By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — The Everett Silvertips signaled Wednesday that the time for rebuilding is over and the time for winning has arrived.
Everett made a move for the present at the expense of the future, acquiring veteran defenseman Matt Pufahl from the Saskatoon Blades in exchange for younger defenseman Ayrton Nikkel. The Tips also received a fifth-round pick in the 2015 Western Hockey League bantam draft.
Pufahl, a 6-foot-2, 198-pound native of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, brings an experienced presence to Everett’s blue line. The three-year WHL veteran is entering his 20-year-old season, and he’s expected to bring a steady hand to Everett’s youthful defense.
Everett went with the full youth movement last season in an effort to build for the future. But acquiring Pufahl in exchange for the younger Nikkel indicates the Tips believe the future has arrived.
“With our youth on defense, I thought that if we could add a good 20-year-old back there, it would be important for us. I watched him play earlier in the year and he played very well, then our scouts in Saskatoon watched him very closely and all the reports were very positive. He also played in the Memorial Cup this year, which hopefully will help down the road as we try to make a longer run in the playoffs.”
Pufahl played 144 games between Saskatoon and Red Deer the past three seasons. Last season he had six goals and 37 assists in 69 games with the Blades.
“He’s a guy who moves the puck well, has good hockey sense, has decent size, and was very good for (the Blades) on the power play,” Davidson said. “I think he’s going to play a lot of minutes in all situations.”
In Nikkel the Tips surrender a player they barely got to know. The Kelowna, B.C., native who’s heading into his 18-year-old season was acquired by the Tips from Brandon at the Jan. 10 trade deadline in exchange for defenseman Nick Walters. He appeared in just seven games for Everett before suffering a finger injury that knocked him out for the remainder of the regular season.
“To get something you have to give up something,” Davidson said. “Ayrton Nikkel has upside and we liked what we saw, but he missed a lot of games because of the injury and we just weren’t sure what we had in him. And I really like Pufahl.”
Nikkel rejoins the team that picked him in the second round of the 2010 bantam draft.
Pufahl’s acquisition gives Everett four overagers on the roster, one more than allowed. The other three are forwards Joshua Winquist, Reid Petryk and Manraj Hayer. Petryk was invited to take part in development camp with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers this week.
“(The overager situation) is totally up in the air,” Davidson said. “Petryk is going to Edmonton’s camp and there’s been other teams that have reached out to him. We would like to get him back, but you can’t know for sure. This also gives us competition in camp, which is a healthy thing. What it does is give us a little balance, as instead of three overage forwards we can have one defenseman and two forwards.”
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.