By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — On Saturday, former Everett Silvertips prospect Seth Jones dons the stars and stripes as the United States faces Sweden for the gold medal at the World Junior Hockey Championships.
That same day, the Silvertips face Jones’ current WHL team, the Portland Winterhawks, and Everett will do so with a roster that features three of the players it received in return for Jones’ rights.
Jones, of course, was the marquee name in that trade, but the Silvertips are feeling good, too, about what they got in return.
With the recent addition of winger Mitch Skapski to the roster, Everett has three of the four pieces from the Jones’ trade in place. The 16-year-old Skapski joins 18-year-old defenseman Ben Betker and 16-year-old winger Tyler Sandhu, who have been with the Tips since the beginning of the season.
Everett selected Jones 11th overall in the 2009 bantam draft and spent three years courting the superstar defenseman prospect. However, last April Jones, who’s expected to be one of the top two picks in this year’s NHL draft, announced he wouldn’t sign with Everett, and the Tips were compelled to trade his rights to Portland.
In return, Everett received a package of prospects that included Betker, Sandhu, Skapski and defenseman Reece Willcox. Willcox is playing at Cornell University and is a longshot to ever play for Everett. But with Skapski signing with the Tips during the Christmas break, Everett now has an idea of what it received in return for Jones.
“People will judge this trade in time. It’s still probably a little early to say whether I’ve done a good job on it or not,” Everett general manager Garry Davidson said. “But the fact we’ve got the three of them here and playing for us I think is a big plus for us right off the bat.”
Getting Skapski signed was an unexpected Christmas present for the Tips. Skapski, who was a fourth-round pick in the 2011 bantam draft, did not attend training camp with the Tips last August as he had committed to playing this season with the Chilliwack Chiefs of the British Columbia Hockey League. There was some concern that Skapski wouldn’t come to Everett at all.
However, a Dec. 7 trip to Everett to watch the Tips play the rival Seattle Thunderbirds convinced Skapski that Everett was where he wanted to be — and sooner rather than later.
“I went down to one game to watch and the fans really got me hooked,” Skapski said. “My brother (Kootenay goaltender Mackenzie Skapski) plays in this league and so do all my buddies, and growing up watching the WHL, this is where I wanted to play.”
The Tips are still learning what they have in Skapski, a diminutive winger who plays with energy and a dose of sandpaper. But they have a good sense of what they’ve got in Betker and Sandhu, who have a half season in Everett under their belts.
Betker has grown into a role as a regular defenseman for the Tips. The stay-at-home D-man isn’t going to put big points on the board — he has one goal and two assists in 36 games. However, at 6-foot-5, he has a lengthy reach that makes it difficult for opposing forwards to get past, and with 45 penalty minutes he also added a touch of toughness.
“I think Ben is starting to do some things I was hoping he was going to do,” Davidson said. “He was just OK in the beginning, but the last few weeks he’s been getting harder to play against. He has to continue working on his stick and his feet, but I see some upside in him, and obviously other people think that way because I’m getting a lot of calls from NHL guys wanting to know a little more about him.”
Sandhu, who’s been away playing for Team Pacific at the U-17 World Hockey Challenge, shows tremendous promise. He’s held his own playing on a top line alongside veterans Manraj Hayer and Joshua Winquist. With 16 points in 36 games, the skilled playmaker is tied for fourth in the league in scoring among 16-year-olds, and his 10 goals top the chart.
“I’ve been very pleased with Tyler as a 16-year-old,” Davidson said. “He’s chipped in a number of goals and certainly has lived up to my expectations, even though I don’t try to put a lot of expectations on 16-year-olds.”
It’s difficult for a team to get value when it’s forced to trade away a superstar. But Everett appears to have received three future contributors who could combine to play as many as 13 seasons for the Tips. All for a player who may play just one season in Portland before heading off to the NHL.
“Seth Jones is still a tremendous player and he’s having a great year,” Davidson said. “But I don’t think he’s going to be around past this year, and we’ve got three guys who I think can all contribute and be long-term pieces for us going forward.”
Sandhu and fellow Everett forward Ty Mappin ended up earning fifth place with Team Pacific at the U-17 World Hockey Challenge. Sandhu had two assists in five games, Mappin had one assist. … Tips defenseman Mirco Mueller’s Switzerland team plays the Czech Republic today for fifth place at the World Junior Hockey Championships. Mueller has two assists and is a team-best plus-6 in five games. … Everett’s three call-up players, wingers Logan Aasman and Kyle Raymond and defenseman Kevin Davis, will remain with the team through the weekend. They are expected to be returned to their teams once the players on international duty begin returning Sunday.
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.