EVERETT — The Everett Silvertips took a step toward replenishing their offense Wednesday.
Everett selected Finnish winger Niko Huuhtanen with the second-overall pick in Wednesday’s CHL import daft.
The 18-year-old Huuhtanen measures in at 6-foot-2 and 204 pounds. Last season he recorded 20 goals and 14 assists in 37 games with Tappara in the Finnish under-20 league, then added two goals and three assists in seven contests for Finland at the U18 World Championships. He’s ranked 49th among European skaters by NHL Central Scouting for the 2021 NHL draft.
“He’s a player we did a lot of homework on, we had a lot of calls and we watched a lot of video,” said Silvertips coach and interim general manager Dennis Williams, who worked in conjunction with Everett’s European scout Sandro Benin. “What brought us back to him was his ability to score goals. He uses his size and deception, his release is powerful, he’s a bigger kid who uses his body well to protect pucks and make plays, he’s good along the walls, he’s physical. Those are the elements that drew us to draft him in that spot.”
The Tips, who won the WHL’s import draft lottery and therefore selected second overall despite winning the U.S. Division championship, are hoping Huuhtanen can replace some lost offense. The team’s co-leading scorers, Cole Fonstand and Gage Goncalves, won’t be back, as Fonstad aged out of the league and Goncalves is expected to play professionally.
Import draft selections are not guaranteed to report, but Williams said he’s been told Huuhtanen is committed to coming to Everett. Indeed, the Tips passed over some higher-rated players who they were less certain would report.
“Part of our decision on that selection was finding a player who wanted to come to the CHL and wanted to come to Everett,” Williams said. “Niko wanted to come to North America and play, and in all our discussions with Niko and his agent this is where he wants to be.”
Everett passed on its second-round pick. Williams said Czech center Michal Gut, who put up 36 points in 51 games as a 17-year-old in 2019-20 but remained in the Czech Republic last season because of the coronavirus pandemic, has indicated he intends to return to Everett for his 19-year-old campaign. Teams are allowed two import players on their rosters.