EVERETT — Everett Silvertips center Riley Sutter, who’s been sidelined with a major lower-body injury since Dec. 29, underwent a significant step in his rehabilitation process this week, lacing up skates Wednesday for the first time since his injury.
The Calgary, Alberta, native hasn’t suited up since sustaining the injury in the third period of the Silvertips’ second game after the Christmas break, a 6-1 win over Prince George.
Sutter was restricted to a boot over his right leg and used crutches to get around until Monday, when he was cleared by doctors to eschew both, Silvertips general manager Garry Davidson said. Sutter, a third-round pick by the Washington Capitals, has been evaluated by Everett team doctors, as well as Capitals’ doctors and specialists close to the Sutter family.
Sutter skated on the ice for about 15 minutes after the team finished practice. He did not skate Thursday.
The Silvertips are eager for his return, but he won’t be in the lineup for Games 1 or 2 of the Silvertips’ playoff series against Tri-City in Everett, Davidson said. Until he returns to full practices, Sutter won’t suit up for any playoff games.
“For us, we want Riley back as soon as possible, but for an injury like that you have to make sure it heals properly, because you want to make sure it doesn’t cause him long-term problems,” Davidson said.
Davidson credited Sutter’s mental fortitude for expediting the rehabilitation process.
“Anytime you do rehab, I think a lot of it depends on the mental toughness of the individual,” Davidson said. “You always know there’s going to be a certain amount of discomfort or even pain, and they just have to work through that. Some guys are better at that than others.”
Three tips earn end-of-season WHL awards
The WHL released its conference award recipients and all-star teams, and a trio of Silvertips were recognized. Dustin Wolf was named the Western Conference’s goaltender of the year, Davidson was named the conference’s executive of the year, and Connor Dewar and Wolf were named first-team conference all-stars.
Wolf completed the triple crown for WHL goaltenders this season, leading the league in wins (41), save percentage (.936) and goals-against average (1.69). He also finished atop the league in minutes (3,615) and was second in shutouts (seven). The 41 wins are a single-season franchise record.
The 17-year-old netminder is a finalist for the WHL’s overall top goaltender award, along with Prince Albert’s Ian Scott in the Eastern Conference.
Davidson picked up the conference executive of the year award for the second consecutive season. The Silvertips have won three consecutive U.S. Division championships.
Dewar picked up his first conference all-star honor after leading Everett with 81 points in 59 games this season. A third-round pick by the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, Dewar inked an entry-level contract with Minnesota earlier this month.
The WHL’s overall league awards will be announced May 1 at the WHL awards luncheon in Red Deer, Alberta.
Josh Horton covers the Everett Silvertips and AquaSox for The Herald. Follow him on Twitter (@joshhortonEDH) or reach out to him over email (firstname.lastname@example.org).