By Nick Patterson Herald writer
EVERETT — The Everett Silvertips find themselves in an unfamiliar position as they head into today’s Western Hockey League bantam draft.
For the first time in four years they’re not picking seventh.
Everett holds the 15th-overall pick in the first round of today’s bantam draft, which takes place in Calgary, Alberta. This year’s draft distributes the rights to 1999-born players from western Canada and the western United States among the WHL’s 22 teams.
Everett had slipped into a pattern of holding the seventh-overall pick, as the Tips finished with the worst record among playoff teams for three consecutive years. But Everett finished with a stronger 39-23-7-3 record this season, giving the Tips their latest first-round pick since Everett held the 18th-overall selection in 2010.
“We’re certainly picking lower than we have the last couple years because of our finish,” Everett general manager Garry Davidson said. “When it gets to 15 we hope some teams ahead of us will have been excited about other players, and one of our top 10 will be there.”
The Brandon Wheat Kings hold the first-overall pick. Unlike in recent years, there’s no consensus can’t-miss top-overall prospect, the way Vancouver’s Tyler Benson was last year and Seattle’s Mathew Barzal was in 2012.
“There’s not many real top-end guys like last year’s draft,” Davidson said. “Last year there were eight guys we really liked, this year there’s not many top-end guys. But there’s still lots of good players. Because there’s not many top-end guys, the draft might go in other directions quickly. At 15 we might be surprised who’s still sitting there available.”
Everett’s draft is setting up to be one of quantity as opposed to quality. Not only do the Tips have a later first-round pick, they don’t have a second rounder, which was sent to Portland as compensation for hiring Davidson away from the Winterhawks in February of 2012. However, a series of trades gave Everett 10 picks in rounds three-through-seven. That includes two third rounders, one fourth rounder, three fifth rounders, two sixth rounders and two seventh rounders.
The Tips could therefore pile up mid-round selections, or try to package some of those picks in a trade to move up.
“I would actually like to get back into the second round,” Davidson said. “I think there will be some guys there we’d be excited to have, as I think people are going to go a lot of different directions in the draft. But it’s exciting to have 11 picks in the first seven rounds as opposed to 10 in 10.
This could also be a breakthrough year for local players. Snohomish County stuck its foot in the bantam-draft door in recent years with local players taken in three of the previous four drafts. Mill Creek forward Brad LeLievre was taken by Seattle in the seventh round in 2010. Mill Creek defenseman Daniel Woolfenden was selected by Everett in the seventh round in 2012. Stanwood defenseman Connor Nobach was picked by Everett in the fifth round last year.
This year could be the first when more than one local product is selected. Among those who are on the draft radar and could be picked are Lake Stevens defenseman Wyatte Wylie, Mukilteo forward Brendan Studioso, Monroe forward Luke Ormsby, Mukilteo defenseman Patrick Norman and Snohomish goaltenders Ben Colvin and Dominick Vlaha. Wylie and Studioso both played for Everett Youth Hockey. Ormsby, Norman and Vlaha played in California, while Colvin played in Idaho.
While the Tips are fully focused on today’s draft, there’s still unfinished business with regards to last year’s draft. Everett selected forward Tyson Jost with its first-round pick last year. Jost had a banner season, setting a single-season goal-scoring record in the British Columbia Major Midget League. However Jost, whose season just ended last weekend when his Okanagan Rockets took the bronze medal in the Canadian national midget championships, has yet to commit to Everett.
“As soon as the draft is over I’m going to reach out to him,” Davidson said. “We’re at the point where we need some kind of indication of whether he’s coming next year, because we have to do some planning. He’d be a nice piece to have, but if he’s not coming, we have to look at other options.”
Kootenay’s Sam Reinhart was awarded the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy as the WHL’s Player of the Year on Wednesday at the WHL’s awards luncheon in Calgary. The 18-year-old center had 36 goals and 69 assists in 60 games, tying for fourth in the league in scoring. He beat out Spokane’s Mitch Holmberg for the award.
Other award winners: Portland’s Derrick Pouliot was named the Defenseman of the Year; Kelowna’s Jordon Cooke was named the Goaltender of the Year; Kelowna winger Nick Merkley was named the Rookie of the Year; Reinhart was named the Sportsmanlike Player of the Year; Victoria’s Dave Lowry was named the Coach of the Year; and Victoria’s Cam Hope was named the Executive of the Year.
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.