EVERETT — A brave new world begins for the Everett Silvertips today.
The Silvertips begin their preparations for the 2012-13 WHL season when training camp gets under way at 8 a.m. this morning at the Comcast Community Ice Rink.
And not only are the Tips embarking on a new season — the milestone 10th in franchise history — they do so for the first time under the watch of Garry Davidson.
“I’m really excited to get my first camp going here in Everett,” said Davidson, who was hired as Everett’s general manager in February.
“We’re all excited about it,” Davidson added. “We’ve got 80-plus players coming in and we’re anxious to get going.”
The players checked and underwent physical testing on Wednesday. On-ice sessions begin today and continue through Sunday, concluding with the annual Green vs. Grey game. All sessions take place at the Comcast Community Ice Rink and are open free to the public.
“It should be good,” said Tips defenseman Nick Walters, who had a busy offseason after being selected in the third round of the NHL draft by the St. Louis Blues. “We got a skate (Tuesday) and we were looking good, so I’m pretty excited for the season to start.”
The Community Rink is being used instead of the main ice because Comcast Arena is being used by the Ringling Bros. and Barnum &Bailey Circus.
A total of 81 players are scheduled to attend, and Davidson has already put his stamp on camp as he tweaked the format from that used in seasons past. The players have been split into four teams like before. However, instead of each team playing one scrimmage in the morning and one in the afternoon, each team will have a morning practice session, then will play just one scrimmage in the afternoon. Davidson also introduced the Volunteer’s Cup, as the teams will compete in a round-robin competition in the scrimmages Thursday, Friday and Saturday, then will square off in third-place and first-place games Sunday morning.
“I think the practices give the coaching staff a chance to interact with every player over the course of three or four days,” Davidson explained. “Then the scrimmages allow us to assess and evaluate the players as to how they play. And it adds a competitive element to it. We want to see people come out and compete, see if they have the will to win.”
There are several prominent players who aren’t attending camp. Chief among those is captain Ryan Murray. Everett’s star defenseman, who was selected second overall in this year’s NHL draft by the Columbus Blue Jackets, is attending a training session with the Blue Jackets.
Murray is expected to make Columbus’ roster this season as a 19-year-old, thus not returning to Everett. However, the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement with the players union expires Sept. 15, and the current scuttlebutt is that the sides are wide apart. If an agreement isn’t reached by Sept. 15, a lockout is expected to ensue.
“He communicated with us (Monday),” Davidson said of Murray. “He was disappointed. They sent him to Minneapolis for a week of training. He wanted to come back for a couple days, but wasn’t able to do it.
“But if there’s a lockout we’ll see him back around the 15th.”
Also not attending camp are Everett’s two overage goaltending candidates. Kent Simpson, last season’s starter, and Brandon Anderson, acquired from Brandon during the offseason, have both signed professional contracts with NHL teams — Simpson with Chicago, Anderson with Washington — and are eligible to play professionally in the minors this season. The Tips don’t expect Simpson back. They’re uncertain what will happen with Anderson.
There’s two other notable absences among older players. Winger Carson Samoridny, who had two assists in 33 games last season as a 17-year-old rookie, was dropped from Everett’s roster. Winger Jujhar Khaira, whose rights were acquired by Everett from Prince George during the bantam draft, has decided to attend Michigan Tech rather than play his 18-year-old season with the Tips.
Among Everett’s 13 selections in this year’s bantam draft, 10 are attending camp, including the Tips’ first rounder, defenseman Kevin Davis. Those who aren’t attending are forwards Austin Mathews (third round) and Alec Mehr (12th round) and Mill Creek defenseman Daniel Woolfenden (seventh round). All three have already committed to teams for the 2012-13 season. Davidson said all three, who are too young to play for Everett this season, have expressed interest in the Tips for the future.
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.