-- UPDATE -- 09/02/19 -- SEATTLE -- Preseason exhibition games don't count in the standings but that didn't stop the six Western Hockey League teams playing over the weekend in the Delta Hotels Preseason Classic from providing some dramatics.
There were four overtime games, a game-winning goal scored with less than 20 seconds to go, and a seven-round shootout. The host Everett Silvertips went 3-0, thanks to an overtime thriller against the Seattle Thunderbirds Sunday night.
Tri-City Americans star Sasha Mutala was the top skater. The 2019 Colorado Avalanche draftee scored four times -- including a Sunday hat trick -- while picking up six points.
Not a bad way to prepare for your first NHL camp, which Mutala will be attending this week.
"I'm not going to complain about that," he said. "Obviously a lot bigger guys and a lot harder competition up there. So, I have to bring it every single night, like this weekend… I'm going to work hard this week before I leave. Go up there and have a good showing."
Seattle rookie Lucas Ciona, a 2021 NHL Draft hopeful, also stood out as he scored twice while adding a pair of assists. Everett defenseman, and Montreal Canadiens draft pick, Gianni Fairbrother paced the Silvertips with four assists while 2020 draft prospect Seth Jarvis potted a pair for the Portland Winterhawks, while recording three points.
The WHL's regular season kicks off on September 20th.
-- Original -- 08/29/19 SEATTLE -- The crunch of a blade cutting through ice. A slap shot. The deep bass thud of a goalie making a pad save - and the blast of the horn when he doesn't.
The sounds of hockey are back this Labor Day weekend. The Everett Silvertips are hosting the annual Delta Hotels Preseason Classic, kicking off the Western Hockey League's exhibition schedule.
Six WHL clubs are participating with three games a day, starting Friday morning and ending Sunday evening (11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m start times). All five U.S. Division teams - the Silvertips, Seattle Thunderbirds, Portland Winterhawks, Tri-City Americans, and Spokane Chiefs - will play, along with the defending Western Conference Champion Vancouver Giants.
The WHL is one of the top development leagues in the world and is coming off the NHL Draft this past June in Vancouver during which 28 league players were selected. No other feeder league notched more players picked. Ten of those drafted players will appear this weekend.
It's the first chance for fans to see the new draftees and the last tune-up for the players before they head to NHL training camps next week.
"I requested to be in a game just to get back into game shape and get used to that level of play," says Seattle's Matthew Wedman, selected by the Florida Panthers. "I like these games more because there's more structure. You know where guys are and are going to be, so I like them more than camp scrimmages."
The NHL will have a presence in Everett this weekend. Not just with drafted players like Wedman, but with NHL scouts, who will be sitting in their customary corner positions of the arena to get a look at the 2020 Draft prospects. Yes, the countdown to next June has begun.
"It's a good first-impression opportunity for some of the young players that you haven't seen yet," one NHL scout says of the preseason classic. "It's also an early indicator for gains made on the players you have seen [in previous seasons]."
All six teams will give their top players some action, alongside rookies and young prospects. It's a good introduction to the players on display all season throughout the Northwest when the WHL season starts Sept. 20.
Here are a few of the players to follow this weekend and all season:
The host team will showcase Hlinka-Gretzky Team USA member Dustin Wolf in goal (Calgary Flames, 2019) along with defenseman Gianni Fairbrother (Montreal Canadiens, 2019) while 2020 prospect Ronan Seeley is back after a strong rookie season.
The Wintherhawks feature defenseman John Ludvig (Florida Panthers,2019), and skilled agitator Reece Newkirk (New York Islanders, 2019). Other Winterhawks to watch this winter include highly regarded 2020 draft prospects Seth Jarvis and Cross Hanas, both of whom played in the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament in the Czech Republic this summer.
Along with Matthew Wedman (Florida Panthers 2019), Seattle will play Henrik Rybinski (Florida Panthers, 2019), and goalie Roddy Ross (Philadelphia Flyers, 2019). The Thunderbirds have two solid 2020 prospects in defensemen Tyrel Bauer and Simon Kubicek.
High-scoring forward Adam Beckman (Minnesota Wild, 2019 Draft) and defenseman Filip Kral (Toronto Maple Leafs, 2018) should get into a game or two over the weekend. Six-foot-five forward Jack Finley, a 2020 NHL Draft prospect, is another skater to watch.
An offensive threat, Sasha Mutala (Colorado Avalanche, 2019), was the lone NHL Draft pick for the Americans in June. He will be joined by 2020-eligible forward Kaden Kohle this weekend.
The Giants have five NHL prospects including goalies Trent Miner (Colorado Avalanche, 2019) and David Tendeck (Arizona Coyotes, 2018). Along with them is Alex Kannok-Liepert (Washington Capitals, 2018), Milos Roman (Calgary Flames, 2018) and 2020 first-round prospect Justin Sourdif.
Tickets for the Preseason Classic can be purchased at the box office or at www.everettsilvertips.com