreiter and alternate captain Jordan Martinook on the Hurricanes. With Geekie, he selected a forward who has thrived in multiple levels of competitive play but has yet to earn the same opportunity in the NHL.
With Yanni Gourde missing the start of the 2021-22 season, the Kraken are thin at center. Nonetheless, they have a handful of hybrid forwards who can either play on the wing or at center, including Geekie (from ‘Kraken mailbag: Answering your questions about center depth, playoff aspirations, vaccine requirements and more,’ The Seattle Times, 8/6/21).
There’s a clear cut-off between the Kraken’s forwards who belong on the first three lines and those who will compete for a fourth-line spot. Middle-six forwards like Marcus Johansson, Jared McCann, and Mason Appleton are proven in their roles, whereas the remaining forwards have each played under 100 NHL games.
Along with Geekie, depth forwards Colin Blackwell, Nathan Bastian, and Alexander True will probably vie for a fourth-line role. All of them can play center, leaving someone like Geekie with the option of moving to the right-wing. A couple of other forwards, including Kole Lind and Carsen Twarynski, may also compete for a fourth-line roster spot.
At 23 years old, Geekie has a skill set that the Hurricanes did not fully utilize, which likely made him appealing to his former general manager. In particular, Geekie has proven that he performs best when it matters most, excelling in two lengthy playoff runs in the WHL and AHL.
He may not land a spot in the middle-six this season, but with several players under contract for less than two years, he may have a chance to stick around and develop into a third-line center or winger and be a lock for such a role.
We at THW have plenty more “Meet the Kraken” articles in store for you, so be sure to check back for the latest player profiles. We also plan to project forward lines, defensive pairings, and special teams units before the start of the season.