EVERETT — With the opening of training camp a week away, Everett Silvertips general manager and head coach Dennis Williams was looking to add both strength down the middle and competition for the team’s three overage roster slots. He managed to address both in one fell swoop.
The Tips added an experienced center to their mix when they acquired 20-year-old Alex Swetlikoff from the Kelowna Rockets in a trade announced late Wednesday night. Everett picked up Swetlikoff and a sixth-round pick in the 2023 WHL draft in exchange for 17-year-old winger Max Graham.
Swetlikoff, a 6-foot-4, 190-pound native of Kelowna, B.C., was a third-round pick in the 2016 WHL draft by the Seattle Thunderbirds. He originally chose the NCAA over the WHL, committing to play for the University of Denver. However, he later changed his mind, signing with his hometown Rockets during the 2018-19 season.
Swetlikoff appeared in 110 games over three seasons with Kelowna, tallying 25 goals and 29 assists. He took a step forward offensively last season, notching six goals and nine assists in 15 contests to tie for second on the team in scoring, and he was also the Rockets’ top faceoff man. Swetlikoff helped Kelowna finish 10-5-1 during the coronavirus pandemic-shortened season, which was good for the second-best winning percentage in the B.C. Division.
“Alex brings a lot of experience, coming from a program that has a history of winning,” Williams said. “He has leadership skills, and from a hockey standpoint he’s a good-sized centerman who’s good at faceoffs, is responsible in the defensive zone, and he had a breakout year in point production. We’re going to lean on him to come in and battle and be an important player for us.”
The addition of Swetlikoff means Everett currently has four overagers competing for three spots. That group includes returning winger Hunter Campbell; defenseman Jonny Lambos, who was acquired from Brandon earlier in the offseason; and goaltender Roman Basran, who was picked up off waivers, also from Kelowna. Two players who are eligible to return as overagers, goaltender Dustin Wolf and center Gage Goncalves, are expected to play professionally this season. Two others, winger Jalen Price and defenseman Zach Ashton, are not returning.
“(The addition of Swetlikoff) gives us healthy competition,” Williams said. “It drives guys to push each other to be better. Any time you put a team together you want to have tough decisions, and we look forward to evaluating these guys over the next month.”
The claiming of Basran adds another candidate to the competition to succeed Wolf, the WHL’s two-time reigning Goaltender of the Year. Basran, a 6-foot-2, 192-pounder from Vancouver, B.C., compiled a 52-41-7-4 record with a 2.90 goals-against average and .905 save percentage in 120 games over the past four seasons with Kelowna, including going 4-2-1-0 with a 3.86 goals-against average and .876 save percentage last season.
Basran joins 19-year-old Koen MacInnes, acquired from Saskatoon this offseason, as well as 18-year-old returner Braden Holt (who was invited to development camp by the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs) and 17-year-old returner Evan May in the competition to man Everett’s net.
In acquiring Swetlikoff, Everett had to part with a talented young player in Graham. The 6-foot-3, 180-pound winger from Kelowna went unselected in the 2019 WHL draft, but the Tips added him to their 50-player protected list after a strong showing as a 2019 training camp invitee. Last season he had two assists in 18 games as a rookie.
WHL rules state that Graham, as a high school-aged player, has a no-trade clause. Williams said Graham granted the trade, with the prospect of playing at home in Kelowna being a factor.
“He wasn’t a player we were looking to move,” Williams said. “He’s definitely a player Kelowna had interest in, so in acquiring Swetlikoff and a pick we thought the transition would be easier for Max, since he gets to stay home. He’s an unbelievable teammate, has unbelievable character and has a bright future. I look forward to following his success in Kelowna — and I hope he takes it easy on us when we’re playing them.”
Despite the loss of Graham, Everett still has four signed 2004-born forwards. Austin Roest and Ben Hemmerling both had promising rookie campaigns last season, registering eight and seven points, respectively. Matthew Ng had a goal in a five-game stint as a late-season call-up. Beau Courtney, who did not appear for Everett last season, is also signed.
Everett’s training camp takes place next week at Angel of the Winds Arena and the Everett Community Ice Rink, with players scheduled to report Thursday and scrimmages scheduled to begin Friday.