The NHL Central Scouting Bureau released its ‘Players to Watch’ list on Monday for the 2019 NHL Draft and it included two Everett Silvertips: defenseman Gianni Fairbrother and goaltender Dustin Wolf. Both were given ‘C’ grades, a fourth-to-sixth round projection.
Wolf has put together a strong start to the season, with a .930 save percentage and a 1.77 goals allowed average, which is tied for third among WHL goaltenders with at least two games played.
Fairbrother has played in all four games this season without a point. The 6-foot defenseman projects to be a key component to a strong Everett defensive corp.
The list is comprised of 110 players from the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) and 35 from the Western Hockey League (WHL). Seven of the 11 CHL players with ‘A,’ or first-round ratings, are from the WHL.
U.S. Division impacted by NHL opening day roster
The annual uncertainty surrounding NHL prospects potentially sticking on NHL rosters didn’t not affect the Silvertips.
The rest of the Western Hockey League isn’t as fortunate, especially in the U.S. Division.
Spokane, Portland and Tri-City will each be without a key contributor to start the season, as the Chiefs’ Jaret Anderson-Dolan (Los Angeles), the Winterhawks’ Henri Jokijarju (Chicago) and the Americans’ Michael Rasmussen (Detroit) all made NHL lineups for the opening week.
All three players are subject to a nine-game trial period. After that, the aforementioned players would need to either stick on the NHL roster, burning a year of their entry-level contracts — meaning each player would be closer to arbitration, which no general manager would want, or be sent back to their junior clubs with no contract stipulations. Per a long-time agreement between the NHL and CHL, players are not eligible for the American Hockey League (AHL) or East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) until they are 20-years-old by December 31st of that season.
Anderson-Dolan, who totaled 91 points over 70 games last season and will be, would be a brutal loss for the Chiefs, the favorite to claim the U.S. Division this season. He was a dark horse to make the Kings’ regular season roster after a strong preseason and training camp and his chances only increased once Los Angeles forward Dustin Brown was placed on injured reserve after breaking his finger during the team’s last preseason game.
Jokijarju is an elite puck mover and has played on a pairing with veteran Brent Seabrook during the preseason. Based on that, and the Blackhawks being in a rebuilding period, the defenseman potentially possesses the best chance of last past the nine-game trial period. He assisted on 59 goals for the Winterhawks last season.
Rasmussen is a big, bruising 6-foot-6 centerman potted 31 goals in 47 games for the Americans and provides a physical presence not many players could rival in the league.
— Arguably the best WHL matchup of the season so far took place Sunday, as Saskatoon, led by former Everett assistant Mitch Love, travelled to Prince Albert for a battle against two undefeated titans. Love was handed his first loss as a WHL head coach, though, as the Raiders drubbed the Blades, 4-1. Prince Albert is 5-0-0-0 and is tied with Edmonton (5-0-0-0) with a league-best 10 points.
— In the B.C. division, Victoria is the early-season darling, winning all four games with just seven goals allowed. Overage goaltender Griffen Outhouse deserves much thanks for the torrid start for the Royals. Vancouver, which swept Everett in the season-opening home-and-home set, is right behind with six points (3-1-0-0).
— Overage defensemen Linus Nassen and Dylan MacPherson will return to Medicine Hat from the Springfield Thunder (AHL), according to the Medicine Hat News’ Sean Rooney. The two blueliners combined for 48 points last season. Nassen was the Panthers’ third-round pick in 2016 while Macpherson earned a camp invite with Florida. The Tigers now contain four overage players on their roster, meaning they’ll have a tough decision to make.