If Ben Betker had his way, he’d still be playing hockey.
However, that desire was crushed when the Everett Silvertips were bounced by the Seattle Thunderbirds in the first round of the WHL playoffs.
“We didn’t finish the way we liked, but I think as an organization and personally, I think we made great steps forward,” said Betker. “…We lost out too soon, but I think next year, we have a lot of stuff to look forward to.”
The Cranbrook defenceman is now back home and is transitioning into an off-season training program with the goal of impressing the Edmonton Oilers at training camp next September.
Betker was a sixth round pick in the 2013 NHL draft by the Oilers.
Though he didn’t get a call up to the Oklahoma City Barons—Edmonton’s AHL affiliate—he did get some good feedback on his game from the Oilers’ player development scouts.
“They really liked my offensive output this year and continue to put weight on—that’s probably the biggest thing—and maintaining and improving my puck skills and skating,” said Betker.
“The biggest thing is putting on 10-15 pounds this summer, to be able to handle those guys at the next level at the AHL and NHL.”
With that in mind, he’s back home and will be commuting back and forth from Cranbrook to Edmonton for his off-season training, in what he calls the “biggest summer of his life.”
Staff that train the Oilers during the season run a gym in the summer and work with any professional players in the area under contract.
“I’ll be on the ice with them, which will be cool and hopefully I can learn a thing or two from them,” said Betker.
Betker put up 21 points this year with seven goals and 14 assists in 68 games—a jump from just six points in the previous season.
However, his numbers are the only thing that has improved.
“At both ends of the ice, I tried to really work on my 200-foot game and I think I did that really well,” Betker said.
Next year will be his final season with Everett as a 20-year-old, which is a valuable role in major-junior hockey. Betker added that a good nucleus will be returning under head coach Kevin Constantine hungrier than ever.
“I think the biggest thing is at times this year we had to adjust to the new coaching style and adjust to his systems,” said Betker, “but I think next year, we’ll have a pretty good core group of guys going into our season next year and it won’t take us as long to kind of get our game back, knowing what to expect and what to do.”
Also returning from the WHL playoffs is Kimberley native Isaac Schacher, whose Regina Pats were swept in four games by the Brandon Wheat Kings.
Schacher, a fellow defenceman, played in 25 games with the Pats after getting acquired in a trade from the Victoria Royals.
Schacher, a former member of the Kimberley Dynamiters, had nine points this season between both WHL teams.