EVERETT — The Everett Silvertips were gifted a golden opportunity to upgrade their team for the 2021-22 season.
The WHL held its lottery for the 2021 CHL import draft Friday, and Everett was the winner. Therefore, the Tips will have the WHL’s first pick in the first round of the draft for European players, which takes place June 30, giving Everett an opportunity to acquire an instant-impact player.
“Obviously it’s exciting for the program to have the opportunity to identify and try to select a player that can step in and help our program moving forward,” Everett coach and interim general manager Dennis Williams said. “I know it’s going to take a lot of homework and recruitment, but to have this opportunity is great for our group.”
In normal years, the import draft’s selection order is the reverse of the previous season’s records, with the CHL’s three leagues — the WHL, OHL and QMJHL — selecting in a rotating order with a different league selecting first each year. Therefore, with Everett finishing with the second-best record in the WHL in 2020-21 and 60 teams in the CHL, the Tips would have been expected to pick 59th in the first round.
However, because of the unusual schedule in 2020-21 dictated by the coronavirus pandemic, every team was put into a lottery with an equal chance of winning. Everett won, giving the Tips the WHL’s first selection.
The CHL has yet to determine which league will select first this year, meaning Everett could end up picking first, second or third overall. The draft is using a snake format this year, meaning Everett’s second-round selection will be last among WHL teams.
Williams said the Tips will use their first pick, despite having quality players occupying both of their European protected-list slots last season and both players being eligible to return. Neither Finnish defenseman Kasper Puutio nor Czech center Michal Gut played for Everett last season as they chose to remain in Europe, and Puutio subsequently signed a professional contract with KalPa Kuopio of the Finnish Elite League, meaning he won’t be back for his 19-year-old season. Williams expects Gut, who played on loan with HC Banik Sokolov of the Czech second division last season, to be back next season for his 19-year-old campaign, so the Tips are only planning on making one selection.
The only other time Everett had the WHL’s top selection in the import draft was prior to its expansion season in 2003, when the Tips selected Slovakian defenseman Ivan Baranka second overall. Baranka, who was a second-round NHL draft pick, had two good seasons in Everett, helping the Tips claim shocking U.S. Division and Western Conference championships in their inaugural campaign. He then went on to a long and successful professional career in Europe and with the Slovakian national team.
While picking high in the import draft is an advantage, it doesn’t necessarily hold the same value as selecting high in the prospects draft. Players do not have to submit their names for entry into the draft, and selections often are dictated by which player agents teams have connections with.
Davidson lands in Calgary
Former Everett general manager Garry Davidson has been hired by the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen to serve as the organization’s director of player personnel. As director of player personnel Davidson will head up Calgary’s scouting department.
Davidson spent the previous nine-plus years as Everett’s general manager, building teams that won five of the past seven U.S. Division championships. The Tips chose not to renew his contract, citing financial consequences related to the coronavirus pandemic that have the organization in the midst of restructuring its hockey operations.