I’m not sure I’ve ever eagerly anticipated a preseason WHL matchup before. The preseason for me has always been about watching the Tips pretty much exclusively, focusing on who’s showing they belong on the team. There have been preseason games I’ve been interested in seeing, such as Peter Mueller’s first in 2005. But when it comes to matchups, the opponent is almost an afterthought, particularly because oftentimes the opponent is fielding a roster filled with prospects who won’t make the team.
So I guess this is a first.
I’m rather excited for this weekend’s home-and-home set between Everett and Seattle (in Everett on Friday, Kent on Saturday). These are games between two teams that have been in the cellar for some time, but believe that’s going to end this season. The teams have backed up that notion during the preseason, going a combined 9-1 going into the weekend. So both teams will feel they have something to prove.
Both teams will be nearly at full strength, too. Both have cut down to a reasonable number, meaning there won’t be any players on the ice who clearly do not belong in the league this season. Both have just a few players remaining at NHL training camps — Reid Petryk, Jujhar Khaira, Ben Betker and Mirco Mueller for Everett, Mitch Elliot and Shea Theodore for Seattle — so the squads the teams ice for these two games will be fairly representative of what they’ll be when the real games begin.
And these teams have history. Not only are they I-5 rivals, they’ve found themselves fighting for a playoff spot the past three seasons and played some heated games, including the 4-3 thriller in Kent late last season that included a goalie fight.
So for a change I’ll be just as interested in the results as I am the Tips’ performances.
Everett still has 28 players on its roster and will probably want to get down to about 24, so guys are still fighting for roster spots. That includes the well-documented situations with Everett’s overagers (four for three spots, with Petryk still with the Edmonton Oilers) and Euros (three for two spots, with Mueller still with the San Jose Sharks). Even though winger Linden Penner and goaltender Austin Lotz are back from their NHL rookie camps, the Tips probably won’t make any more roster moves until more players return from NHL camps.
One Everett player who won’t take part this weekend is center Ty Mappin. Mappin flew home for the weekend for a wedding and is not expected back until the weekend is over.