The future stars of United States hockey will be making a stop in Everett next month.
USA Hockey announced Thursday that training camp for the 2019 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championships will be held at Angel of the Winds Arena from Dec. 14-18.
The championships begin Dec. 26 and run through Jan. 5 in Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia.
“Everett is a good junior hockey town and it’s a good place to get acclimated coming across the country, having practices there and a good sheet, good enviornment before we go to Kamloops for our precamp,” said John Vanbiesbrouck, the general manager for the
Zoran Rajcic, the Everett Silvertips’ chief operating officer, floated the idea of Everett hosting training camp to the late Jim Johansen and other executives with USA Hockey a few years ago, but they didn’t bite at first, electing to just prepare in Kamloops, British Columbia, in between exhibition games.
“We just planted the seed that, ‘Maybe if you get the chance, would you guys consider coming to Everett?’” he said. “It’s close to Vancouver, it would be good for youth hockey and gain some visibility for the sport.”
But due to Everett’s proximity not only to Vancouver but to a major metropolitan airport in Seattle, USA Hockey reconsidered, Rajcic said.
“When it was made known to us that from a time standpoint and a distance standpoint, knowing Everett wanted us to come there, it just made good sense.”
The excitement to bring the Team USA World Junior squad to Everett is twofold for the Silvertips and their parent company. Everett is trying to posture itself as a host site for a future World Junior event hosted in the United States.
“That’s the whole underlying thing, to not only help them out in a close location to where they’re going to be for this year’s World Juniors (but get) a chance for us to sit down with USA Hockey (to find out) if they’d consider us hosting a future World Juniors in Everett,” Rajcic said.
The United States wouldn’t host a World Juniors event stateside until 2025, according to Vanbiesbrouck, but Everett — more specifically a joint venture with Everett and Seattle, is on their radar.
“We’re still a ways out,” Vanbiesbrouck said. “But we’re also looking at the impact that Seattle is going to have on the NHL and between Seattle and Everett, it’s certainly a possibility and something that we haven’t had on the west coast for some time, if not ever. It’s lining up to be a decent fit and hopefully we can take as it gets closer at it becoming a reality.”
The Silvertips boast five United States born players on their roster, most notably Dustin Wolf (Tustin, Calif.) and Wyatte Wylie (Everett). Both players are thrilled to see USA Hockey come to Everett.
“I think it just shows that the hockey community here has grown tremendously over the past two years,” Wolf said.
“It’s great for this area, and it really shows the hockey is improving here,” Wylie said. “Obviously our rink is top notch, so I’m just excited that it’s here.”
What about the chance to compete the event? Vanbiesbrouck said he’s aware of both Wolf and Wylie, but he doesn’t want to intimate anything regarding either of their involvements in the event. Neither participated in Team USA’s World Junior summer showcase event in Kamloops, British Columbia.
“We’re considering all options right now,” Vanbiesbrouck said. “Dustin was on our Gretzky-Hilinka (Under-18) team and played really well and we have a guy on him. But he’s got some more eligibility.
“As far as Wyatte goes, we’ll have to see. We know he’s out to a good start in talking to some people out there doing some work for us. We would have to look at our dynamic and how he would fit. But we also have to be careful about creating a false sense of anything, and that’s not fair to the player either.”
The 10-team tournament is comprised of players 20 years old and younger. Team USA has captured the gold medal four times since the tournament’s inception in 1977, the most recent top finish coming in 2017 when the Americans bested the Canadians 5-4 in a shootout in the finals, with former Silvertips goaltender Carter Hart in net for Team Canada.
The U.S. training camp roster has not been announced yet, but it’s expected to feature a vast number of NHL prospects as well as Jack Hughes, who is thought to be the consensus No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.
“It’s going to extremely exciting,” Vanbiesbrouck said. “It’s going to be a pretty balanced team and a fairly skilled USA team. I think we’re good in just about every position, it’s just about pulling together.”
“We’re very grateful that the folks at USA Hockey are giving us the opportunity to host them, are we’re going to try to make the best of it and hopefully do some things for USA Hockey in the region,” Rajcic said.