The Everett Silvertips made their boldest move of the Garry Davidson era on Sunday.
The Tips announced themselves all-in on the 2017-18 season when they executed a blockbuster trade with the Kamloops Blazers, acquiring 19-year-old forward Garrett Pilon and 19-year-old defenseman Ondrej Vala in a deal that saw two players, two prospects and two draft picks go the other way.
This was not supposed to be a season in which the Tips sold the farm. No one expected Everett, with a new head coach in Dennis Williams and little veteran depth, to be a contender in the WHL’s Western Conference. Indeed, some speculated this would be the season when the Tips’ streak of making the playoffs in every year of franchise history came to an end, and many assumed the team would go into a full rebuild by selling off star goaltender Carter Hart and others.
But Everett has been a big surprise. After Sunday’s 9-4 thrashing of the Victoria Royals the Tips are 24-16-1-1 and back in first place in the U.S. Division, and now Everett will get Hart back after he was gone the past month backstopping Canada to the gold medal at the World Junior Hockey Championships. Davidson, Everett’s general manager, indicated last month that he intended to be a buyer instead of a seller, and Sunday’s trade confirmed that in a big way.
The trade addressed exactly what Everett needed. The Tips’ offense is improving, but still ranks in the bottom half of the Western Conference. Pilon is a big-time scorer who gives Everett another threat opponents need to worry about. Everett’s defense has been strong, but it was inexperienced and undersized. Vala is a veteran with good size, and as a left-handed shot Everett is now properly aligned to have two high-quality defensive pairings.
However, the price to acquire Pilon and Vala was substantial. Everett gave up two 17-year-olds who could develop into quality WHLers in defenseman Montana Onyebuchi and forward Orrin Centazzo. Onyebuchi was a fan favorite for his physical play and willingness to fight, while Centazzo shows signs he will be an offensive factor in the league when he’s 19 and 20. The Tips also relinquished a pair of promising 15-year-old forward prospects in Nathanael Hinds and Kalen Ukrainetz, both of whom are having solid seasons playing midget major. And Everett once again surrendered a first-round draft pick, this one in 2019, as well as a 2019 fourth rounder. These are the type of assets Kamloops wants as it bids to host the 2020 Memorial Cup.
All that said, none of the players Everett traded away were higher than third-round bantam picks, while the Tips were able to hold onto their top young players/prospects like 16-year-old goaltender Dustin Wolf, 15-year-old defenseman Ronan Seeley and 15-year-old forward Jackson Berezowski. Suspended 16-year-old forward Mark Liwiski is also still available either to return to the club or be used as another trade chip.
Sunday’s deal no doubt upgraded Everett’s roster this season, but is it enough to put the Tips over the top? Meanwhile, Everett definitely mortgaged some of its future, with the 2000-born group (current 17-year-olds) looking particularly thin at forward.
So did the Tips do well with this trade and turn themselves into Western Conference favorites? Or did they overpay and damage their long-term prospects? What do you think?