EVERETT — During Everett Silvertips practice on Monday, a peculiar but not out of the ordinary occurrence took place, given the natue of major junior hockey.
Cole Fonstad, the Silvertips newly acquired high-octane forward, sauntered down the hallway to the Silvertips’ bench and vaulted himself over the boards and onto the ice, midway through a drill. The former Prince Albert Raider had just got in after a day of flying and driving to Everett and was parachuting in for his first practice with his new team. The Silvertips waiting on the blue line facing the east end of Angel of the Winds Arena eventually skated over to Fonstad and shook hands to introduce themselves to their new teammate.
It’s a subtle reminder that not only can players leave at almost any time, incoming players can arrive at any time, too.
“It was a little different,” Fonstad said. “(I) haven’t really done much, we had a day off yesterday there. But it was good to jump right into it and get a feel for things quick. I’m happy to be here.”
The trade, which took place on Sunday, Canadian Thanksgiving, sent shock waves throughout the league and the Silvertips dressing room. The Silvertips gave up another haul, Everett’s sixth consecutive year of adding significant pieces to its lineup rather than subtracting.
The price was steep for Fonstad, as the Silvertips gave up 2001-born center Reece Vitelli, a second-round pick in 2021, a fourth-round pick in 2021 and a conditional pick in 2022, contingent on Vitelli playing his overage season (2021-2022).
But it required a healthy haul to acquire Fonstad, who has scored 73 points in back-to-back seasons and was a main contributor to Prince Albert’s WHL Championship run last season, an experience he said he cherishes.
“It was unbelievable. I’ve never won anything before really, nothing too crazy just some minor hockey spring tournaments, but that’s just a whole other level,” Fonstad said. “Just to see the grind it was for two-and-a-half months, you have to put everything you got into it. And the result is absolutely worth it. No matter how beat up you are, it just makes you want to win that much more. Coming into this year, I want it again.”
Fonstad is leaving a Raiders team that is off to another great start at 7-0-2 and could be primed for another deep run in the East division, but Fonstad said it didn’t come as a complete shock to move from Prince Albert.
“They have a great team there again,” Fonstad said. “But it’s hockey. It happens. I’m excited for a new opportunity.”
That journey to pursue a new opportunity started almost immediately, as Fonstad made the short 83-mile trek from Prince Albert to Saskatoon on Sunday night after Thanksgiving supper in order to catch a morning flight to Abbotsford, British Columbia. At the airport was Silvertips general manager Garry Davidson, who drove his new forward over the border just in time to catch the final moments of Silvertips practice on Monday.
Davidson said that the main objective in acquiring Fonstad was his ability to drive offense to a team that’s second in the U.S. Division (5-3-0) despite a lack of scoring, and go figure, the first drill he participated in he snapped a goal into the back of the net.
“I just want to be myself,” Fonstad said. “I just want to bring some offense, obviously you need to score to win. I think I can bring that, but obviously I want to come here to develop. My goal is to be a professional and I think I have a great chance to do that here with the coaching staff and I’m just trying to put my best foot forward every day and do everything possible to help this team win.”
There’s a strong Canadiens influence on the Silvertips roster this season as both Fonstad and defenseman Gianni Fairbrother are Montreal prospects. Fonstad was taken in the fifth round in 2018 and Fairbrother, a late birthday, was a third-round pick in 2019.
There’s plenty for Fonstad to prove this season, not only to his teammates, but also to Montreal’s brass in order to earn an entry-level contract with the Canadiens and play next season professionally. He’s also on Hockey Canada’s radar after participating on the World Junior Summer Showcase and is in the mix to make Team Canada’s roster for the 2020 World Junior Championships in the Czech Republic.
Fonstad should get plenty of exposure on Everett’s top line in 2019-2020. The initial plan, according to Silvertips head coach Dennis Williams, is for Fonstad to play on the other wing opposite of Bryce Kindopp, who leads the WHL with eight goals, in a line centered by 2001-born forward Gage Goncalves, who has shown promise this season.
“Change is good,” Fonstad said. “I’m excited for the opportunity. Obviously this is different with the style of play, but I’m just trying to adjust to it as quickly as possible and just help the team win.”
While there’s certainly an added buzz around the rink after acquiring a player of Fonstad’s ilk, Williams is also reminded of the tough side of the business. The side opposite of Fonstad dropping in during the middle of practice.
Vitelli, who was entering his third season with the Silvertips, was a top-nine center for Everett almost from the jump. He was expected to make a big jump in his 18-year-old season with the Silvertips, and now if he does, it will be with another team.
“Obviously, they’re not easy trades,” Williams said. “I know Garry alluded to it, but a guy like Reece has been a great ambassador of our program. Great player. He’s a great young man and he’s been here since my first year in (2017-2018), has played a lot of minutes and has been heavily involved in our team success over those two years.
“It’s not a fun day, but obviously we need to improve our forwards up front in goal-scoring and Garry made an acquisition of Cole that is obviously a proven point-getter in the league.”