By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — When the Everett Silvertips play their final two preseason games this weekend against the Seattle Thunderbirds, two key players will be back in uniform.
Goaltender Austin Lotz and winger Linden Penner are back from their stints at NHL rookie camps, and they’re both the better for their experiences.
Lotz, Everett’s No. 1 goaltender, and Penner, a rookie power forward coming off an impressive season at the junior A level, are both 18-year-olds who went unselected in this year’s NHL draft. However, both received invitations to attend rookie camps, Lotz with the Carolina Hurricanes and Penner with the Calgary Flames.
“It was awesome,” Lotz said. “I put a couple pictures up on Instagram and Twitter of me wearing the jersey. It was such a surreal moment for me to put that on. Even though I know I’m not necessarily protected by that team, it was kind of like a step toward what my goal is. It was an unbelievable feeling putting on that jersey.”
Lotz backstopped two of Carolina’s four games at the Traverse City (Mich.) Prospects Tournament. He made 38 saves in the Hurricanes’ 7-5 loss to Columbus, then 28 saves in Carolina’s 8-3 loss to St. Louis.
“I felt I played pretty good,” Lotz said. “The first game against Columbus I let in four goals in the first period, which shook me up a little bit. But after that I felt the next five periods I played were my best hockey. The second period of the first game I felt I played one of the best periods of my life. I made one diving cross-glove save that kind of picked up my confidence and led to me playing well the rest of the tournament.”
Penner played in one of Calgary’s three games at the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, B.C. He didn’t register any points, but he was a plus-1 and had a penalty as the Flames beat Vancouver 4-1.
“It was definitely just a cool experience, wearing the Calgary Flames jersey and saying I played in an NHL preseason game,” Penner said. “It’s still the NHL, so it’s definitely different from anything I ever experienced before. It was just cool to be there.
“I was definitely nervous the first period,” Penner added. “But I got over it pretty quickly and I was able to adjust my game to the level of play it needed to be at relatively quickly. Then the second two periods I had fun and just played to my strengths. It was good.”
Lotz and Penner are now available for Everett’s home-and-home set with Seattle, with tonight’s game at Comcast Arena and Saturday night’s preseason finale at ShoWare Center in Kent. The games feature a pair of teams looking to prove themselves. Everett and Seattle have been down-and-out in recent years. The Tips haven’t had a winning season since 2009-10, the T-birds since 2008-09, and the teams have been the bottom two in the U.S. Division the past three campaigns. However, both teams are expecting to be significantly improved this season, and so far they’ve backed that up in the preseason. Everett comes into the games 5-0, Seattle 4-1.
The Tips also have players fighting for roster spots. Everett has 28 players on its roster — 17 forwards, nine defensemen and two goaltenders. The team is expected to carry approximately 24 during the regular season.
However, the Tips still have four players attending NHL training camps. Forwards Reid Petryk and Jujhar Khaira and defenseman Ben Betker are with the Edmonton Oilers, while defenseman Mirco Mueller is with the San Jose Sharks. There’s at least a small chance Petryk, Khaira and Mueller will earn jobs in the professional ranks and won’t return. Petryk affects Everett’s overage situation as the Tips have four for three spots, and Mueller affects Everett’s import situation as the Tips have three for two spots. Therefore, Everett is unlikely to make any more roster moves until those players start filtering back.
“I don’t anticipate any major decisions until at least the middle of next week,” said Everett general manager Garry Davidson, whose team opens the regular season Sept. 21. “We have to make decisions on 20-year-olds, so we have the three guys here (forwards Joshua Winquist and Manraj Hayer and defenseman Matt Pufahl) and we’ll see how they perform. We’ve got the two Euros here (Waltteri Hopponen and Ivan Nikolishin), so we’ll continue to monitor how they perform this weekend. There’s two more games, so hopefully guys will show us why we should keep them or why we shouldn’t keep them.”
Everett center Ty Mappin is not available for this weekend’s games. Mappin flew home for the weekend to attend a wedding. … Seattle will be without two players who are still at NHL camps, winger Mitch Elliot and defenseman Shea Theodore. … Former Silvertips playmaker Kellan Tochkin spent the week practicing with the team. Tochkin, who scored 178 points in 185 games with Everett from 2007-11, was getting some work in before reporting to the Utica Comets, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks.
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.