Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

There's a bit of the hints, allegations and things left unsaid phenomenon with forward Josh Birkholz, a Florida Panthers third-round pick, joining the Western Hockey League's Everett Silvertips after quitting the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

Make what you will of a report Birkholz, 19, who was facing a suspension at Minnesota for violating team rules, "allegedly failed multiple drug tests this summer." That means he is going to the WHL with some questions about character, which the Silvertips would surely have heard about.

Honestly? It's not something any firm conclusions can be drawn from. No one is so naive to think 19-year-old elite hockey players are exempt from youthful indiscretions; just look at what happened at Notre Dame recently. The main point of mentioning it is to pass on word of an element of the story that might have been underplayed in WHL circles (and was mentioned on multiple college hockey blogs).

Ultimately, there is something to be said for second chances. You could also spin this off into a sidebar about the zero-tolerance culture on many campuses in the U.S. and Canada.

From a pure hockey perspective, Silvertips GM Doug Soetaert seems to have made a good addition in the wake of Monday's trade for 19-year-old sniper Landon Ferraro.

"Soetaert said Birkholz is a top-six forward. He described Birkholz as a two-way player with good size and speed who can score goals.

"So Everett's top six forwards have undergone a makeover the past two days, with the commitment of Birkholz and the acquisition of Landon Ferraro from Red Deer. The Tips had just three of their top six returning from last season, so Birkholz and Ferraro should help with depth (though the Tips lost another top-six forward when Byron Froese was included in the Ferraro trade). It seems the past two days have helped the Tips considerably for the upcoming season." (Silvertips Blog)

The 6-foot-1, 182-pound Birkholz saw spot duty as an 18-year-old freshman in the WCHA, posting five goals and one assist in 36 games. Coincidentaly enough, his best game as a Golden Gopher was a two-goal night against the Minnesota State Mavericks, who earlier this summer lost Tyler Pitlick to the WHL's Medicine Hat Tigers. In fact, Pitlick, an Edmonton Oilers early second-round pick in June, scored in that game.

Suffice to say, between Everett, the Portland Winterhawks with their 10 drafted players and the defending conference champion Tri-City Americans, the WHL's U.S. Division is turning into a real gauntlet. 

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Sports Canada. Contact him at neatesager@yahoo.ca and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

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