MOORHEAD — Will Borgen didn’t know he’d be moving to Seattle for very long before the rest of the world found out. For days leading up to Wednesday’s NHL Expansion Draft, the former Moorhead and Buffalo Sabres hockey player just saw all the same rumors and speculation floating around the internet as everybody else.
He knew that his former team hadn’t protected him from selection and he knew there might be some interest. But he didn’t find out until early Wednesday morning, the day of the draft, that he would be among the 30 players selected on Wednesday to make up the original roster of the first-year Seattle Kraken.
“I just found out early (Wednesday) morning, they gave me a call.” Borgen said. “I found out a couple hours before everybody else did. You see the stuff on Twitter, so everyone kind of knew once the picks got leaked, so that took some of the excitement out of it.
“I talked to the GMs and the coach. They welcomed me and let me know I got picked by them. I’m sure they had a pretty busy day.”
A couple of hours after his phone call with the Kraken’s coaches and front office, the full list of new Seattle players leaked to the public late Wednesday morning. And at about 7:30 p.m., his name was officially announced by former Seattle SuperSonics player and coach Lenny Wilkens during ESPN’s expansion draft broadcast.
“I think it’s really exciting,” Borgen said. “Just being picked by a new franchise and having a new opportunity going to a new city. It’s kind of sad for me. I’m going to miss my friends I’ve made in Buffalo and Rochester in the last three years. It’s kind of mixed emotions so it’s definitely kind of exciting.”
Borgen has split his three years as a pro between the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres and their AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans. He played 140 games in Rochester and 14 in Buffalo. He made his NHL debut with the Sabres on March 26, 2019.
“I loved my time (in Rochester),” Borgen said. “From the players to the staff, everybody was great. I made a lot of lifelong friends that I played with for two or three years. I loved it out there. I was in Buffalo for a year and they gave me my first NHL game. That meant a lot to me, obviously. The Buffalo, Rochester area will always be special to me.”
He’s got one familiar face from Rochester set to join him in Seattle in former New York Rangers forward Colin Blackwell. They played together in Rochester for eight games during Borgen’s first season.
“I sat next to (Blackwell) in the locker room, so I got to know him pretty well,” Borgen said. “He’s a pretty good guy. He was on a different team the following year.”
In Seattle, the former Spud will be united with another face familiar to the Red River Valley in Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol. Hakstol was the head coach at the University of North Dakota from 2004-15. Borgen’s first season at St. Cloud State was 2015-16, so he missed out on playing against the coach by one season as Hakstol left to coach the Philadelphia Flyers. Hakstol was the head coach in Philadelphia from 2015-18 and an assistant for Toronto from 2019-21 before accepting Seattle’s head job.
“When I was in high school I was lightly recruited by UND, but not that much,” Borgen said. “I knew who Hakstol was, obviously. And I know him through people. There have been some Moorhead guys that played at UND like Brian Lee or Chris VandeVelde.”
Borgen says he has never been to Seattle before except for maybe changing planes at the airport. He is looking forward to experiencing the Pacific Northwest and seeing some different scenery after spending the last three years in the northeast.
“I think that’s the exciting part,” he said. “Seeing something new. I’ve never been to that side of the country really. Joining a new team, everything will be completely different than what I’m used to.”
He said he was impressed by all of the former Seattle athletes who chose to take part in ESPN’s draft broadcast, including Wilkens — a three-time Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer — who announced his selection. Wilkens still lives in Seattle, 36 years after his Sonics coaching tenure ended in 1985.
“I think that speaks to the culture out there in Seattle,” Borgen said. “People are staying out there after their careers are over. They’re staying in the city. I thought that was kind of sweet being announced by a legend out there.”