By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
Nick Walters may play for the Brandon Wheat Kings, but he felt right at home Friday when Brandon took the ice in Everett.
Friday was a homecoming for Walters as the former Everett Silvertips defenseman played what is likely his final game at Comcast Arena.
“On the way in I almost wanted to walk into the room and say ‘hi’ to the guys,” Walters said.
“It’s a weird feeling, to be honest with you,” Walters added. “I lived here for two-and-a-half seasons and it’s something I had marked on my calendar for a long time. I’m happy to be here.”
Walters was making his first return to Everett since he was dealt to Brandon at last season’s trade deadline in exchange for since-traded defenseman Ayrton Nikkel. The 19-year-old from Spruce Grove, Alberta, spent two-and-a-half seasons with the Tips, who selected him eighth overall in the 2009 bantam draft. In 145 games with Everett he had seven goals, 25 assists and 217 penalty minutes. During his time with the Tips he was selected in the fourth round of the 2012 NHL draft by the St. Louis Blues.
Brandon arrived in Everett a day before the game, giving Walters a chance to visit with some of his former teammates and host families. It may be have been Walters’ last opportunity, as he has just one season of WHL eligibility remaining, and the Wheat Kings won’t play in Everett next season.
“It was good,” Walters said. “It wasn’t as much time as I would have liked, but I’m not here to socialize, I’m here to play hockey.”
Walters had nine assists in 29 games with Brandon last season after the trade. This season Walters missed games at the start of the season when he aggravated a hand injury — an injury originally suffered while playing for Everett and which will eventually require surgery to correct — while participating in training camp with the Blues. But he has since returned and has one assist and 20 penalty minutes in 16 games.
“I’m really accepting my role,” Walters said. “I’m playing big minutes against the top players in the league. It’s really a shutdown role, I’m not necessarily a special teams guy, just a shutdown kind of guy. When St. Louis drafted me that’s how they wanted me to play, so that’s what I’m trying to succeed at and do my best at.”
Walters received a good cheer from the Comcast Arena crowd Friday when introduced as part of Brandon’s starting lineup. His Wheat Kings, who had lost four straight, went on to defeat the Tips 6-3. Overall Brandon is 9-9-0-0 and tied for third in the East Division.
“We have our ups and downs,” he said about the Wheat Kings’ season thus far. “We’re still younger. We went through that here in Everett when I was here, and we’re still going through that a little in Brandon. But it’s a team that can only go up from here, so I’m really excited for it and it’s looking good for us.”
Around the WHL
Mike Modano was awarded the WHL Alumni Achievement Award in the professional hockey category. Modano, who amassed 294 points in 176 games with Prince Albert from 1986-89, had a distinguished 21-year NHL career with the Minnesota North Stars, Dallas Stars and Detroit Red Wings. … Calgary received a gift when star 20-year-old defenseman Alex Roach was returned to the team by the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings. To free up an overage roster spot for Roach, the Hitmen dealt 20-year-old defenseman Jesse Zgraggen to Regina in exchange for a fourth-round pick in the 2014 bantam draft. Regina, in turn, freed up space for Zgraggen by releasing 20-year-old goaltender Mac Engel, who was picked up off waivers at the Oct. 15 overager cutdown date. … Moose Jaw shipped talented but disgruntled 20-year-old forward Todd Fiddler, who had left the team, to Prince George for a conditional fifth-round bantam pick in 2015. … Brandon’s Jayce Hawryluk was named the WHL Player of the Week. The 17-year-old forward had six goals and two assists, including three goals and an assist against Everett on Friday, as the Wheat Kings went 2-1. … Spokane’s Mitch Holmberg was named the WHL Player of the Month for September/October. The 20-year-old forward had 18 goals and 20 assists in 16 games. … Kelowna’s Jordon Cooke was named the WHL Goaltender of the Month for September/October. The 20-year-old went 8-0-0-2 with a 1.85 goals against average and .939 save percentage.
Points — Mitch Holmberg (Spokane) 42; goals — Holmberg 18; assists — Nicolas Petan (Portland) 27; penalty minutes — Sam Grist (Kamloops) 65; wins — Brendan Burke (Portland) 13; goals against average — Eric Williams (Spokane) 2.20; save percentage — Jordon Cooke (Kelowna) .929.
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.