Tri-City Americans coach Jim Hiller got a good look at his team last weekend at the Everett Tournament.
The Americans finished 1-1 with a 4-1 win over Everett and a 4-1 loss to Portland.
“It was good,” Hiller said of the weekend. “We probably played better Saturday and lost. Both games we liked the effort. Some of the younger players carried momentum over from camp. We took too many penalties against Portland. The penalty kill wasn’t bad — one mistake and one really good play that was hard to stop.”
The Americans, who sent four 15-year-old players home after the Everett Tournament, have 30 players in camp for this weekend’s Red Lion Hotels Preseason Tournament at Toyota Center.
Tri-City will open play tonight against the Kootenay Ice from the Central Division. The Americans will play Seattle on Friday and Spokane on Saturday. All games are at 7:05 p.m.
“We are still at the point to see what guys can do,” Hiller said. “What level the guys from last year are at and what the new guys can do in the heat of the battle. It starts with effort and it leads to the head. Do things fast, then do things fast and think. That, is the tricky part.”
Friday’s tournament games feature Spokane vs. Everett at 11 a.m., and Portland vs. Kootenay at 3 p.m. On Saturday, Kootenay plays Everett at 11 a.m., and Seattle plays Portland at 3 p.m.
This weekend also will give Hiller and his staff a chance to further evaluate the younger players and the overage players, of which there are six. All Western Hockey League teams must be down to three by Oct. 10.
“We will watch and see where they are at in high-level competition,” Hiller said. “It’s a team, but everyone is in competition for ice time and you want to get yourself noticed whether you are 17 or 20.”
Competing for an overage spot is Jesse Mychan, who has fully recovered from having his Achilles’ tendon severed in the first round of last year’s playoffs against Everett.
“He is back and healed up,” Hiller said. “You can see the work he has put in in the meantime. He’s dropped 23 pounds and that ties into his frame of mind. He’s into it fully.”
The plan is for Mychan to play his first game Friday against Seattle.
“I’m a little nervous,” Mychan admitted. “It’s been awhile since I’ve played a full contact game. It will be nice to get the jitters out early. I definitely worked hard in the offseason because I knew I’d have a tough role to play this year.”
Goaltending is one area Hiller has mixed emotions. On one hand, Eric Comrie returns after an impressive rookie season. On the other, the Americans are in the hunt for a backup.
Competing for the job are Luke Lee-Knight, 19, who played for Spokane and Prince Albert last year, and Brendan Fiebelkorn, 18, who played AAA midget hockey last year for the Winnipeg Thrashers.
“Eric had such a great experience last year as a young goalie,” Hiller said. “He comes back that much better. He looks to play a lot of minutes. We have to find a guy to support him, that’s the challenge.”
Notes: The Americans signed prospect Riley Hillis last weekend to a standard players contract. Hillis, a defenseman from Arvada, Colo., spent last season with the Rocky Mountain Roughriders U-16 team, appearing in 65 games and collecting six goals, 22 points and 60 penalty minutes. ... Kelowna’s Spencer Main, 20, has ended his WHL career because of post-concussion syndrome. He missed 60 game last season. He returned to training camp this fall with a clean bill of health, but the symptoms returned during camp. ... Regina acquired defenseman Keaton Lubin from the Calgary Hitmen for a conditional sixth-round pick in the 2014 bantam draft.