The cyclical nature of junior hockey doesn’t allow for dynasties. But in recent seasons, the Everett Silvertips have bucked that notion, winning three consecutive U.S. Division regular-season titles.
But do the Silvertips possess enough depth and firepower to accomplish that for a fourth season? With the offseason in its infancy, it’s probably too early to say.
But Silvertips general manager Garry Davidson believes the team has developed a culture that will give it a chance to be competitive next year and for years to come.
“I think the job that Dennis Williams has done as head coach (and the rest of the staff) in ingraining in our players what you have to do day in and day out,” Davidson said. “I think all of our players that are going home are hungry to get bigger and better and stronger for late August and September. They know what it takes to play here now.”
For the 2019-2020 season, the Silvertips will move on from overagers Zack Andrusiak, Artyom Minulin and Sahvan Khaira, as well as forwards Riley Sutter and Connor Dewar, who have signed entry-level contracts with their NHL teams and likely will play professional hockey next season.
Similar questions surrounded last year’s team after a litany of personnel losses to players aging out and the professional ranks after Everett advanced to the Western Hockey League finals.
This upcoming team figures to feature a loaded and vigorous group of overagers next season. But trimming that list to three will make for some tough decisions, as defensemen Wyatte Wylie and Jake Christiansen and forwards Bryce Kindopp, Max Patterson, Robbie Holmes, Lucas Cullen and Akash Bains are all contenders to return as overagers for Everett next season.
There are several variables that will impact how Davidson and the Silvertips traverse picking three out of that pool. For example, Wylie is a Flyers’ sixth-round pick last year and could sign a professional contract and move on next season. And although Christiansen and Kindopp aren’t prospects of any NHL teams yet, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think either could play professional hockey next year.
Along with those three, Patterson and Holmes would presumably be in position to claim a spot, as well. Both players, whom were traded for during the 2018-2019 season, provided size and physicality. Holmes in particular made an impact in the postseason, scoring three goals in each of Everett’s three road games in Spokane, along with a gritty style of play. Patterson, though, plays a premier position at center.
“That’s something we have to look at and figure out and probably won’t be resolved for awhile,” Davidson said.
The WHL deadline for teams to set their three overagers isn’t until mid-October, usually.
A surplus of talent is better than not enough. Like any offseason, there are conflicts to resolve and shortcomings to rectify. But Davidson is largely bullish on the skeleton of the team he has returning.
“We’ll have a lot of talent potentially back again,” Davidson said. “We’ll certainly have some question marks and some holes. But I’m optimistic that we’ll be back working hard every night. If you ask anybody, we’re hard to play against and I don’t think that’s going to go away.”
Here’s a closer look at how the Silvertips roster may be constructed for the upcoming 2019-2020 season.
Aged out: LW Zack Andrusiak
Potential returners (birth year): *LW/C Connor Dewar (1999); #RW Bryce Kindopp (1999); LW Robbie Holmes (1999); LW Akash Bains (1999) ; RW Lucas Cullen (1999); C/RW Max Patterson (1999); *C Riley Sutter (signed with Capitals); LW Martin Fasko-Rudas (2000); RW Dawson Butt (2000); LW Justyn Gurney (2000); C Reece Vitelli (2001); LW Gage Goncalves (2001); RW Jalen Price (2001) ; LW Conrad Mitchell (2001); RW Jackson Berezowski (2002)
With Andrusiak gone for sure, and Dewar and Sutter likely out the door as well, Everett will lose a significant amount of firepower. All three will not only be missed for their on-ice maturity, playmaking and goal scoring, but for their leadership as well, especially Dewar, who was the team’s captain.
But the potential return of Kindopp, the team’s leading scorer in 2018-2019 with 39 goals, is massive for the Silvertips. The Lloydminster, Alberta, native, who was recently ranked as the 170th North American skater, has a legitimate chance to be one of the top scorers in the entire league as a 20-year-old.
Martin Fasko-Rudas (15), Reece Vitelli (11) and Jackson Berezowski (11) are double-digit scorers that could elevate their games in 2019. Gage Goncalves, while he didn’t light up the statsheet, showed flashes of being a dynamic playmaker as a 17-year-old rookie.
Aged out: RD Sahvan Khaira, LD Artyom Minuiln
Potential returners: +RD Wyatte Wylie (1999); LD Jake Christiansen (1999); #LD Gianni Fairbrother (2000); RD Ian Walker (2000); LD Ronan Seeley (2002)
Even by losing overagers Khaira and Minulin, as well as potentially Wylie to the pros, the Silvertips should boast a strong defensive corp next season. Jake Christiansen, if he figures into the overager mix, should be a significant offensive contributor as a 20-year-old. Gianni Fairbrother and Ian Walker, two Vancouver, British Columbia, natives who formed a defensive pairing last season, showed positive signs in 2018-2019. Finally, Ronan Seeley flashed in limited minutes as a 16-year-old rookie, an encouraging sign for the lone first-round bantam pick on Everett’s roster.
In terms of newcomers, Anderson should slot in nicely on Everett’s roster. The right-handed blueliner played in one WHL game this past season and joined Everett for the playoffs after his season at Yale Hockey Academy concluded. The Silvertips are also high on Sutter, Zellweger and Gibson, all of which have a chance to figure into the roster mix next season.
Aged out: None
Potential returners: Max Palaga (2000); #Dustin Wolf (2001)
The Silvertips’ starting goaltending is set for next season, and presumably for the next couple of seasons as well, with Wolf in net. The Tustin, California, native was named the Western Conference goaltender of the year in his first season as Everett’s No. 1 option between the pipes.
The more interesting speculation surrounds who backs him up. Lyda started the season as the team’s No. 2 netminder as a 16-year-old, but suffered an upper-body injury in practice before he could appear in a game, which derailed his season. The Silvertips acquired Palaga from Kamloops to fill that void, and while he wasn’t thrusted into action too many times, he performed well when in the crease. The 2000-born goalie posted a 1.65 goals-against average and a .942 save percentage in 13 games played.
*Signed NHL contract; +Unsigned NHL draft pick; #Ranked by Central Scouting for 2019 NHL draft