EVERETT — The Craig Hartsburg era for the Everett Silvertips begins in earnest today.
The Silvertips open proceedings for the 2009-10 WHL season this morning with the opening of training camp, giving new head coach Craig Hartsburg his first chance to see his charges in action.
“The last week or so you’re always antsy to get started,” said Hartsburg, who was hired to replace John Becanic in June. “It’s been a long time since I was hired, so it’s good to put faces with names of the kids who have been walking around the past few days. It will be great to see them on the ice.”
This season is something of a fresh start for the Tips. Last season Everett experienced a roller coaster ride, with an unexpectedly strong start derailed by a second-half collapse that cost Becanic his job. With a new head coach installed who has seven seasons worth of NHL coaching experience under his belt, and with a large contingent of returning players, the Tips will be looking to improve upon their 27-36-7-2 record.
And this week Hartsburg will be keeping a close eye out for players who can help accomplish that, regardless of their reputations or past accomplishments.
“Each time these kids are on the ice is so important,” Hartsburg said. “The players who are coming in new are fighting for spots. But even the veteran players, with a new coach, it’s important they understand they’re fighting for ice time and fighting for spots in the lineup.
“I have no preconceived ideas.”
The players checked in Tuesday night and on-ice action begins this morning at Comcast Arena. The approximately 75 players in attendance, which includes veterans and rookies, will be split into four teams to compete in scrimmages today, Thursday and Friday. Each team will play twice each day, with morning scrimmages taking place at 9 and 10:30 and afternoon scrimmages at 3 and 4:30. The afternoon scrimmages are open to the public.
Camp concludes Saturday with the seventh annual Green vs. Grey game, which is at 3 p.m. at Comcast Arena.
Training camp has a different format than the past three years. This year, instead of having separate rookie and main camps, everyone is being grouped into one camp.
“It gives our (15-year-olds) a chance to actually see the older guys and the pace and the size of the players,” Everett general manager Doug Soetaert explained. “Plus we got our veterans here earlier — usually we wait until Saturday or Sunday to bring them in. We wanted the veterans here earlier to give Craig and the coaching staff the opportunity to evaluate the players and get a feel for what we have.”
Four 20-year-olds are in camp to compete for the three overage roster spots. They include returning forwards Shane Harper and Zack Dailey, plus two waiver acquisitions from Prince George in center Alex Poulter and defenseman Colin Scherger.
There are four players from last year’s team who were eligible to return, but either were not invited to camp or chose not to attend. Center Jesse Burt and defensemen Mike Alexander and Shayne Brown, who are in their 20-year-old season, were released during the offseason. Nineteen-year-old defenseman Trevor Bauer, a part-time player last season, chose not to return.
Both of Everett’s selections from the recent CHL import draft, 18-year-old Finnish defensemen Rasmus Rissanen and 19-year-old Czech defenseman Radko Gudas, are also in town. Rissanen will not participate in training camp, however, as he’s recovering from an upper-body injury that required offseason surgery. He’s expected to be cleared for full contact within the next two weeks.
As for the newcomers, 10 of Everett’s 11 selections from this year’s bantam draft are taking part. That includes the Tips’ top pick, defenseman Nicholas Walters, who’s already been inked to a WHL education contract.
The one draft pick not in attendance is Everett’s other first-round selection, defenseman Seth Jones. The Dallas native and son of former NBA player Popeye Jones has not committed to the WHL. However, Soetaert was still confident about Everett’s chances of eventually landing the prized prospect, who isn’t eligible to join the Tips full-time until next season.
“We’ve had great conversation with him and his parents and his advisor,” Soetaert said. “Everything is on course, he’s upbeat about the Everett Silvertips. Unfortunately he’s not going to be here at this point in time. There’s a good chance he’ll be here during the course of the winter, and all indications are he’ll be here for training camp next year.”
The Tips extended the contract of associate head coach Jay Varady, the team announced Tuesday. His contract now runs through the 2010-11 season. Varady has been a member of Everett’s coaching staff since day one. He spent four seasons as an assistant under Kevin Constantine, and now is beginning his third season as associate head coach. He also will be part of USA Hockey’s coaching staff for this winter’s World Junior Hockey Championships.
Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog: http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog