Doug Love

2018-19 WHL season previews: Everett Silvertips

2017-18: 47-20-2-3, 99 points. First in the U.S. Division

It was an incredible season for the Everett Silvertips as they used the best overage trio in franchise history and one of the best goalies in WHL history to a surprising first half of the season. Then general manager Garry Davidson pulled the trigger on a huge trade, bringing in 19-year-olds Ondrej Vala and Garrett Pilon. 

The combination of those veteran WHL layers was too much for three of their U.S. Division rivals as they ousted the Seattle Thunderbirds, Portland Winterhawks and Tri-City Americans to capture their second Western Conference title in their history.

They had the Swift Current Broncos on their heels in the early part of the WHL final, but Stuart Skinner, Glenn Gawdin and co. led the eventual WHL champions over the ‘Tips in six games.

Offseason departures: 

-Patrick Bajkov (RW) – all-time franchise leading scorer – aged out.

-Matt Fonteyne (C) – aged out.

-Kevin Davis (D) – aged out.

-Carter Hart (G) – three-time WHL goalie of the year – signed by the Philadelphia Flyers and is AHL eligible as a 20-year-old.

-Ondrej Vala (D) – signed by the Dallas Starts and is AHL eligible as a 20-year-old.

-Garrett Pilon (C) – signed by the Washington Capitals and is AHL eligible as a 20-year-old.

-Ty Westgard (RW) – playing in the BCHL with the Surrey Eagles.

-Brandson Hein (LW) – playing in the SJHL with the Flin Flon Bombers.

-Spencer Gerth (RW) – playing in the BCIHL with Trinity University University.

-Ethan O’Rourke (C) – traded to the Swift Current Broncos.

-Mark Liwiski (C) – traded to the Kelowna Rockets.

-Jameson Murray (D) – traded to the Victoria Royals.

-Assistant Coach and Assistant General Manager Mitch Love left to be head coach with the Saskatoon Blades.

-Director of Hockey Operations Bill La Forge took the general manager job with the Seattle Thunderbirds.

Newcomers: 

-All of their incoming forwards are 16 or 17-year-olds. 2001-born forwards Conrad Mitchell and Gage Goncalves could provide some depth scoring for the Silvertips. Peter Melcher was Everett’s import pick to replace the departing Vala as the team’s second import.

16-year-old Jackson Berezowski was taken in the second round in 2017 and will vying for a spot on the final roster as the season begins.

Sahvan Khaira (Photo by Christopher Mast/Everett Silvertips)

On the back end, it is mostly youth in terms of newcomers. The exception is overage d-man Sahvan Khaira who was brought in from Swift Current. 16-year-olds Dylan Anderson and Ronan Seeley have been the darlings of Everett’s training camp and the late trading away of the 1999-born Jameson Murray speaks to the fact that there is a lot of trust in them and Davidson and head coach Dennis Williams feel like they are ready.

17-year-old Alex Moar is a smaller puck-mover that has not looked out of place in the preseason.

Another 2002-born player the team is trusting a lot is goalie Blake Lyda. He actually faced played in three games as a 15-year-old and showed poise in stopping 69 of 77 total shots.

Overage situation:

-With Pilon, Hart and Vala all moving on to the pros and Westgard, Hein and Gerth decising to go elsewhere, Everett was left with just forward Sean Richards as an overage option.

They attended to one of the two remaining spots with bringing in Khaira from the team that ousted them in the WHL final. Khaira has some familiarity with the team as his older player played for Everett several seasons ago.

They still have one opening left and appear to be in no hurry to fill it.

Import situation:

-Martin Fasko-Rudas appeared somewhat tentative as he started his WHL career. That all changed in the playoffs as he nearly matched his regular season output and provided pivotal goals. Everett brought over another Slovakian in Peter Melcher and the 5-foot-8, 175 pound left wing has looked comfortable right at the get-go.

 

Returning scorers:

Pts rank Player GP G A Pts
54 Connor Dewar 68 38 30 68
88 Riley Sutter 68 25 28 53
100 Sean Richards 64 20 29 49
156 Bryce Kindopp 72 24 12 36
191 Jake Christiansen 72 6 25 31
192 Wyatte Wylie 72 6 25 31

 

Returning goalies

 

Player GP GAA Sv % Record
Dustin Wolf 20 2.25 0.928 6-1-3-2
Blake Lyda 3 3.24 0.896 0-1-1-0

 

Forwards:

-The first year under Williams saw a surprising burst in scoring as Everett had the most goals in franchise history. While a lot of that has left the team, there is still some proven scorers remaining and some others looking to take on bigger roles.

Sutter (Photo by Christopher Mast/Everett Silvertips)

Connor Dewar had 26 points in the playoffs, while playing in a shutdown role with Pilon and Sutter. He was named team captain and so will be looked to lead the team both on and off the ice. Dewar is an intriguing combination of both impressive play-making and hard-nosed play. Look for him to again combine with Sutter and have Richards placed on his other wing.

Richards is also hard-nosed and can often cross the line and draw a suspension. That line would both provide offense and be tough to play against.

Kindopp is often overlooked but has been a depth scorer for Everett for the last two years. He will be asked now to consistently play in the top-six now and provide more consistent goals.

Both Fasko-Rudas and Reece Vitelli took huge steps in the playoffs and found themselves going from the fourth line to the third and even some power play time. They should have top-six spots as well if they play up to potential.

Melcher also figures in there somewhere, but one would think Williams and the coaching staff will give more time to the returning players unless Melcher makes it impossible for them not to play him more.

Other depth players who will be asked to play roles on the 2018-19 ‘Tips are Luke Ormsby, Akash Bains, Bronson Sharp, Goncalves, Mitchell and Berezwoski.

If there is not enough consistent scoring outside of Sutter, Dewar and Richards, look for Davidson to try to find an overage forward option.

Defense:

Gianni Fairbrother(Photo by Christopher Mast/Everett Silvertips)

-This always seems to be a strong spot on this team and this year’s version will be no different. Wylie got himself drafted before Sutter and Dewar in the NHL draft and was one of the most improved players on the team. He seems to have few lapses in play and gets pucks through routinely.

Christiansen and Gianni Fairbrother are a couple smooth-skating, small d-men who provided offense in key moments in the playoff run. They should find spots in the top-four with Wylie and the hulking Khaira.

Also vying for ice time on the blue liner are the two Walkers – Ian and Kyle. The latter has four assists in the preseason and seems more confident out there. Seeley, Anderson and Moar will be fighting for time on ice but none of them will be asked to do too much at least at the start of the year.

Goalies:

Dustin Wolf (Photo by Christopher Mast/Everett Silvertips)

-Dustin Wolf looks hungry in his 17-year-old season as he tries to take over the spot from the best netminder to wear Everett’s green and white sweaters. Everything coming out of Everett about Wolf is about how poised the young goalie is and how if he has one bad game, do not look for him to have another the next night. There would have to be a slight step back in play in the Everett net, but do not be surprised if it is not more than that.

Everett is going with the even younger Lyda as his back up, which is a curious decision. Skills, as they say though, wins out and it was very clear that Lyda is skilled enough to play in the WHL as a 2002-born goalie.

Outlook:

-It would be easy to overlook this team as they have lost so much at every conceivable area on the team. The team, though has always found a way to compete  and there seems to be no reason why this year would be different. They have a lot of great two-way players back at forward and defense and should have a solid top-half of the lineup.

How well their youth plays though could have an effect either way on this team. They have four players still in camp born in 2002 and six born in 2001, including their starting goalie. They may be asking a bit too much from so many of them. Last year’s team was not that old at the start of the year though either and Davidson attended to that. If Everett has found a way to stick with expected U.S. Division favorite Spokane Chiefs, Davidson may be asked to work his magic again.

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