The Silvertips went young this season. That’s great and all, and it’s something Everett had to do. But it’s not enough to just go young, those young players have to have ability, too.
Last season was a good example of how going young isn’t the answer in itself. Take winger Michael Bell. Bell made the team as a 16-year-old out of training camp in 2011. He appeared in 10 games before being reassigned in November, and by the end of the season had dropped off Everett’s protected list all together. Youth is good, but it’s not enough on its own.
So what about Everett’s youth this season? There was plenty of it. Everett finished the season with the youngest roster in the Western Conference. Twelve of Everett’s 24 full-time roster players were rookies.
When I think of youth, I think of 17- and 16-year-olds. The Tips had seven 17-year-olds (four of whom were rookies) and five 16-year-olds. How did they do this season? Let’s take a look.
I’m going to group those players (listed with their playing ages this season) into four separate categories:
1) Forward Tyler Sandhu (16), defenseman Mirco Mueller (17) and goaltender Austin Lotz (17).
These three established themselves as players who have a real chance of being stars in this league. Sandhu scored 19 goals as a 16-year-old. That’s a phenomenal total, the second-highest ever by an Everett 16-year-old. Mueller may have been Everett’s best all-around player. He’s a potential first-round pick in this year’s NHL draft, and he’s a legitimate No. 1 defenseman. As for Lotz, what more can we say about his performance down the stretch and in the playoffs? These three provide an excellent core moving forward.
2) Forwards Ty Mappin (16), Dawson Leedahl (16) and Carson Stadnyk (17) and defenseman Cole MacDonald (17).
These four played a lot and showed flashes, but also had their struggles. Mappin, Everett’s first-round pick in the 2011 bantam draft, never appeared to gain his confidence this season. He showed some skill and scored some points, but didn’t reach a comfort level, and his skating could use some work. Leedahl was making good progress before going down with a midseason knee injury. When he returned it was as if he was back at square one, and it wasn’t until the playoffs that he appeared to get back to where he was in December. Stadnyk hit a bit of a wall in the second half. MacDonald was probably the most consistent of this group. This group has talent, and they have a chance to develop into quality players, but they still have a ways to go to get there.
3) Defensemen Austin Adam (17) and Ayrton Nikkel (17).
These two weren’t rookies, but we never got a good look at them in their second seasons. Adam was plagued by injuries and illness. Nikkel didn’t arrive until midseason, then got hurt. Both were good enough to catch the eye of the NHL Central Scouting Service, but both suffered the misfortune of suffering injuries during their draft year. We’ll have to see how good they are going forward, and the injuries slowed their development. But there’s still a chance they could be really good.
4) Forwards Logan Aasman (17) and Mitch Skapski (16) and defenseman Micheal Zipp (16).
These three didn’t jump to the WHL level until after the Christmas break, so they only got half seasons as part-time players. Really, this season was about getting their feet wet in preparation for next season. The one who stood out was Zipp. Here’s a player who was buried on the bench of his junior A team. The Tips brought him in less out of need and more out of rescuing him from rotting away a season of development. Then injuries forced him into the lineup, and he performed better than anyone could have imagined. But really, we don’t yet know what the Tips have in these players.
What can we conclude about this overall group of 12? It has the potential to pull Everett out of its doldrums, there’s enough talent there. But it’s not a slam dunk. These players need to continue to take steps forward to turn the Tips back into a winner.
Next: 2012-13 review: What could have been