The announcement of the signings of Bajkov and Skrumeda are kind of anti-climactic, considering both played during the weekend and wouldn't have been able to do so without signing. But I suppose this makes it official. Those two are probably the two players who have surprised me most through training camp and the preseason. Bajkov was not a player who stood out to me at all at camp last year, but he's improved a ton, showing signs he has what it takes to be a skill player in the WHL in the future. Skrumeda seemed way down on the depth chart last year, but the puck-rushing specialist's performance has been at least as good as one could have expected from Carter Cochrane or Justin Baudry, two defensive prospects his age who passed on camp this year.
As for Wharrie, he was reassigned last week and didn't play the past weekend, but is rejoining the team for the upcoming weekend's games in Kennewick. He's a good-sized defenseman who's a no-nonsense stay-at-home type. He was solid during training camp, holding up well against older players.
Before training camp, and even before preseason games, I wouldn't have given either Bajkov or Skrumeda much of a chance to make the team this year. But both performed well over the weekend and are going to force general manager Garry Davidson to make some tough decisions.
But those decisions won't be happening this week. Everett still has 31 players on the roster, but six of those -- forwards Reid Petryk (Edmonton), Jujhar Khaira (Edmonton) and Linden Penner (Calgary), defensemen Ben Betker (Edmonton) and Mirco Mueller (San Jose), and goaltender Austin Lotz (Carolina) -- are attending NHL rookie camps through the weekend. Therefore, Everett is carrying everyone else into the weekend's exhibition games in Kennewick. The next round of cuts will happen after that.
Here's a reminder of who's still on the roster:
Forwards (18): Manraj Hayer (20), Reid Petryk (20), Josh Winquist (20), Kohl Bauml (19), Jujhar Jhaira (19), Brayden Low (19), Logan Aasman (18), Linden Penner (18), Carson Stadnyk (18), Waltteri Hopponen (17), Dawson Leedahl (17), Ty Mappin (17), Ivan Nikolishin (17), Kyle Raymond (17), Tyler Sandhu (17), Mitch Skapski (17), Patrick Bajkov (16), Matt Fonteyne (16).
Defensemen (10): Matt Pufahl (20), Ben Betker (19), Austin Adam (18), Cole MacDonald (18), Mirco Mueller (18), Lucas Skrumeda (17), Micheal Zipp (17), Kevin Davis (16), Noah Juulsen (16), Jordan Wharrie (16).
Goaltenders (3): Daniel Cotton (19), Austin Lotz (18), Nik Amundrud (16).
The typical roster includes 14-15 forwards, 7-8 defensemen and two goaltenders, so there's still work to be done.
The Tips still have four overagers, so one will have to be pared away by the overager cutdown date in mid-October. That could be solved by Petryk earning a pro contract with the Oilers. Otherwise, it's pretty much a pick 'em between the three forwards (Pufahl is both a defenseman and a player traded for during the offseason, so you've got to think he's safe). I would imagine the Tips would keep who they think are the best two, but trade value may also come into play.
Everett also has three Euros, and that number will have to be reduced to two if/when Mueller returns from camp with San Jose. This is complicated by the rule that prevents Everett from trading either Hopponen or Nikolishin, since they haven't been in the league for a year. I will say this, though: I can't see there being any chance the Tips trade Mueller if he's sent back. Mueller is a legit No. 1 defenseman who has a good chance of being here the next two seasons. That is not the type of player a team trades. Hopponen and Nikolishin are contrasting types of forwards, but they've both looked good, so if it comes down to a choice between the two it may depend on what kind of player the Tips feel they need in that age group.
Anyway, I'm on baseball duty this week as the Everett AquaSox are in the playoffs, so blog activity may decrease a bit. But If anything significant happens I'll find time to post.
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