LYNNWOOD — It looks like Everett Silvertips coach Craig Hartsburg will have a full roster to choose from for Friday’s season opener against the Seattle Thunderbirds.
Everett got two more of its NHL campers back Wednesday, and the remaining three are expected back today. Therefore, the Tips should have all their big guns available for the season’s start.
“We’re getting them, slowly but surely,” a pleased Hartsburg said following Wednesday’s practice at Lynnwood Ice Center, where the Tips set up shop while the circus vacates Comcast Arena.
Everett had seven players attend NHL camps this year. Right wing Cameron Abney (Edmonton) and defenseman Rasmus Rissanen (Carolina) returned last weekend. Right wing Kellan Tochkin (Vancouver) and goaltender Thomas Heemskerk (San Jose) were back Wednesday and took part in practice. Center Byron Froese (Chicago), left wing Tyler Maxwell (Los Angeles) and defenseman Radko Gudas (Los Angeles) are expected back today.
With Rissanen recently cleared to return from his upper-body injury, that means the Tips should essentially be at full strength Friday in Kent. The only player unavailable is left wing Daniel Iwanski, who is still recovering from a knee injury picked up during the preseason.
“It’s good to have them all back,” Hartsburg said. “Unfortunately they’re behind, they’ve got to get with things pretty quick. But the guys who were away are all smart players, so they should be able to pick it up. We’ve got a lot of guys who worked real hard the last two weeks to try to build this thing. Now those guys have to come in and be part of that and try to kick it up to another level.”
Several of Everett’s NHL campers had their moments during their NHL adventures: Tochkin scored twice during one of Vancouver’s rookie games and Abney had a goal in one of Edmonton’s rookie games. But the real eye-opening performance was turned in by Heemskerk.
Heemskerk was invited to San Jose’s rookie camp as a non-drafted free agent, ostensibly to fill out the roster. However, he was the star in San Jose’s first rookie game and played so well he backstopped the Sharks in two of their three rookie games (both wins), earning more playing time than two drafted prospects. He was rewarded with a surprise holdover to main camp, where he spent several days practicing with San Jose’s veterans.
“I felt real good there, and then main camp started and it was whole other world,” Heemskerk said. “You’ve got (Joe) Thornton, (Jonathan) Cheechoo, those guys shooting on you, it’s incredible.
“They liked how I worked hard and gave me some compliments, some things they want me to improve on,” Heemskerk added. “Their goalie coach (Corey Schwab) lives in Seattle and they said he’d be out watching and keeping tabs.”
Each of Everett’s seven NHL campers was attending his first NHL training camp, so it was a new and valuable experience for all of them, giving them each a taste of what pro hockey is all about.
“Everyone was a little bit faster, definitely a lot stronger,” said Tochkin, who also was held over for a couple days of main camp. “Then just the respect everyone gives, regardless if you’re a rookie or a vet, the respect level is outstanding. They treat everyone the same and it’s a little different than the Western Hockey League, which was really nice.”
And now that their NHL experiences are over for the time being, those players are anxious to get the WHL season started.
“I’m really excited to get the season started, really excited to get my linemates back (Maxwell) and Froese,” Tochkin said. “It’s always exciting to get a new fresh start, so I know all the guys are excited for Friday night.”
Everett gained a player and lost another Tuesday.
The Tips added some size to their front line when they acquired right wing Brett Miller from Red Deer in exchange for a conditional seventh-round bantam draft pick. The 18-year-old Miller, a first-round pick by Regina in the 2006 bantam draft, stands at 6-foot-4 and weighs 212 pounds. In 37 career WHL games, he has one goal and one assist. Miller was scheduled to arrive in Everett Wednesday night.
“We’re not looking for offense from him, but he’s a kid who can play in this league,” Tips general manager Doug Soetaert said. “We were looking to improve our size, and sometimes big kids take a little longer to develop. So we decided to bring him in and see what he can do.”
Meanwhile, left wing Corey Tyrell left the team. The 19-year-old Tyrell, who was a training camp invitee, appeared to play himself into a roster spot. However, he decided to leave over doubts about his projected role with the team.
Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog: http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog