2013-14 preview: Who’s on the bench?

Let’s take a look at Everett’s roster from the playoffs. Here’s the age breakdowns of the full-time players:

20 – 3

19 – 3

18 – 6

17 – 7

16 – 5

Those 20-year-olds consist of two waiver-wire acquisitions in utilityman Landon Oslanski and defenseman Connor Cox, as well as winger Ryan Harrison, who didn’t appear during the playoffs because of injury.

A team’s 19-year-olds are always in question because just three can return as overagers the next season, plus they’re eligible to play professionally in the minors. However, Everett has just three 19-year-olds in forwards Joshua Winquist, Reid Petryk and Manraj Hayer, and none of those three are projected to be pros next season.

That means it’s possible Everett will have 21 players off this season’s roster next season. When I say that I don’t mean that the Tips have 21 players to choose from. I mean that Everett, should it choose, could have all 21 of those non-overage players on the roster next season. There’s no issues with overagers, no issues with potential pros, no issues with two-spot Euros, nothing. Therefore, Everett could return more intact than any other team in the WHL.

But will all those players return? Last offseason Tips general manager Garry Davidson, in his first chance to shape the roster, turned it over quite a bit. However, Davidson said after the season ended that he anticipated far less roster turnover this offseason than last offseason.

The three overagers appear set, and Davidson said he expected Winquist, Petryk and Hayer to be Everett’s 20-year-olds next season. All three were among the Tips’ top four scorers this season, so they should make for a quality overage trio.

The goaltending is spoken for as Austin Lotz established himself as a legit No. 1 as a 17-year-old. The defense is also pretty much set. When the team was healthy Oslanski played forward, so the only d-man the team loses is Cox. Six guys who received regular minutes on the blue line — Ben Betker, Mirco Mueller, Austin Adam, Ayrton Nikkel, Cole MacDonald, Micheal Zipp — will be back.

The big question is up front. Everett may return six of its top eight scorers, but this is still the team that scored the fewest goals in the league. Even the return of the pending overage trio doesn’t solve the offensive problem. Other than those three, the only Tips forwards who cracked the 20-point barrier were Kohl Bauml and Tyler Sandhu. So Everett either needs its forwards to take a big collective step forward, or needs to find another impact scorer or two.

There may be one simple way to address that. Everett has its two Euro slots filled by Mueller and winger Stathis Soumelidis, but could the Tips try and upgrade? Everett has another high pick in this year’s import draft. Mueller isn’t going anywhere. But if the Tips are able to find a top-six forward, do they feel compelled to replace Soumelidis, who was more of a role player?

Soumelidis is one of four returning forwards who will be 19 next season. Of those, Bauml is the only one who produced anything offensively. We’ll have to see whether the Tips feel they can afford to carry that many 19-year-old forwards who don’t score.

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

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