NHL.com’s Q&A feature called “Five Questions With …” runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.
The latest edition features Robert Kron, whom the Seattle Kraken announced as their director of amateur scouting Oct. 30. Kron played 12 seasons as a forward in the NHL from 1990-2002, scoring 338 points (144 goals, 194 assists) in 771 games for the Vancouver Canucks, Hartford Whalers, Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets. He spent 12 seasons as an amateur scout with the Hurricanes from 2008-2020, rising to director of European scouting last year. Now he will help build the newest NHL expansion team, which will participate in its first amateur draft next year before beginning play in the 2021-22 season.
The Seattle Kraken could not have named a better director of amateur scouting than Robert Kron, at least not one better named. Kraken. Kron ….
“It’s kind of a little bit like a variation of my last name,” he said with a laugh.
Kron is a fit in more than name only, though.
This is Kron’s third time with an NHL team entering a new market. He moved with the Hartford Whalers when they became the Carolina Hurricanes in 1997, playing two seasons in Greensboro, North Carolina, and one in Raleigh. He was selected in the 2000 NHL Expansion Draft and played two seasons for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Kron has a long history with Kraken general manager Ron Francis. They played together for two seasons in Carolina (1998-2000) and worked together for eight seasons in the front office for the Hurricanes (2011-19), including five when Francis was their GM (2014-19).
Based outside Washington, D.C., not in the state of Washington, Kron has not been to Seattle since his hiring due to the coronavirus pandemic. But he knows the area from visiting when he played for the Vancouver Canucks and from scouting.
“It’s a great city,” he said.
Here are Five Questions with … Robert Kron:
What are your memories of establishing the NHL in Carolina and Columbus, and what do you expect in Seattle?
“When we moved to Carolina from Hartford, it was challenging, to say the least. The first two years, all the players lived in Raleigh, and we practiced in Raleigh at a practice arena there. But all the games were played in Greensboro. We had 3,000 people in the rink early on, and nobody really knew much about hockey. Everybody had to kind of educate people about what ice hockey is, because it is, as you know, basketball country. But I think we made the best of it, and then once we moved to the brand-new arena in Raleigh, it was really awesome. [General manager] Jim Rutherford did a great job kind of starting off that franchise and making it what it is, because it wasn’t easy.
“When I moved to Columbus in the expansion draft, we didn’t have that problem. It was a beautiful new arena there with an attached practice rink, and [GM] Doug MacLean did a great job marketing the team with his staff. I think the two years I played there, we had 98 percent sellouts, so that environment was great. People really were excited about the new team and supported it. They knew much more about hockey in general. It’s a good hockey town there.
“And this one, I think, is going to be the most exciting one, because just to be able to listen to [president and CEO] Tod Leiweke and all the people that are involved, and Ron Francis and everybody that’s involved in the process of putting this together, it’s incredibly exciting. The new arena coming in, the practice facility, it’s going to be state of the art. I know Ron from playing and working with him, so the vision the team has, it’s beyond exciting. Can’t wait.”
What is exciting about working with Francis again in particular?
“As good of a player as he was, he’s as good an executive. Ron’s an extremely intelligent guy, extremely knowledgeable, and knows the hockey market inside out not only as a player but from management point of view. He’s got a great feel for the players. He’s a great communicator, makes everybody feel included and makes sure everybody’s voice is heard.
“It’s going to be phenomenal. It’s going to be a great organization. They’re going to put together a competitive team, I believe, and he’s putting together a great staff. With the people I’ve met, I know everybody’s on board, and we know the vision where we’re going. It’s going to be great. I think the main thing with him is the communication, open channels, and you can discuss everything that you might have on your mind regarding players or the business aspect. Everything.”
What is the vision in terms of the players the Kraken want to draft?
“Well, you can’t talk enough about character. I think everybody’s on board that we’re going to look for people that have strong character. Obviously, the talent level is important, but you want the desire to work, to win. You want good people, people that sacrifice for the team, understanding that you win together. It’s not easy to do, and that’s the only way to do it. You want people that have passion for the game, and that’s pretty much the simple version but the most important version of it.
“Obviously we know that from the draft perspective, it takes at least four, five years before we see these kids, so we’ll see how that goes. It’s going to be a process, but I think the philosophy is high character, high compete, team mentality.”
How is the coronavirus pandemic affecting preparations for your first draft?
“It’s something that everybody’s dealing with. We can’t really make any excuses, but it is a challenging situation, especially here [in North America]. Hopefully we’ll get some live viewings over here, but we’re going to have to utilize video. It’s going to be a big resource for us. Dipping to analytics, they can help us a little bit with the data they have from last year on these kids when they were underaged. We do have the European leagues going, so we do have a presence over there. We have live viewings ongoing, so it’s a little easier.
“We don’t have [the usual amount of] international tournaments, where these young kids compete against their age group on an international level and you get to see them live. [The 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship in Edmonton] is going to be played in a bubble. We’re going to have limited viewings in the second half of the year.
“So it’s definitely challenging, but it’s also exciting. It is what it is, and that’s what we have to work with, and let’s make the best out of it.”
How will you use analytics in amateur scouting?
“Analytics plays a bigger role obviously these days in the game, and we have a great staff. We have great people that come up with ideas that we can use and try to see how we can use it on the amateur side and go into the draft or kind of drive the discussion about players. I can’t really go into details. But we’re very, very lucky and fortunate we have the group that we have, and everybody’s pulling in the same direction, so let’s put it that way.”
Photo courtesy of Seattle Kraken