2013-14 preview: Who’s joining the bench?

With the potential of 21 players returning, it wouldn’t appear there are many roster spots available for newcomers next season. I’m also not sure there are any instant-impact types in the system, players who will come in and immediately be among the top six forwards or top for defensemen. Nevertheless, there are several candidates who will be stating their case for a roster spot once training camp rolls around in August.

Let’s begin with the players who have signed education contracts with the Tips (players are listed with their playing age for next season):

– Defenseman Kevin Davis (16) appears to be a lock to make the team. He was Everett’s first-round pick in last year’s bantam draft. He appeared in six games during the regular season and three in the postseason, holding his own against quality opposition. He may not be the biggest, strongest or fastest player, but he seems to have a good understanding of what he’s doing out there.

– Forward Kyle Raymond (17) was a seventh-round pick in the 2011 bantam draft. He had a decent season playing junior B as a 16-year-old, and he also got into four games with the Tips. He didn’t get a lot of shifts in those games with Everett, so we didn’t get a very good look at what he can do. But he has one thing that’s in short supply with the Tips, which is size, as he stands 6-foot-5.

– My original guess about forward Matt Fonteyne (16) was that he would be a longshot to make the team, being a late birthdate and on the smaller side. But the third rounder in 2012 had a very good season at the midget level, and was surprisingly good during his two-game call-up at the end of the season. He has both skill and speed, and he’s easily the likeliest 16-year-old forward to make the team.

– Defenseman Noah Juulsen (16) has looked better than a fourth-round pick the moment he stepped foot in Everett. He was excellent during training camp, had a good midget season, then like Fonteyne he impressed in his one game with the Tips during the final weekend of the regular season. It’ll be tough for the Tips to fit two 16-year-old defensemen on the roster, but Juulsen might force Everett’s hand.

– Goaltender Nik Amundrud (16), another third-round pick from 2012, also dressed in games with the Tips this season, though he didn’t get any actual ice time. With Amundrud it’s a question of whether Everett is comfortable with having a 16-year-old back up Austin Lotz, or whether the Tips would rather he get lots of game action at a lower level.

How about the unsigned prospects? Because they’re not signed (as far as we know), there’s no telling whether they’re committed to the Tips, or whether the Tips are committed to them. But all these players attended training camp last year, so there must be at least some interest, and they had good enough seasons where they would at least warrant a look:

– Defenseman Justin Baudry (17) was a nobody coming into the season, an undrafted player who had modest numbers playing midget as a 15-year-old. But he vaulted further forward than any Everett prospect this season. He made a junior A team as a 16-year-old, played a regular shift and put up much better numbers than he did at the midget level. He impressed so much that he ended up making Team West for the U-17 World Hockey Challenge. He’s now a legitimate WHL prospect.

– Defenseman Carter Cochrane (17) was a standout during training camp, and he followed up with an excellent season playing junior B. It got off to a slow start because of injury, but once he got up to speed he was a point-a-game performer down the stretch, then he went nuts in the playoffs. The last Everett prospect I remember having this good a season as a 16-year-old playing junior B was Kellan Tochkin, and he wasn’t half bad as a 17-year-old rookie.

– It sounds unlikely that California forward Jake Durflinger (16) will crack Everett’s roster next season, as both his family and Tips general manager Garry Davidson apparently agree he’s still a year away. But the mutual interest is supposedly still there for the player who may have been the best 16-year-old in training camp last year. He’s a smaller player who plays bigger than his size, throwing big hits and getting under opponents’ skin. He also puts points on the board.

– Forward Braeden Allkins (17) attended training camp as an invitee, then was listed midseason. He’s basically a Kyle Raymond clone. He’s tall and lanky, and he had pretty much the identical season playing in the same junior B league.

Who’s not coming? Two skilled forwards have already announced their intentions to play elsewhere next season.

– Forward Auston Matthews (16) has decided to spend the next two seasons with the U.S. National Team Development Program. The Arizona resident was a third-round pick in last year’s bantam draft, and was probably the top talent selected by the Tips. However, there were always concerns about whether he would play in the WHL, which is why he was still available in the third round. The Tips will take another run at Matthews after his time with the NTDP is up.

– Forward Josh Blanchard (17) was listed during the regular season. He pretty much fits the description of what Davidson has sought in a player, reportedly being both fast and skilled. He even has the Portland ties, as he was originally drafted by the Winterhawks. But he’s also very small, and he’s committed next season to Penticton of the BCHL. He has the characteristics of a player who could be headed to the NCAA.

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So that wraps up the season-end blog series. Thanks for taking the time to read it, and thanks for hanging around throughout Everett’s 10th anniversary season. The blog slows down now for the offseason, but it never comes to a complete stop, so make sure to check in now and then. Next up for the Tips is the May 2 bantam draft, and of course there could be a coaching announcement at any time. In the meantime, have a great offseason!

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