When Dennis Williams, the Everett Silvertips’ third-year head coach, was in the Czech Republic as an assistant coach for Team Canada at the under-18 Hlinka-Gretzky tournament, he saw glimpses of Michal Gut being a productive WHL player in the future.
The question was: How immediate was that future?
It turns out that Gut, who the Silvertips took 57th overall in the first round of the 2019 Canadian Hockey League import draft and just put up three goals and four points in four games for the Czech U-18 squad, would fit in pretty quickly on the ice in Everett.
Gut, a 2002-born center, has been a seamless fit into Everett’s lineup in his first season in North America. His 12 goals are tied for 12th amongst rookies and his 28 points are tied for ninth.
“You could see that he could be a factor,” Williams said. “You never know how long that’s going to take players, but he’s definitely stepped up and has really shown that he can not only play in this league as a (2002-born player), but he can be a big-time player for us moving forward.”
The biggest adjustment for any player coming from Europe to North America is transitioning from the Olympic-style to the NHL-style ice surface. Olympic ice is 15-feet wider and the play style is more methodical as a result.
But for Gut, who didn’t speak much English nor had a grasp of American culture, the biggest adaptation was off the ice.
“I couldn’t imagine dropping my son off and saying, ‘You’re in Prague. Good luck,’” Williams deadpanned. “I could only imagine what those first two weeks were like.”
Nowadays, Gut has no issue comprehending and communicating with his teammates, but early on, it was a process that was difficult. But it’s one Gut was prepared for.
“It’s (a) big experience for me,” Gut said. “Hockey here is so different than in Czech. I think it’s better for me, because (I’m hoping to) be picked in the NHL draft, so I think it’s best for me here.”
That’s the summary of the conversation Gut said he had with his agent leading up to the CHL import draft, as playing in the Western Hockey League would provide him more exposure to NHL scouts. Although Gut was pretty sold on bolstering his draft stock in Everett, a text conversation with Ondrej Vala, a Czech defenseman that played on the Silvertips’ Western Conference Championship team in 2017-2018, following the draft sealed the deal.
“He just told me it’s a good place and it’s the right place for me,” Gut said.
As far as integrating Gut into the Silvertips’ team culture, players like Gage Goncalves and former Silvertips Conrad Mitchell and Max Patterson were confidants early on, as was fellow import Martin Fasko-Rudas, who can speak in Gut’s native tongue. All of them helped Gut once he arrived in Everett after spending the first part of the season finishing his recovery from offseason surgery.
But no one helped more than Jackson Berezowski, who is Gut’s billet brother with Derek and Meghan Bohn.
“I’m not going to lie, it was scary at first,” Berezowski said of living with Gut. “Me and my billets had a chat at the end of the season on whether or not we were comfortable with it and we ended up deciding, yes we were. It’s honestly probably the best decision we could’ve made. We’re just feeding off each other. I’m learning things about his culture back home and we teach him things about here. Every ride to the rink is a different experience and it’s a lot of fun.”
When Williams and the rest of the Silvertips coaching staff needed assistance debriefing Gut with on-ice instructions, Berezowski was there to ensure Gut understood. Berezowski was also there to show Gut the ropes on American customs and to teach him vernacular that is lost in translation.
The fit, from Williams’ perspective, has been seamless.
“His personality is a little bit like (Fasko-Rudas’),” Williams said. “The guys gravitate toward him. They’re good, hard-working players. They like to have fun and they like to joke. He definitely fit in with our group really fast as well.”
Gut and Berezowski have played on a line for the majority of the season, but recently, Gut has moved up to form a trio with Everett’s top two wingers, overage forward Bryce Kindopp and Canadiens draft pick, Cole Fonstad.
“When you’re playing with those types of guys, you got to be keeping your feet moving. A couple of weekends ago I had him up there and I thought he struggled with it, and it’s something we talked about,” Williams said. “But it’s nice to be able to put him back on that line and give us more depth, especially with the way Gage (Goncalves) is playing to move him with Ty (Kolle) and Jackson (Berezowski).
“He’s got to the skill-set and creativity to play with those guys (Kindopp and Fonstad). He’s got to shoot pucks more. I say that with all those guys, but he definitely brings another element to that line.”
Not only has Gut provided the Silvertips a top-six option at a premium position, center, but he’s also a player the Silvertips can build around for the future, with as many as three more seasons of junior eligibility after this year.
“The kid is just a fantastic young man,” Williams said. “He’s going to have the chance to play pro hockey and he’s going to have a great career here in Everett. The way he’s projected and he’s developing, it’s absolutely phenomenal.”
Josh Horton covers the Silvertips for the Herald. Follow him on Twitter, @JoshHortonEDH