Nikkel adjusts to life with Silvertips

EVERETT — Being traded always requires an adjustment. The player not only has to deal with off-ice changes, he has to get used to new coaches and a new way of playing.

In Ayrton Nikkel’s case, at least his new teammates are going through the same thing.

Nikkel is the newest member of the Everett Silvertips, having been acquired at last Thursday’s trade deadline. But because of Everett’s recent coaching change, which came just two days earlier, Nikkel has plenty of company when it comes to trying to figure things out on the ice.

“All the guys are in the same boat as me, getting used to a new coach, so I can kind of relate to them with that,” Nikkel said following Everett’s practice Monday afternoon at Comcast Arena. “It’s what everyone’s talking about.”

Nikkel, a rugged 17-year-old defenseman, was acquired by Everett in the deal that sent defenseman Nick Walters to the Brandon Wheat Kings. The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder from Kelowna, B.C., arrived late Thursday evening, then was thrust straight into the lineup Friday night in Everett’s home game against Victoria.

“I thought he did fairly well for a fellow who hardly had a chance to put his skates on, let alone have a practice,” said Everett general manager Garry Davidson, who took over behind the bench after firing coach Mark Ferner last Tuesday. “I liked what I saw. He’s fairly mobile, he showed some good aggression. He has a few things he’s going to have to work on, as all these young guys do, but for the most part I thought it was a pretty good first weekend for him.”

Said Nikkel: “I played OK. I’m still trying to get used to some of the systems, and the guys were helping me out a lot, and so were the coaches. It’s going to take some getting used to, but so far it’s been a lot of fun.”

Nikkel is the latest building block added in Everett’s youth movement. The Tips already had one of the youngest teams in the league, and now Everett’s roster includes 12 players who are in their 17- or 16-year-old seasons.

Nikkel arrived with some measure of fanfare. He was originally a second-round pick in the 2010 bantam draft by the Saskatoon Blades, then he was one of the prize prospects included in the deal that sent superstar center Brayden Schenn from Brandon to Saskatoon at the 2011 trade deadline. He had a solid rookie campaign with the Wheat Kings last season, tallying three goals, seven assists and 72 penalty minutes in 59 games. Before this season began he was identified by the NHL Central Scouting Service as a player to watch for the upcoming NHL draft.

This season Nikkel had nine assists and 87 penalty minutes in 42 games for the Wheat Kings. But Nikkel said he was ready for a change.

“I was excited to get a fresh start here in Everett,” Nikkel said about his reaction to the trade. “I’ve heard nothing but good things about the organization, and I’m seeing that now.

“We were struggling a little bit (in Brandon),” Nikkel added. “The team morale over there was a little low. I figured a fresh start would be good for me. Being a little closer to home is nice as well.”

Nikkel had a positive first impression of his new team.

“I like it,” Nikkel said. “It’s a lot of fun here, a really good group of guys and a really nice city. All the facilities are top notch and the coaching staff is really good. I like the crowd here. It’s really upbeat and really loud, so it’s a lot of fun.”

Now he just wants to help the Silvertips in their drive to make the playoffs for the 10th straight season.

“I just want to help the team finish the season strong and hopefully make a playoff run,” Nikkel said about his goals for the remainder of the season. “Then hopefully I can go into the (NHL) draft and get my name called.”

Slap shots

Everett will be without defenseman Mirco Mueller for tonight’s home game against Tri-City. The 17-year-old defenseman departed Monday for Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he will participate in Wednesday’s CHL Top Prospects Game. Mueller just returned last week from the playing for Switzerland at the World Junior Hockey Championships. He’s expected to be back in time for the upcoming three-in-three weekend. … Tips winger Dawson Leedahl is nearing a return. Leedahl, who hasn’t played since Dec. 11 because of a knee injury, has rejoined practices, though he’s wearing a no-contact jersey. Davidson said Leedahl is ahead of schedule with his recovery and could return as soon as next week.

Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.

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