EVERETT — The Everett Silvertips opened their main training camp Sunday afternoon.
And they did so without either of their European players.
The first day of camp was marred by the revelation that Russian center Vitaly Karamnov and Slovakian left wing Lukas Vartovnik will not be playing for the Tips this season, instead choosing to play in their home countries.
Both Karamnov and Vartovnik are 19-year-old Western Hockey League veterans who Everett was counting on to play key roles this season. Now the Tips are left with two gaping holes on their roster with no immediate way of filling them.
“We’re very disappointed with both those boys and their decision,” said Everett general manager Doug Soetaert, who found out about their decisions about three weeks ago. “The biggest disappointment is they never told us before the European draft. They put us in quite a hole with regards to that.”
Each team is allotted two roster spots for European players, with the annual import draft the tool for filling those slots. Everett, with Karamnov and Vartovnik expected back, opted out of the import draft this June, trading its first-round pick to Regina for a first-rounder in 2009. So now the Tips have no recourse for filling those slots, barring a trade.
Everett already was dealing with heavy turnover from last season. Leading scorer Dan Gendur as well as fellow overagers Clayton Bauer and Dane Crowley graduated, stars Zach Hamill and Leland Irving have moved on to the professional ranks, and captain Jonathan Harty decided to go to college.
Now the loss of the two European players, who combined for 47 points last season, puts Everett further into a bind.
“We lost our whole first line from last year (Hamill, Gendur, Bauer), and now we lose a second-line center and a second-line left winger, so it’s a hit,” Everett coach John Becanic said. “But I like the challenge ahead of us because opportunity is there for the younger players.”
Soetaert said Karamnov is planning on playing professionally for Dinamo Moscow. He did not know at what level Vartovnik was going to play. Because Karamnov did sign his International Ice Hockey Card this summer — Vartovnik did not — Soetaert said there’s still a possibility he could come back should he change his mind, but the Tips aren’t counting on it.
“When we finished the season last year both boys were very excited about coming back and we wanted them back,” Soetaert said. “We talked to them before the European draft and they were both coming back at that time. It’s pretty frustrating.
“But I feel along with that, that we have a lot of good young players who are going to get some ice time because of it,” Soetaert added. “So I don’t know if we’re going to miss them that much.”
Indeed, there’s a youthful feel to this season’s main training camp, which opened Sunday at Comcast Arena. Of the 45 players in attendance, 29 are 17 years old or younger. That includes 13 who were brought over from rookie camp.
“There’s a lot of young guys this year,” said defenseman Taylor Ellington, one of two overagers in camp. “We were expecting a lot of new faces on the team with losing a bunch of players from last year. They’re going to be battling as hard as they can and I think we’re going to be just fine.”
In particular Everett has a large group of 17-year-olds who are not only vying for roster spots, but being counted on to contribute. That group includes right wing Kellan Tochkin, Everett’s first-round pick in the 2006 bantam draft, and talented Californian center Tyler Maxwell.
Sunday the players were put through the paces for the first time with a pair of practices, and Becanic liked what he saw.
“I thought it went awesome,” Becanic said of the first day. “I thought the kids worked hard. I can’t emphasize enough that we’ve got a lot of young guys who are just fired up to be here.
“Our focus this year is playing with courage and passion. I saw a lot of passion out there.”
And the players are ready to get started.
“It’s always exciting to start a new season,” said defensem Graham Potuer, Everett’s other overager. “You get a fresh slate and a bunch of new faces. It’s going to be fun to see how this year turns out.”
Green vs. Gray game: Jeremy Ward had two goals and an assist to lead the Green team to a 5-3 victory over the Gray team in the annual rookie Green vs. Gray game, which concluded rookie camp.
Anthony Patt, Peter Clements and Manraj Hayer also scored for Green, which built a 5-1 lead and outshot Gray 54-30. Ryan Cadieux stopped 11 of 12 shots and Adam Weersink stopped 16 of 18.
Ryan Doner scored twice for Gray, with Tyler Thompson scoring the other. In goal, Austin Brihn stopped 25 of 27 shots and Trevor Gutierrez saved 24 of 27.
Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog: http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog