By Nick Patterson
EVERETT — When the Everett Silvertips selected elite forward Tyson Jost seventh overall in the 2013 WHL bantam draft, they considered him one of the team’s primary building blocks for the future.
Unfortunately for the Tips, that block is not being placed — at least not for the time being.
Jost, who the Tips hoped would be an immediate impact player as a 16-year-old, decided not join Everett next season. On Wednesday, he chose instead to play 2014-15 with the Penticton Vees of the British Columbia Hockey League. By playing in the BCHL, Jost keeps his NCAA eligibility intact.
“Obviously we’re disappointed,” Everett general manager Garry Davidson said. “We attempted to get him to come to us as a 16-year-old, but he decided to play in Penticton for the year. But we’re still hopeful that he’ll think we’re the right plan for him as he moves forward. Hopefully we’ll see him at some point in the future, the door is always open.”
Jost, who currently resides in Kelowna, B.C., is arguably Everett’s best prospect. He had a banner year playing for the Okanagan Rockets of the British Columbia Major Midget League, scoring 44 goals in 36 games to set a league record for goals in a season. He led the Rockets to the Telus Cup, a tournament that serves as the Canadian midget national championship, where Okanagan took third place.
Jost attended Everett’s training camp last August, but arrived late after also attending Penticton’s camp. He appeared in three games with the Vees as a call-up during the season. The Tips tried unsuccessuflly to get Jost to sign a WHL education contract last season.
“He was offered a contract from day one, but he kept putting off the decision,” Davidson said. “He informed me about 10 days ago of the decision he made. I met with him and his agent and they discussed the concerns. He just feels Penticton is the best place for him as a 16-year-old.”
Jost is the latest in a line of elite prospects who have spurned the Tips. In 2012 defenseman Seth Jones, a first-round pick in the 2009 bantam draft, declared he would not play for Everett following his stint with the U.S. National Team Development Program. He was eventually traded to Portland, where he starred and became the fourth-overall pick in the 2013 NHL draft by the Nashville Predators. Forwards Auston Matthews, a third-round pick in the 2012 bantam draft, and Patrick Khodorenko, a second rounder in 2013, both elected to play for the U.S. NTDP rather than join the Tips as 16-year-olds. Everett is still hoping to land Matthews and Khodorenko once their two-year stints with the national team are completed.
The Tips aren’t giving up on Jost, either, though Penticton is typically a conduit to the NCAA. Instead, they point to former Portland star Ryan Johansen going from Penticton to the Winterhawks in 2009, as well as current Seattle standout Ryan Gropp jumping from Penticton to the T-birds last season.
“His (NHL) draft year is the following year,” Davidson said. “He’ll have to make the decision then whether to come to the WHL or continue down the scholarship route. If he stays in Penticton he’ll have to play another year in the BCHL.”
The loss of Jost is a significant blow for the Tips for next season. Everett isn’t losing many players from the team that finished 39-23-7-3 to improve by 30 points from 2012-13. However, among those gone are four of the team’s top five scorers, including offensive lynchpin and team MVP Joshua Winquist. The Tips believed Jost could have helped alleviate some of that lost offense.
“We certainly had him penciled in as one of our centers and playing a major role,” Davidson said. “That won’t happen. It’s disappointing, but other guys maybe now have to shift into the middle with his absence. We’ll also look at what’s available to add to our group, if it makes sense. It’s always possible that players on your protected list won’t come your way. We’ll just keep our nose to the grindstone, keep our eyes and ears open, and see what develops.”
Everett assistant coach Mark LeRose stepped down Wednesday to become the general manager of the Sioux City Musketeers of the United States Hockey League.
LeRose was in his second stint as an assistant coach with the Tips. He returned to the team at the start of last season after previously spending 2007-09 in Everett. By going to Sioux City, LeRose reunites with former Everett assistant coach Jay Varady. Varady, who was an Everett assistant from 2003-11, is the head coach of the Musketeers.
“It’s one of those things where it’s a good opportunity for Mark,” Davidson said. “He’s moving on and we wish him the best. Then we’ll reassess where we’re at with our staff.”
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.