By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — Reid Petryk and Ben Betker were back on the ice with the Everett Silvertips during practice Tuesday at Comcast Arena.
And now the Tips have a difficult decision to make.
Two more of Everett’s players have returned from NHL camps, meaning the Tips roster is getting a little crowded.
Both Petryk, a 20-year-old forward, and Betker, a defenseman entering his 19-year-old season, were attending training camp with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers.
“It’s good to get those guys back,” Everett general manager Garry Davidson said. “We didn’t know what to expect there. It’s certainly nice to have Ben back on the back end because (Mirco) Mueller is still away, so it adds an experienced, big-bodied guy. Reid gives us the four 20-year-olds, so that complicates the issue quicker than we anticipated.”
Petryk and Betker were both getting their first taste of the NHL experience. Betker was Edmonton’s sixth-round pick in this year’s NHL draft, while Petryk was a free agent invited to try out for the team. Both players advanced past Edmonton’s rookie camp and spent last week taking part in the Oilers’ main camp.
“It was overwhelming at times, meeting with Craig MacTavish the GM, the head coach (Dallas Eakins), so many important people,” said Betker, who didn’t have a prior guarantee of advancing past rookie camp. “Then meeting the guys like Taylor Hall, (Ryan) Nugent-Hopkins, the guys you see on TV all those years, it’s pretty impressive. I felt great about the way I performed, they had good things to say about how I played. It probably couldn’t have gone better.”
“I thought I showed pretty well,” said Petryk, who missed much of Edmonton’s rookie camp because of a groin injury, but scored a goal during Edmonton’s 4-3 exhibition loss to the University of Alberta. “They didn’t get too much of a look at me, but I thought it was a good experience. I learned a lot. I saw how fast the game was up there, and now I have to come back here and work my (behind) off to hopefully get a contract.”
But with Petryk and Betker back in the fold, Davidson is going to have to make some decisions as Everett now has 26 players with the team, which is more than teams typically carry during the season.
Petryk’s return in particular complicates things. Petryk had been a candidate to earn a professional contract with the Oilers, and as a 20-year-old he was eligible to play this season in the minors. But now that he’s back, Everett has four overagers with just three roster spots available. All four are quality choices who would be valuable members of this season’s team, and all four have different strengths:
w Petryk is a big, strong and durable forward who was deemed worthy of a pro tryout.
w Forward Joshua Winquist is arguably Everett’s most skilled player, and he led Everett in scoring last season.
w Forward Manraj Hayer may be Everett’s fastest player, and he led the league in scoring during the preseason.
w Matt Pufahl is a defenseman who was acquired during the offseason specifically because of his experience and puck-moving abilities.
All of which adds up to a difficult decision for Davidson.
“We’ve got a defenseman we acquired because we felt we needed experience back there, and we have three forwards who all bring something a little different to the table,” Davidson said. “So we have to figure out which of them brings the dimension we feel we need to have. The waters are very muddied.”
If there’s a player who appeared safe it was Pufahl, considering he was traded for during the offseason, meaning it would come down to choosing two of the three forwards. However, Davidson stopped short of saying Pufahl was a lock to make the team. Davidson also said he’s been contacted by other teams who would be interested in trading for one of Everett’s overagers.
“It’s going to be a tough decision,” Petryk said. “They’re all great players and I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I’m sure (whoever is the odd-man out) will have a job somewhere.”
The deadline for getting down to three overagers is Oct. 15, so the Tips still have some time to make a decision. Everett has nine regular-season games before the deadline. The Tips will be able to dress just three overagers for games.
Despite having 26 players with the team, Davidson said he wouldn’t make any more cuts prior to Saturday’s season opener against Prince George at Comcast Arena. That means the Tips likely will take 16 forwards, eight defensemen and two goaltenders into Saturday. That does not include Mueller (San Jose) or forward Jujhar Khaira (Edmonton), who remain with their NHL teams.
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.