EVERETT – It’s as if we barely got to know them.
This year’s crop of Everett Silvertips overagers, who played their final junior hockey game Monday, weren’t the longest-tenured group to ever come through Everett. Between the three of them, Jason Fransoo, Moises Gutierrez and Jesse Zetariuk spent less than four seasons combined with the Tips.
But despite their relatively short stays, they still managed to leave their marks on the team.
Jason Fransoo, defenseman
Fransoo was the longest serving overage Silvertip, playing a full two seasons in Everett, and he ended this season as the team’s captain. The North Battleford, Saskatchewan, native had 12 goals and 49 assists in those two seasons, being named a second-team Western Conference all-star this season. He also twice was named Everett’s Iron Man, sitting out only one game – regular season or playoffs – in his two seasons with the Tips.
“I really enjoyed my time here in Everett,” Fransoo said. “I couldn’t have been traded to a better place. I grew up so much playing here. I learned so much from the coaches, they’re geniuses in their own way.”
Fransoo earned the captaincy midway through the season, taking over after Cody Thoring was traded to Moose Jaw. It concluded a remarkable ascendancy for a player who, when he arrived in a trade with Swift Current just before the 2005-06 season, was mainly a role player.
“When I came here two years ago I was kind of another defenseman filling a spot back there,” Fransoo said. “I made strides the past couple years and got a lot better, and I grew up a lot. That’s where the captaincy comes from.”
Fransoo said he plans to pursue possible professional hockey options, but that if nothing pans out soon, he’ll head to a Canadian university in the fall.
Moises Gutierrez, right wing
Gutierrez came to Everett an underachiever. He leaves with his pro hopes back on track.
When acquired from Kamloops during the offseason, the Anchorage, Alaska, resident was known as a talented player who never reached his potential with the Blazers. But in Everett he turned things around. His 35 goals this season were more than his four seasons in Kamloops combined. He also provided Everett with a much-needed big body to camp out in front of the net on the power play, and as a result he finished tied for the league lead in power-play goals with 24.
“It was a great career move to come here to Everett,” Gutierrez said. “I can’t thank the coaching staff enough for bringing me here. It’s kind of a bittersweet moment. The journey begins now at the pro level, but I spent a quarter of my life in this league. It was fun.”
Gutierrez, who was originally drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2004, is a free agent now. But his strong season with Everett put him back on the professional map.
“We’ve talked to a few teams and right now we’re just waiting for teams to put their lists together of players they might sign,” Gutierrez said. “I’m a free agent and I have to have a good summer and go to an NHL camp and have a great camp to try to prove I’m capable of playing.”
Jesse Zetariuk, defenseman
Zetariuk spent the shortest amount of time in Everett among the overagers, arriving in December via trade with Moose Jaw. The Brandon, Manitoba, native provided Everett more size and strength on the blue line, chipping in with one goal and five assists in 40 games in the process.
“I loved it,” Zetariuk said of his brief stay in Everett. “I have a lot of great memories of Red Deer and Moose Jaw. But man, if I could have played here for five years I’d be a lot better player. Just from the coaching, city, fans, this is the best place to play in the whole Canadian Hockey League.”
For Zetariuk, this season added to an eventful WHL career. In addition to helping Everett win the Scotty Munro Trophy, he was also on teams in Red Deer (2002-03) and Moose Jaw (2005-06) that reached the league finals.
“It went way too fast,” Zetariuk said of his junior career. “I remember coming in as a 16 and I knew a guy on the Prince George Cougars, Chris Falloon, who was 20 when I was 16. He looked at me and said, ‘It goes by so quick, so always remember it.’ Five years has flown by and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Zetariuk said it was time to “do something with my life,” so he’s headed to college in the fall. He doesn’t know where yet, but he’ll be playing hockey when he arrives.