Former Everett general manager Doug Soetaert used to have a saying regarding Euros. Whenever I asked him whether a Euro was reporting, if his answer was yes he’d always qualify it with something to the effect of, “Nothing’s certain until I see the whites of his eyes.”
Well, I saw the eye whites today. All three of the Tips’ Euros — Swiss defenseman Mirco Mueller, Finnish forward Waltteri Hopponen and Russian forward Ivan Nikolishin — are now in Everett. I was actually sitting in the lobby of the offices a couple hours ago when Nikolishin and his family walked in for the first time. All three players took part in the informal veteran skate this afternoon, so it’s official that the Tips will likely have to make some kind of decision to get down to two.
Indeed, there was quite the crowd during today’s skate as just about all the returning players have already arrived in town, even though check in for training camp isn’t until Wednesday. Just one problem: no goaltenders. So let’s just say that there was plenty of scoring once the four-on-four scrimmage began.
Also today, Everett released the list of Tips who will be attending NHL training camps this year. A total of six players will be heading out following the Silvertips Preseason Tournament: forwards Reid Petryk, Jujhar Khaira and Linden Penner, defensemen Mirco Mueller and Ben Betker and goaltender Austin Lotz.
Mueller (San Jose) and Betker (Edmonton) are returning players who were selected in this year’s NHL draft. Petryk (Edmonton) and Lotz (Carolina) are returning players who haven’t been drafted, but received invites. Khaira (Edmonton) is a newcomer who was drafted in 2012. Penner (Calgary) is a newcomer who received an invite.
Three of those players are ones the Tips have to worry about not coming back. Mueller has the first-round pedigree, though it seems highly unlikely he’ll be ready for the NHL at 18. Khaira, at 19, could also conceivably make his NHL team, but it’s unlikely. The one Everett probably has to worry about the most is Petryk, who as a 20-year-old is eligible to play in the AHL. It’s possible Petryk will earn a contract, the way former Tip Riley Armstrong did in 2004 after receiving a tryout from San Jose. That could throw a bit of a monkey wrench in Everett’s plans, but the Tips have four overage candidates (Joshua Winquist, Manraj Hayer and Matthew Pufahl are the others) so they’ve got a contingency plan.
Mueller, Betker, Petryk, Khaira and Penner will all be playing at the Young Stars Classic in Penticton, B.C., while Lotz will be at the Traverse City (Mich.) Prospects Tournament. Mueller and Khaira are already slated to continue on to their teams’ main camps following the prospects tournament.