Taking the step up from major junior hockey can be daunting.
“These guys are grown men, this is their job,” said former Everett Silvertips defenseman Kevin Davis, who plays for the Colorado Eagles of the American Hockey League. “A lot of these guys are just one step from the NHL. From that aspect, it just ramps up the games. Even practice, too.”
But playing against bigger, more mature competition is nothing new for Davis.
The former Everett Silvertips’ first-round bantam pick was listed at 152 pounds when he signed a Western Hockey League standard player agreement. His first year in the league at age 16, Davis played against 19- and 20-year-olds, some of whom weighed better than 200 pounds.
But it never impacted his presence on the ice. Davis was a regular fixture in the lineup in each of his five seasons in Everett, totaling 175 points over his 347-game WHL career.
Davis credits Mitch Love, a Silvertips legend for his work as a player (2003-2005) and assistant coach (2011-2018) who is in his first season as the head coach of the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades, for helping develop his game.
“He taught me how to have a good stick and be physical when you can,” Davis said. “Obviously the main game now is transition, so you see if you can separate your man from the puck, get it up to your forward group and join the rush.”
In his final two seasons in Everett, Davis collected 114 points over 123 games. He signed an AHL contract with the Colorado Eagles, an affiliate of the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, in the offseason and has floated back-and-forth between the Eagles and the Utah Grizzlies, Colorado’s ECHL affiliate, in his first professional season.
After starting the season in Utah, he’s mostly stuck with Colorado, an AHL expansion franchise this season, since being called up Dec. 1.
“The fans here are similar to Everett,” Davis said. “A lot of college guys here have said it’s similar to college atmosphere or a sold-out barn in major junior. It’s been really fun to play in front of these fans and there is a lot of hype around the city.”
The Kamloops, British Columbia, native has scored nine points (one goal, eight assists) in 20 games with the Eagles. He collected 19 points (one goal, 18 assists) in 22 games with Utah.
When he was playing for Utah earlier this year, one of his roommates was someone Silvertips fans remember with antipathy: Turner Ottenbreit. The former Thunderbirds captain was a hard-hitting defenseman and a thorn in Everett’s side during his four years in Seattle.
The two have buried the hatchet and don’t allow the Everett-Seattle rivalry to bleed into their personal relationship.
“Crazy how one year changes everything,” Davis said. “Maybe I’ll be taking some heat from this, but he’s a great guy. I enjoy his company.”
Davis still keeps a keen eye on Everett and his former teammates, who just clinched their third consecutive U.S. Division regular-season championship.
“I sure miss those guys,” Davis said. “It’s a close team and it’s been really cool to see the success they’re having.”
Silvertips alumni updates
Noah Juulsen, NHL, Montreal Canadiens: Juulsen, who sustained a vision-related injury Nov. 19, has been shut down for the season, according to Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports. The 21-year-old defenseman played in four games from Dec. 11 to Dec. 17, but the former Silvertips captain was shut down after that. The Surrey, British Columbia, native recorded five points in 21 games this season for Montreal.
Carter Hart, NHL, Philadelphia Flyers: The rookie goaltender has been on injured reserve with a lower-body injury since Feb. 23, but could be close to returning. Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said Hart will join the team’s morning skate on Wednesday. The 20-year-old netminder owns a .917 save percentage and a 2.79 goals against average in 22 games with Philadelphia in his first professional season.