By Nick Patterson Herald writer
EVERETT — There will be no first-round drama for the Everett Silvertips this year.
Everett received a commitment from it’s top pick from this year’s bantam draft, as the Tips announced Thursday the signing of defenseman Jantzen Leslie to a WHL education contract.
By signing with the Tips, the 15-year-old Leslie, who was the 15th-overall pick in this year’s bantam draft, pledged his future to Everett. It also means the Tips won’t have to deal with the headache of wondering whether its top pick is committed to Everett, the way they have with 2013 first rounder Tyson Jost.
“We’re definitely happy,” Everett general manager Garry Davidson said. “We picked him in the first round because we believe he’s going to be a real solid player in the Western League and a solid Silvertip, so we’re very excited.”
Said Leslie: “It feels good. I’m glad we finally did it, because I was probably going to do it anyway, so why wait?
“I thought I had a good training camp,” Leslie added. “I’ll get one more year of good development, then maybe I can get a couple games in this season, get called up at the end of the season. I thought it was just the best idea.”
Leslie, who hails from Lloydminster, Alberta, measures in at 6-foot and 170 pounds. Last season he captained the Lloydminster Heat bantam AAA team, registering 15 goals and 25 assists in 30 games as the Heat went 31-1-1 and won the Alberta provincial championship. He is too young to make Everett’s team this season, but will be a top candidate to make the team in 2015-16.
Leslie displayed his qualities during Everett’s training camp last week, as he was one of the standouts despite being one of the youngest players in camp.
“I really like his hockey sense, and I see leadership in him,” Davidson said. “He just seems to have a real take-charge leadership and confidence to him. Even in dealing with me, as a 15-year-old to an adult, he’s a take-charge person.”
Leslie said there was a hint of doubt about signing with the Tips prior to attending training camp, but that his experience at camp extinguished those concerns.
“There was a little doubt coming into camp, just seeing how it would go,” Leslie said. “But after it got going there was no doubt in my mind.
“It was just how well I was able to see the ice and how calm and confident I was,” Leslie added about what put his decision over the top. “This is a great time to finally sign.”
Leslie joins his bantam teammate and longtime friend Bryce Kindopp in committing to Everett. Kindopp, a forward who also hails from Lloydminster, was Everett’s second pick in this year’s bantam draft, being selected in the third round. Kindopp signed in July.
With Leslie officially in the fold, the Tips now won’t have another Jost situation on hand. Everett picked Jost, a high-end forward who resides in Kelowna, B.C., seventh overall in the 2013 bantam draft. Jost went on to have a stellar season at the midget level, setting the British Columbia Major Midget League record for goals in a season. However, Jost stalled in making a commitment to Everett. Then in May it was announced Jost would play this season for the British Columbia Hockey League’s Penticton Vees.
“What’s happened in the past happened in the past,” said Davidson, who will continue to pursue Jost for next season. “Our approach has been to go after the best players possible, then the second part is to do the recruiting and get them here. The first two picks in the (1999-born) draft are here, and that’s great.”
By signing, Leslie and Kindopp are eligible to participate in this weekend’s exhibition games at the Holiday Inn Preseason Classic, hosted by the Tips at Comcast Arena. Both are expected to get into multiple contests.
“I’m definitely looking forward to it, it should be fun,” Leslie said.
Davidson said other signings were imminent. Any unsigned players will be ineligible to play this weekend.