EVERETT — On Thursday, after nearly five months of silence, the familiar swishing sound of skates gliding across the ice returned to Angel of the Winds Arena.
The Everett Silvertips arrived back in town this week for training camp, as the Tips began their preparations for the upcoming 2023-24 WHL season. Training camp for the team’s 21st campaign began Thursday and continues through Sunday, when it concludes with the annual Green vs. Grey game.
A total of 82 players, consisting of everything from returning veterans to invited players trying to force their way onto Everett’s 50-player protected list, are participating in this year’s training camp, about 23 of whom will eventually make the roster.
And all of them are excited to get started again.
“It feels good to be back,” forward Ben Hemmerling said Thursday. “It’s a lot of new faces, it’s good to meet the younger guys and include them in the organization, show them what it’s all about.”
Everett is coming off what was a down year for a franchise that’s been one of the league’s most consistent the past decade. The Tips finished 33-32-2-1 and in fourth place in the five-team U.S. Division after dealing star defenseman Olen Zellweger to Kamloops at the trade deadline. Everett was then eliminated by Portland in the first round of the playoffs in five games. And now the Tips have to figure out how to replace Jackson Berezowski, the franchise’s all-time leading goal scorer, who aged out of the league.
But Everett returns a pair of potent 19-year-old forwards in Hemmerling (21 goals, 41 assists) and Austin Roest (32 goals, 46 assists); returns the bulk of a defense that will have 18-year-old Kaden Hammell (eight goals, 18 assists), the big piece received in the Zellweger trade, for a full season; and has plenty of experience in goal in 20-year-old Tyler Palmer (19-24-4-1, 3.66 goals against average, .892 save percentage) and 19-year-old trade acquisition Ethan Chadwick (23-9-1-1, 2.61 goals against average, .899 save percentage with Saskatoon).
“I think (the assembled roster) is great,” Hammell, who spent the offseason being drafted by the NHL’s Seattle Kraken, said. “I think all the players are competing and battling. Obviously everybody’s got skill out there and I think the team will shape up to be pretty good this year.”
Chadwick wasn’t the only key offseason addition. The Tips also made two moves to add offensive punch to the lineup, acquiring 20-year-old forward Teague Patton (16 goals, 33 assists) from Victoria and 18-year-old forward Caden Brown (18 goals, 15 assists) from Prince George. Both are expected to be a part of Everett’s top six.
“We wanted to upgrade up front,” Everett general manager and head coach Dennis Williams said. “We’ll have some tough decisions with our D corps because we have seven veterans returning plus some other guys pushing for spots. But up front we wanted to make sure we continued to build on the skill-set on the offensive side. We feel Teague can step in and complement the likes of Ben Hemmerling and Austin Roest because of his speed and skill. Then to pick up Caden Brown, who was a (2005) birth year and had 18 goals on a really good hockey team in Prince George, we feel he can complement us not just this year but the following year.”
Patton is one of three overagers Everett has in camp, along with Palmer and defenseman Ty Gibson. Williams has typically had more than three overagers in camp to compete for the three overage roster spots, but he said he’s happy with the current trio.
“Right now I think we’re set,” Williams said. “But like anything, our job is to look out for all 22 or 23 players. We tell the guys it’s not an opportunity to get comfortable, we want everybody to be pushing to that next position. We always want that competition, but we’re happy with the three we have for sure. As long as they put in the work it’s all going to be fine.”
Three players were not listed among the camps’ four teams. Hemmerling, who’s finishing up rehab from an injury that affected him last season, is taking part in practice sessions but not scrimmages. He’s expected to be 100% for the start of the regular season. Meanwhile, Everett’s two European forwards, 19-year-old Dominik Rymon from Czechia and 17-year-old Julius Miettinen from Finland, were still en route. … All nine of Everett’s selections from the 2023 prospects draft were in attendance, as was defenseman Cameron Dillard, the team’s first-round pick in the U.S. priority draft. … Everett’s first preseason games are Sept. 8-10 when the Tips host the Everett Silvertips Preseason Classic. The Tips open the regular season at home on Sept. 23 against Victoria.
Green vs. Grey game
What: The Everett Silvertips’ annual scrimmage, which concludes training camp
When: 10:30 a.m. Sunday
Where: Angel of the Winds Arena, Everett