It was odd to interview two players about Game 3 of a three-game weekend. But Sunday’s game between the Everett Silvertips and Kamloops Blazers is compelling for players and fans on both sides.
It’s the only remaining regular-season match-up between the two teams following early January’s massive trade that sent Garrett Pilon and Ondrej Vala to Everett in exchange for Montana Onyebuchi and Orrin Centazzo (plus prospects and picks).
This deal was Everett’s biggest in my three seasons on the beat because of both the timing and assets exchanged. (The Leedahl trade took place during the summer and involved fewer pieces).
Vala and Pilon filled immediate needs in Everett and helped make the Tips a legitimate contender in the WHL’s Western Conference. Centazzo and Onyebuchi seem to have landed well in Kamloops and are clearly a big part of that organization’s future.
It was poignant watching everything unfold that weekend in January. Both Centazzo and Onyebuchi were second-year players with key roles on this year’s Everett team who were well-liked by their teammates.
Major junior hockey is indeed a business. Both Pilon and Vala have signed NHL contracts with Washington and Dallas, respectively. But Onyebuchi and Centazzo are both seniors in high school and in their draft seasons.
“You really try to do what’s right for the organization, but also good for the players,” Everett coach Dennis Williams said. “The opportunities to do different things, the opportunities for some guys to go on and try to win, other guys are going to be a bigger piece of the puzzle long-term in the future.
“When you’re dealing with a junior hockey player, they don’t look at that,” Williams added. “They’re in the ‘now’ moment.”
The Silvertips take on Seattle in about two hours at ShoWare Center before playing host to the Thunderbirds Saturday at Angel of the Winds Arena.