Silvertips eyeing offense in import draft

EVERETT — A year ago, the Everett Silvertips hit the jackpot. Today they’re hoping to come up aces one more time.

The Canadian Hockey League Import Draft takes place this morning, and the Tips are once again well positioned to add an impact player to their roster.

Everett has the 10th overall pick in today’s draft, the annual crapshoot that distributes European players among the 60 teams of the Western Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The draft, which is renown for the unpredictability of what teams are getting, lasts two rounds.

Last year Everett picked 11th overall and selected Swiss defenseman Mirco Mueller. All Mueller did was become Everett’s No. 1 defenseman as a 17-year-old, and he was selected in the first round of Sunday’s NHL draft by the San Jose Sharks.

This year the Tips are looking for a forward, and ideally they’ll find one who has the same type of impact Mueller did last season.

“There are some real high-end guys who are real question marks because you don’t know whether they’re coming (to the CHL),” said Everett general manager Garry Davidson, who confirmed the Tips will select a forward. “There are eight to 10 good guys who were picked in (Sunday’s NHL draft), but with a lot of those guys you’re just not sure. They may have contracts in Europe and you don’t know if they can get out of them, or they’re Russian and likely to sign in the KHL (Kontinental Hockey League). What it does is leave us looking a little more at younger guys, like Mirco.”

Each team in the CHL is allotted two roster spots for European players. Everett released Czech winger Stathis Soumelidis earlier this offseason to become eligible to use its first-round pick.

However, despite the presence of Mueller on the roster, Everett is eligible to use its second-round selection (70th overall) as well. A recent rule change states that if a team has a European player on its roster who is selected in the first round of the NHL draft, that team is eligible to add a third European. The purpose of the rule is to provide teams insurance against the NHL draft pick making his NHL team, thus leaving his junior team with a gaping hole. If the NHL draft pick returns to his junior team following training camp, the junior team must get back down to two Europeans.

Davidson indicated he intends to use his second-round selection, even though it’s fully expected Mueller will be back in Everett next season.

“We plan on using it, we’re just not sure how,” Davidson said. “It’s possible we’ll take someone who’s not coming this year, but may come next year.”

This year’s draft is also the last chance for CHL teams to add European goaltenders. Hockey Canada, because of a perceived lack of development among Canadian goaltenders, has directed the CHL to phase out European goalies. European goalies currently in the CHL will be allowed to play out their junior eligibility, and today teams are allowed to select goaltenders in the first round only. But goalies will be barred from the import draft beginning next year.

Everett, with Austin Lotz entrenched as the team’s No. 1 netminder, is not in the market for a goaltender. Nevertheless, Davidson found the decision to ban European goalies curious.

“Personally, I struggle with that decision a little bit,” he said. “I really think the CHL is the best junior league in the world, and it should have the best players. If that means European goalies, I’m fine with that. (Hockey Canada) feels development of goalies is an issue, but I’m not sure having one or two high-end European goalies makes that much difference. The development is needed at the younger levels. But that’s just my personal opinion.”

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

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