Cole Fonstad (left) and Gianni Fairbrother (right) were co-captains for the Silvertips’ 2020-21 U.S. Division championship team. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Cole Fonstad (left) and Gianni Fairbrother (right) were co-captains for the Silvertips’ 2020-21 U.S. Division championship team. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

How a trade in 2009 helped the Silvertips to a 2020-21 title

Everett’s trade of controversial forward Kyle Beach led to the acquisitions of last season’s co-captains.

The Everett Silvertips, who open training camp for the 2021-22 WHL season Friday at Angel of the Winds Arena and the Everett Community Ice Rink, enter the campaign as defending U.S. Division champions. And one individual who played a critical role in the Tips claiming that banner is Kyle Beach.

Wait a minute. Kyle Beach? The same Kyle Beach who last played for Everett in 2009?

Yep, that Kyle Beach.

Allow me to explain how Beach is directly responsible for Everett’s 2020-21 co-captains.

First, a step back. A few weeks ago I happened to fall down a YouTube rabbit hole, and in the process I came across Canadian sports outlet Sportsnet’s series about NHL trade trees, in which Steve “Dangle” Glynn examines the long-term consequences of some of the league’s biggest deals.

(Here’s an example that includes Everett’s own Wyatte Wylie)

This reminded me of a column I wrote at the 2017 WHL trade deadline about the mathematics behind the blockbuster 2009 deal in which Everett sent power forward Kyle Beach — who was equal parts dominating gamebreaker and controversial headache — to the Lethbridge Hurricanes, and how its effects were still playing out eight years later.

Well, those effects continued to reach further into the future, and it turns out they had a profound effect on the 2020-21 Tips.

The Silvertips’ traded controversial forward Kyle Beach the Lethbridge Huricanes in 2009. (Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald)

The Silvertips’ traded controversial forward Kyle Beach the Lethbridge Huricanes in 2009. (Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald)

The 2009 deal was pretty simple. Everett, out of contention and out of patience with Beach, shipped Beach to the Hurricanes in a trade that was essentially for two first-round WHL draft picks: 16-year-old defenseman Alex Theriau, who was the sixth-overall selection in the 2007 WHL draft, and Lethbridge’s first rounder later that year. The 2009 first rounder is the one that matters here, as the Tips used it to select Seth Jones.

Jones proved quite the saga in Everett. The hugely talented defenseman and son of former NBA player Popeye Jones was always a question mark about whether he’d play in the WHL or head to the NCAA. Then-Everett general manager Doug Soetaert doggedly recruited Jones for three years, and if the scuttlebutt is to be believed he’d all but succeeded in getting Jones to Everett. However, Soetaert was fired in February of 2012, Jones later announced he wouldn’t play for Everett, and the Tips found themselves compelled to trade Jones’ rights to the Portland Winterhawks.

Soetaert’s successor, Garry Davidson, knew all about Portland’s prospects, having just arrived from being the Winterahawks’ director of player personnel. So of the four pieces Everett received in exchange for Jones’ rights, one of those was playmaking forward Tyler Sandhu, one of the crown jewels in the Winterhawks’ prospect drawer. Sandhu was coming off an excellent 15-year-old season, and he followed that up with a tremendous rookie campaign for the Tips in which he scored 19 goals as a 16-year-old.

But Sandhu plateaued after that, and by the beginning of his 18-year-old season in 2014 he was toiling on Everett’s fourth line. Meanwhile, the Red Deer Rebels had just been awarded 2016 Memorial Cup hosting rights and were seeking players who would help not so much in the current season, but in the following one, and Sandhu seemed a good gamble. So Everett flipped Sandhu to the Rebels for fourth-round draft picks in 2015 and 2016.

Davidson, during his time in Everett, became renown for spinning mid-round draft picks into gold. So what was he able to do with those fourth rounders? The first one was used to select defenseman Gianni Fairbrother.

And thus arrived the first of Everett’s 2020-21 co-captains.

Fairbrother had a tremendous career in Everett, bringing a combination of skill and toughness to the table. He appeared in 160 games over five seasons with the Tips, was selected in the third round of the 2019 NHL draft by the Montreal Canadiens, and by the time 2020-21 rolled around he was an overager who, despite being a strong pro prospect, was returned to Everett for his 20-year-old season because of the unusual circumstances created by the coronavirus pandemic. He was named co-captain and tallied a goal and 16 assists in 23 games as a top-pairing d-man.

So there’s one half of the Beach effect.

The other half comes courtesy of the second fourth rounder from the Sandhu trade, which the Tips used to select center Reece Vitelli. Vitelli, a slender and skilled centerman, found himself on a natural development path as a 16- and 17-year-old in Everett, tallying 10 points as a rookie and 27 as a sophomore. But at the start of the 2019-20 season Davidson decided his team needed an elite playmaker, and he was able to cobble together a trade that sent Vitelli and a pair of draft picks to the Prince Albert Raiders in exchange for winger Cole Fonstad.

And there’s Everett’s other 2020-21 co-captain.

Fonstad was incredible for the Tips. He was named the team’s co-MVP in 2019-20. Then in the offseason Fonstad, who was selected by Montreal in the fifth round of the 2018 NHL draft, was not signed by the Canadiens, freeing him up to return to Everett for his overage season. All Fonstad did was dominate, notching 16 goals and 18 assists in 23 games as the Tips’ first-line left winger to tie with teammate Gage Goncalves for the U.S. Division scoring championship.

That’s right, Everett’s 2020-21 co-captains, two of the team’s core players during a season in which the Tips ran away with the division title, came to Everett as a direct result of the Kyle Beach trade that happened more than a decade earlier. So thanks, Kyle, for that banner that will soon be going up at Angel of the Winds.

As a footnote, the Kyle Beach trade tree is almost done, but there’s still one branch alive. Defenseman Dylan Anderson is the last remaining consequence of the Beach trade, at least on Everett’s side. Anderson is entering his 19-year-old season, and he’s an important part of the Tips’ defense, so I don’t anticipate him being dealt. If he finishes his WHL career with Everett then the Kyle Beach trade tree will finally be complete — 14 years after it happened.

Follow Nick Patterson on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.

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