Tips head to Kennewick

Everett takes the next step in its preseason preparations as the Tips travel to Kennewick for two games at the Tri-City Preseason Tournament this weekend. Everett has two morning games, facing Seattle on Friday and Kootenay on Saturday.

Unfortunately, I can only give a barebones advance into this weekend’s games. My car was rear-ended by a semi on the freeway on the way to practice today, and dealing with that prevented me from being able to make it before the team departed for Kennewick.

But anyway, Everett takes a roster of 28 players into the weekend. That includes 16 forwards, eight defensemen and four goaltenders. Winger Dawson Leedahl is suspended, so he won’t be taking part in either game. Center Kohl Bauml and defenseman Noah Juulsen sat out all of last weekend’s games, but have practiced at full speed all week, so I see no reason why they wouldn’t play. Goaltender Carter Hart has been laid up since training camp because of a groin strain and I haven’t seen him in practice yet, though both he and the team were hoping he would be available this weekend.

With just 28 players still on the roster, Everett doesn’t really have many roster moves left to make, barring trades. Everett still has to make a decision on a back-up goaltender and settle its overager situation. Beyond that, there’s probably only one or two more cuts left to be made.

Let’s take a look at those two roster battles:

Goaltenders: Austin Lotz (95), Nik Amundrud (97), Mario Petit (97), Carter Hart (98). The team will keep two.

Lotz obviously has a place, as he’s headed into his third season as the No. 1. So the race is between the other three for the back-up job.

Amundrud was a third-round pick in the 2012 bantam draft and finished last season as the back-up after Daniel Cotton was suspended from the team. But Amundrud never actually got into a game, and he had something of a lost season before that as he didn’t make his midget AAA team.

Petit was undrafted, but has been on Everett’s list since before his 15-year-old training camp. He had a good campaign last season playing midget AAA.

Hart, an eighth-round bantam pick in 2013, was called up a couple times last season when the Tips found themselves in binds, and he actually played, even getting a start as a 15-year-old, so the team seems pretty high on him. But he hasn’t been able to play yet this preseason because of his injury, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Tips would prefer to have him spend this season as a No. 1 on a Midget AAA team rather than sitting on the bench in Everett.

In a perfect world I suspect the Tips are hoping either Amundrud or Petit grabs hold of the competition and forces Everett to keep him as the back-up. Both have shown pretty well so far in the preseason.

Overagers: Kohl Bauml, Ben Betker, Zane Jones, Brayden Low. The team can keep three.

Betker is a lock, as he will be a key component of Everett’s defense. He’ll head off to camp with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, and there’s a slight chance he’ll earn a professional contract. But the Oilers still have another year before they have to sign Betker since as a late birthdate he wasn’t drafted until after his 18-year-old season, and as a big defenseman Betker is a classic “project pick.” I expect him back.

Bauml would seem to have a spot. He’s been an alternate captain, has proven useful in many different ways, and has shown the ability to score in the past. He’s also one of the better skaters on Everett’s roster, and that skating ability is something the Tips don’t have in abundance.

Jones is a big body who has a goal-scoring track record. He didn’t do much upon being acquired by the Tips last season. But he got himself into terrific shape during the offseason and has looked much more lively than he did last season.

Low would have been the longshot choice, but he also got into great shape in the offseason, and he knows something about making the team as a longshot — he was destined for the waiver wire last preseason before playing himself back onto the team. He also brings a lot of intangibles to the table, particularly off the ice as he’s considered a good influence in the locker room.

Given the team’s current offensive challenges, I would think the Tips feel compelled to go with the overager options they feel will generate the most offense. Who that might be is still subject to debate.

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