The annual tradition of WHL veterans heading to NHL training camps began early in the week, and the Everett Silvertips were certainly not exempt from the phenomenon this year.
Overagers Bryce Kindopp (Colorado), Jake Christiansen (St. Louis), and Wyatte Wylie (Philadelphia), as well as recently drafted Gianni Fairbrother (Montreal) and Dustin Wolf (Calgary) will be gone for the rest of the preseason slate for Everett, which continues Saturday against Kelowna in Langley, British Columbia, for the Vancouver Giants’ preseason tournament.
While it would be detrimental to the Silvertips’ upcoming season, head coach Dennis Williams hopes none of the players return to Everett.
“When camp started, I challenged our guys. We want to push these guys so they have the best chance to sign pro,” Williams said. “I don’t want to see them back. It’s what we are in the business for.”
Silvertips general manager Garry Davidson is also keeping a sharp eye on how three in particular perform at NHL camps, as it could rectify the team’s overage situation that’s been bandied about plenty this offseason.
Everett’s overage situation has raised eyebrows around the league — and possibly the stress levels of Davidson — as the Silvertips have four more-than-capable 1999-born players on their roster: defensemen Wylie and Christiansen and forwards Kindopp and Max Patterson.
“These young men are smart — they know it. They know who they are competing against,” Williams said. “They are all friends, but they’re still fighting for spots. It’s not fun, because … you don’t want to get rid of anyone.
“If all four are back, we’ll have some decisions to make. But right now, we’ll just play it day-by-day and see what happens.”
But not only is Patterson a productive WHL player, he’s physical and plays a premium position at center, an area of the roster that lacks depth for Everett entering 2019-2020. Reece Vitelli is the only other player that’s taken regular shifts at the pivot position.
Teams have until Oct. 10 to whittle down their overage players to three. Although teams can carry more, only three overagers can play.
Wylie is perhaps the most likely to earn a contract and stick on the Flyers’ AHL team, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, in 2019-2020. Philadelphia spent draft capital, a fifth-round pick, on Wylie and the Snohomish County native has spent a good chunk of his summer skating and training around Pennsylvania. He left earlier than the other four for camps, last Sunday, for extra preparation.
Even though neither were drafted, Kindopp and Christiansen could be signed and placed on an American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate. Per an agreement between the CHL and the AHL, players can’t play in the AHL until they are 20 years old.
“I want to try and earn a contract and try and make the AHL team,” Christiansen said. “That’s the goal. I have to set my goals high and I’m just aiming for that.”
Both are hoping to play professional hockey in 2019-2020, whether it’s in the Blues, Avalanche or one of the 29 other clubs around the league’s system.
And there will be plenty of scouting eyeballs on both.
Christiansen and the Blues will travel to Traverse City, Michigan, for the city’s annual eight-team prospect tournament on Friday (Former Silvertip Connor Dewar, a signed Minnesota Wild prospect, will also be there). Kindopp and the Avalanche will participate in the rookie faceoff tournament in Anaheim, starting on Saturday.
“Obviously there’s going to be a tournament (in Anaheim) that is going to have a lot of GMs and other teams,” Kindopp added. “If Colorado isn’t too interested, there are other teams that are watching, too. Obviously it’s a good opportunity … to earn something there.
“(I) just (want to) play my game and what I know I can do. They invited me for a reason and I want to go there, be confident, play my game and show what I can do.”
Williams, while a bit biased, likes his players’ chances of taking the next step.
“I think it will all sort itself (out),” Williams said. “I think two or three (overagers) could sign pro deals … and I hope they do. That’s why we’re here. At the end of the day, we want to get as many people as we can to play pro hockey.”
— With Christiansen, Fairbrother and Wylie all away at NHL camps, 2002-born defenseman Ronan Seeley is Everett’s most experienced defenseman for the remainder of the preseason. Seeley played in 52 WHL games last season, 14 more than 2001-born Parker Hendren, who the Silvertips acquired last Saturday.
— Jackson Berezowski will miss the Silvertips’ next two preseason games at Vancouver after sustaining an upper-body injury on Saturday against Spokane, according to Davidson. The 2002-born forward is doubtful for Tuesday’s tilt at Seattle and is questionable for the team’s season-opener against Tri-City.
— Martin Fasko-Rudas will likely miss the first three regular-season games while recovering from an offseason surgery, per Davidson. He’s not expected back in Everett until Oct. 1.