By Nick Patterson Herald writer
The Everett Silvertips were unable to land elite prospect Seth Jones. However, the Tips managed to come away with a substantial consolation prize.
Everett received four prospects from the Portland Winterhawks in exchange for Jones in a trade completed Tuesday.
The Tips picked up defensemen Reece Willcox and Ben Betker, as well as forwards Tyler Sandhu and Mitch Skapski in exchange for Jones, the uber-prospect from Dallas who decided he would not play for Everett. Willcox and Betker will be 18-year-olds next season, Sandhu and Skapski 16-year-olds.
“I certainly was a little disappointed initially that we weren’t able to get Seth Jones to report,” Everett general manager Garry Davidson said. “But if a player isn’t going to play for us, we have to move on, and I think we did reasonably well in this deal.”
Tuesday’s trade finally brought to an end the Jones saga, which spanned more than three years. Everett originally drafted Jones, the son of former NBA player Popeye Jones, in the first round of the 2009 bantam draft. At the time Jones was considered a top-five talent, but slipped because of questions whether he would choose to play in the WHL or the NCAA.
Everett spent nearly three years courting Jones, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound defenseman who’s projected as a potential No. 1 overall selection in the 2013 NHL draft. However, those efforts proved fruitless as Jones revealed two weeks ago the he would not play for Everett. The Tips granted Portland permission to talk to Jones and Jones decided to sign with Portland, necessitating Tuesday’s trade.
“I’m not surprised (Jones signed),” Davidson said. “In conversations with his agent , he relayed Seth’s desire to play for (the University of) North Dakota or Portland. I probably could have played poker a little longer, but I decided to move forward and make the deal. I’m comfortable with all four players, these are the guys I initially asked for, so we’re happy to have guys who will be in our organization for the next two, three or four years.”
All four players Everett received were either drafted or listed by Portland while Davidson was Portland’s director of player personnel.
Willcox is considered a top prospect. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound native of Surrey, B.C., was a third-round bantam pick in 2009 and was ranked 90th among North American skaters by the NHL Central Scouting Service for this year’s NHL draft. This season he played for Merritt of the junior A British Columbia Hockey League, registering five goals and 18 assists in 52 games. However, he is currently committed to attend Cornell University.
“He’s someone we still have to try and recruit,” Davidson said. “But he moves the puck very well and is very smart. He’s not a guy who’s flashy, but he’s a really solid player.”
Betker is a late bloomer. The 6-foot-4, 185-pounder from Cranbrook, B.C., went unselected in the 2009 bantam draft. However, he grew five inches in the past 18 months and is now touted as a possible selection in the 2013 NHL draft. He played for Westside of the BCHL this season, notching five goals and 13 assists in 59 games.
“He moves the puck well, he’s a better-than-average skater and he hard a good year at Westside,” Davidson said. “He’s already signed and he was a key part to the deal.”
Getting defensemen capable of stepping straight into the lineup was crucial for Everett as the Tips could lose their top four defensemen from last season.
In contrast, the two forwards were acquired with the long term in mind.
Sandhu was a second-round pick in last year’s bantam draft. The 5-foot-11, 150-pound native of Richmond, B.C., played for the Greater Vancouver Canadians of the British Columbia Major Midget League this season. He finished with 18 goals and 27 assists in 38 games to lead the team in scoring.
“He’s a skilled center man,” Davidson said. “He can shoot the puck and has quick hands. I think Tyler at some point will be a top-six forward.”
Skapski was taken in the fourth round of last year’s bantam draft. The 5-foot-8, 140-pounder from Abbotsford, B.C., played for the Fraser Valley Bruins this season, tallying 26 goals, 23 assists and 86 penalty minutes in 40 games.
“He’s a guy who gets around the ice well, and he’s one of those agitating guys who has a lot of sandpaper to his game,” Davidson said. “But saying that, he gets goals by going to the front of the net.”
Sandhu and Skapski add depth to a 1996-born forward group that already includes top prospects Ty Mappin and Daswon Leedahl.
Jones has yet to reveal why he would not play for Everett. During a videoconference with Portland media Tuesday, Jones merely said he liked the kind of up-tempo game the Winterhawks play. Portland coach and general manager Mike Johnston said he did not discuss with Jones why Jones did not want to play for Everett.
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.