EVERETT – Braden Holt got a taste of what it’s like to face the best.
Everett Silvertips goalkeeper was asked to stay a few days after the Toronto Maple Leafs development camp, which he received a free invitation to in early September. Holt was asked to spend some time with the main NHL squad and the Maple Leafs did not slowly ease Holt.
“My first exercise was with Mitch Marner, (William) Nylander and (Jason) Spezza,” says Holt of meeting a trio of NHL stars. “These guys can rip the puck apart so seeing it on TV was kind of a whirlwind doesn’t do it justice. It was pretty cool to stand in front of these recordings to see where you stand. ”
What fits with the biggest question the Silvertips face when they open the 2021-22 WHL season on Sunday in Spokane: Where does Everett stand with his goalkeeper? For the first time in years, Everett is entering the season without knowing exactly what it will get from his goalkeepers. Both Holt and Koen MacInnes are looking forward to their first attempts at becoming a WHL No. 1 net keeper. “Where it is going” will therefore make a major contribution to the fate of the tips this season.
Everett has an incredible tradition when it comes to goalkeeping, especially in recent seasons. For the past six seasons, the Tips have held the Del Wilson Trophy for the best goalkeeper in the WHL in a stranglehold, winning it in five out of six years – Carter Hart won it three years in a row from 2016-18, then Dustin Wolf brought it to the last two years. It’s the most dominant goalkeeping streak in any franchise in WHL history, and it’s a big reason the Tips have won five of the last seven U.S. division titles.
But Everett’s tradition goes beyond that, because the tips almost always had quality as a goalkeeper. From Jeff Harvey to Michael Wall to Leland Irving, from Thomas Heemskerk to Kent Simpson to Austin Lotz, Everett knew that his goalkeeper was in good hands before the start of the season. In the last 18 seasons of Tips, there have only been two instances – at the start of the 2008-09 season before Everett joined Heemskerk and at the start of the 2012-13 season before Lotz got a foothold – of any questions on the net the starting shot for the campaign.
“We’ve had some amazing goalkeepers who give you a chance to win every night,” said Everett coach Dennis Williams. “Goaltending is like a quarterback: no team in the WHL gets into the playoffs without a good goalkeeper. I have faith in our boys. I love their competition, I love their drive right now. You have a good balance between respect for the competition, but also the urge to want to be number 1. ”
Holt was the heir to the throne, and he has the credentials. In April, the 18-year-old from Bozeman, Montana was named by USA Hockey as the number 3 goalkeeper for the U.S. Under-18 national team that competed in the U-18 World Cup, and despite not being selected that year in the NHL -Draft he received the camp invitation from Toronto. But despite spending the last two seasons at Everett, he barely got into games as Wolf got the lion’s share of starts. Holt’s entire WHL resume consists of 10 games in which he scores 5-3 with 2.00 goals against the average and 0.916 hits.
“I’m definitely ready,” said Holt. “Wolfie was a great mentor. From him I learned how to work hard and how to become a pro, and I’m really looking forward to hopefully getting the opportunity to move up in the chain. ”
MacInnes’ situation is similar. The 19-year-old from Burnaby, BC, has two years of WHL experience but spent both years supporting Nolan Maier in Saskatoon, where he set an 18-7-2 record in 31 games with 2.78 goals against average set up and .904 savings percentage. Everett acquired him in August in exchange for winger Brendan Lee to compete with Holt, and with Maier returning to Saskatoon for a fifth season, MacInnes has a better chance of landing a # 1 job.
“I was pretty excited when I was traded here,” said MacInnes. “Everyone knows the story they have here, especially recently with Wolf and Hart. When you are traded here, it goes through your mind that you are going to such an incredible organization with the goalkeeping pipeline that they seem to have. “
Is it a daunting task to think about being next in line on Legends like Hart and Wolf?
“It’s a big job, they’re big footsteps,” said Holt. “But here in Everett we have a long line of great goalkeepers and that’s the standard that me and the next goalkeepers who come along are held by so it just takes a bit of getting used to.”
MacInnes said, “I haven’t thought about that yet. I’m just trying to get through the preseason and be the starter of the first night, that’s what I’m fighting for now. ”
How is Williams planning the division of goalkeeping responsibilities? Does Holt’s tenure at Everett give him the edge? Or does the fact that MacInnes put up shutouts in his two preseason starts, weight?
“Time will tell who breaks up and becomes number 1, or maybe we have a 1A and a 1B,” said Williams. “I can’t tell you where that will fall, this is the goalkeeper’s court that will make this decision for us.”
In fact, everything is still decided online for Everett, and the Silvertips haven’t said that for a long time.