By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — The Everett Silvertips moved one of their highest-profile players at Thursday’s WHL trade deadline.
They may have received a younger version in return.
The Tips made one move Thursday, sending 18-year-old defenseman Nick Walters to the Brandon Wheat Kings in exchange for 17-year-old defenseman Ayrton Nikkel. Everett also included 16-year-old prospect forward Taylor Sanheim in the deal, receiving a conditional sixth-round pick in the 2015 bantam draft in return. The conditions of the pick are if Sanheim plays for the Wheat Kings.
Walters, a former first-round bantam draft pick, spent the past two-and-a-half seasons with the Tips. With captain Ryan Murray being out for the season because of a torn labrum in his shoulder, Walters was the lone remaining NHL draft pick on Everett’s roster, having been selected in the fourth round in 2012 by the St. Louis Blues. Walters also had recently been named an alternate captain.
In Nikkel, the Tips receive what amounts to a carbon copy. Walters and Nikkel are similar in size: Walters is 6-feet, 2-inches tall and 200 pounds; Nikkel is 6-1, 195. They have similar statistics: Walters had one goal and nine assists in 35 games, Nikkel had no goals and nine assists in 42 games. And the players have similar demeanor: Walters had 70 penalty minutes, Nikkel had 87.
“They’re probably two guys who have some of the same attributes,” Everett general manager Garry Davidson said. “Nikkel plays with some edge and has some real sandpaper to his game. He’s a year younger, and when you look at it he just stays in the wheelhouse of our retool. I also think he has a little bit more offense to his game than Wally had.”
Walters was the eighth-overall pick in the 2009 bantam draft. In his two-plus seasons with Everett, the St. Albert, Alberta, native had seven goals, 25 assists and 217 penalty minutes in 145 games.
“I was a little bit surprised by the trade,” Walters said. “I had talked to my representatives, and you’re always on edge when you’re 18 or 19 in this league at the deadline, knowing there’s a chance you could get traded. So I never left the option out, but I was surprised.
“My time in Everett was good,” Walters added. “I love Everett. The community, the fans and the organization are great. I had a blast here and made a lot of friends. I respect everyone I’ve met in the organization and I’ll always be proud to be an Everett Silvertip.”
Nikkel, from Kelowna, B.C., is in his second season in the WHL. Nikkel was one of the 42 WHL skaters identified by the NHL Central Scouting Service in its preseason list for the 2013 NHL draft, but was not among the top 25 WHL skaters in the November rankings.
“I think he can play in all situations,” Davidson said. “He’s just a 17-year-old defenseman so he’ll have his growing pains a little bit, too. He’ll come in and be a hard guy to play against, which Wally was at times. This is what this guy brings to the table as well.”
Sanheim is a quality prospect. He currently ranks fifth in the Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League in scoring with 45 points in 32 games. However, Everett already has four 1996-born forwards on its roster (Tyler Sandhu, Ty Mappin, Dawson Leedahl, Mitch Skapski) and one other signed to an educational contract (Kyle Raymond), so Davidson said the logjam was a major reason why Sanheim was included in the deal. It also gives Sanheim, who hails from Elkhorn, Manitoba, a chance to play closer to home.
Everett made just one trade Thursday, but Davidson revealed he had another deal in the works earlier in the week that broke down. Davidson had a trade worked out with Lethbridge for 17-year-old center Jay Merkley, the third-overall pick in the 2010 bantam draft. However, the deal fell apart at the last minute, and Merkley was later moved to Swift Current.
“For some reason there was no interest to waive his no-trade clause to come to us,” Davidson explained. “Then three or four hours later he’s headed somewhere else, which I just didn’t understand. Strange for me, but that’s what happened. As it happened Brandon stepped in, wanted Walters, I explained what I was looking for, and it all came together.”
It was a relatively quiet trade deadline throughout the league this year. Saskatoon, which is hosting the Memorial Cup this year but languishing around .500, was at the center of the activity. The Blades acquired the biggest prize, 20-year-old winger Michael Ferland, from Brandon for a first-round pick in the 2013 bantam draft. They also picked up 19-year-old winger Collin Valcourt from Spokane for a first rounder in 2015 and a fifth rounder in 2013, as well as 19-year-old winger Erik Benoit from Kootenay for a fourth rounder in 2013. To make room for Ferland, Saskatoon sent 20-year-old winger Adam Kambeitz to Seattle for a third rounder in 2014. Seattle made room for Kambeitz by waiving 20-year-old center Brendan Rouse, who was immediately claimed by Vancouver.
Thursday’s other big deal saw Spokane acquire 19-year-old winger Alessio Bertaggia from Brandon for 19-year-old winger Marek Kalus, 16-year-old prospect forward Rhett Gardner, and third and fifth rounders in 2013.
Murray underwent successful surgery Thursday to repair his torn labrum. The procedure took place in Cleveland, and he’s scheduled to travel back to Everett for the weekend. Winger Logan Aasman has earned a spot with the team for the remainder of the season. The 17-year-old winger was originally called up following the holiday break to fill in for players who were injured or away on international duty. However, he impressed enough during three games to be kept for the long haul.
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.