By Nick Patterson Herald writer
EVERETT — The Everett Silvertips are still in the afterglow of a successful season-opening weekend. Sunday morning they received more good news via the NHL.
Fresh off Saturday’s season-opening 8-3 thrashing of Prince George on Saturday, Everett learned it will be adding a potential major impact player as forward Jujhar Khaira was reassigned to the Silvertips by the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers.
The Tips also will be getting defenseman Mirco Mueller back, as he was reassigned to Everett by the San Jose Sharks after signing an entry-level contract with the NHL team. Mueller’s return means the Tips have a decision to make with its three European players.
Sunday’s announcement by the Oilers that Khaira was reassigned to Everett finally confirms what the Tips had been hoping. Khaira, a 19-year-old power forward from Surrey, B.C., was a third-round pick by Edmonton in the 2012 NHL draft. The 6-foot-3, 198-pounder who brings both physical play and offensive production, spent time practicing with Everett during the preseason before heading to training camp with the Oilers. He was an outside candidate to earn a roster spot with Edmonton, and he had an assist during the Oilers’ 5-2 exhibition victory over Vancouver on Saturday night.
Khaira’s road to Everett has been a long one. The Tips acquired his rights during the 2012 bantam draft, but Khaira chose to attend Michigan Tech University rather than join the Tips. Khaira had a solid freshman season for Michigan Tech, registering six goals and 19 assists in 37 games. However, Khaira signed a contract with Edmonton in August, thus forfeiting his NCAA eligibility. There had been some debate about whether Khaira was eligible to play professionally in the minors this season. But now he’ll spend the season in the WHL.
Khaira’s addition gives Everett 17 forwards, with is approximately three more than teams tend to carry during the season.
As for Mueller, he inked a standard three-year entry-level contract with the Sharks, who selected him 18th overall in the first round of this year’s NHL draft. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Mueller, an 18-year-old from Winterhur, Switzerland, is coming off an impressive rookie season in which he had six goals and 25 assists in 63 games while becoming Everett’s No. 1 defenseman. He did not appear in any preseason games with the Sharks.
With Mueller being returned to Everett, the Tips will have to make a decision with their three European players. Everett can only retain two of Mueller and rookie forwards Waltteri Hopponen and Ivan Nikolishin. The Finnish Hopponen and the Russian Nikolishin are ineligible to be traded because they were selected in this year’s Canadian Hockey League import draft. Both Hopponen and Nikolishin played in Saturday’s season opener, with Nikolishin tallying two assists.
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.