The Everett Silvertips acquired defenseman Niko Tsakumis from the Seattle Thunderbirds in exchange for two WHL draft picks. (Brian Liesse / Seattle Thunderbirds)

The Everett Silvertips acquired defenseman Niko Tsakumis from the Seattle Thunderbirds in exchange for two WHL draft picks. (Brian Liesse / Seattle Thunderbirds)

Tips boost defensive depth with trade for Thunderbirds’ Tsakumis

The 17-year-old defenseman, who was acquired for a pair of WHL draft picks, played in both of Everett’s games over the weekend.

The Everett Silvertips made a move last week to shore up their defense, both for the present and for the future.

Everett dipped into the trade market to acquire 17-year-old defenseman Niko Tsakumis from the Seattle Thunderbirds last Friday. The Tips sent a fourth-round pick in the 2023 WHL prospects draft and a sixth-rounder in 2026 to Seattle in exchange.

Tsakumis, a native of Richmond, B.C., was a sixth-round pick in the 2020 prospects draft. The 6-foot, 183-pound Tsakumis had one goal and four assists over 23 games with Seattle the past two seasons, but found himself down the depth chart on a stacked T-birds’ defense that added veterans Luke Prokop and Nolan Allan via trade earlier this season.

“We were looking to build out our 2005-born group,” Everett general manager Dennis Williams explained about the deal. “He was a player we liked during his (draft) year, as well as watching him in Seattle this season and parts of last season. We felt his game translated well to the way we want to play. He’s a good skater, strong, very headsy, sees the ice well, passes the puck hard, and is real solid defensively.”

The addition of Tsakumis gives Everett nine defensemen on its roster, not including call-up Logan Greenough. However, with Olen Zellweger departing this week for Canada’s selection camp for the World Junior Hockey Championships, along with injuries to Dexter Whittle and Tarin Smith, Tsakumis’ addition hasn’t created a logjam on defense, at least not yet.

Tsakumis was thrown right into the fray, playing in Saturday’s 4-3 overtime victory over Portland and Sunday’s 5-2 loss to Kelowna, both at Angel of the Winds Arena. Williams liked what he saw from his new blueliner.

“I thought he was real solid out there,” Williams said. “He had a good stick, defended well, made good simple passes. He had the puck on his stick versus Portland when it was tied late in the game and just missed the net from slot, which would have been a heck of a debut. He played upwards of 16-18 minutes right off the hop, which is a lot for an ‘05, and he fit in very well with our D core. I think he has the potential and the kind of the drive — he was asking the right questions that showed he wanted to learn and get better — to be a really good hockey player for us, both now and for years to come.”

The weekend split left Everett at 14-10-1-0, and the Tips remain in third place in the U.S. Division.

Three stars of the week

Third star: Jackson Berezowski. The 20-year-old winger scored the game-winning goal in overtime against Portland. He made himself a nuisance in front of goal in both contests.

Second star: Zellweger. The 19-year-old defenseman had four assists across the two games. He’ll play once more for Everett before departing for Canada’s selection camp for World Juniors, where he’ll be a heavy favorite to make the team.

First star: Ryan Hofer. The 20-year-old center was far and away Everett’s best player over the weekend, as he was in on five of the Tips’ six tallies with two goals and three assists. His goal from in tight with less than six minutes remaining in regulation against Portland tied the score a 3-3 and gave the Tips the chance to win it in OT, Oh, and he assisted on that one, too.

The week ahead

Everett plays three times this week, beginning Tuesday night at home against Prince George. The Cougars (14-11-0-0) have emerged as Everett’s top competitor for fourth place in the Western Conference. Prince George is led by its pair of exciting NHL draft-eligible forwards in 17-year-old Riley Heidt (13 goals, 24 assists) and 18-year-old Koehn Ziemmer (16 goals, 21 assists).

On Friday the Tips welcome Seattle to town. The T-birds (17-4-1-0) are locked in a battle with Portland for first place in the U.S. Division. Seattle’s deep and talented team is paced by 20-year-old forward Jared Davidson (12 goals, 16 assists) and 18-year-old defenseman Kevin Korchinski (three goals, 25 assists).

Then on Sunday the Tips travel to face the division’s other heavyweight Portland. The Winterhawks (18-4-2-1) are also deep up front, with 20-year-old forward Robbie Fromm-Delorme (12 goals, 21 assists) leading the way.

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