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Spokane Chiefs season outlook: 20-year-old situation uncertain, but encouraging

Seattle goalie Rylan Toth, center, dives on the puck as Spokane's Rykr Cole, second from left, and Hudson Elynuik, second from right, converge while Seattle's Turner Ottenbreit, left, and Ethan Bear, right, defend in the first period of play Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017 at the Spokane Arena. The Spokane Thunderbirds edged the Spokane Chiefs 2-1.  JESSE TINSLEY jesset@spokesman.com (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Seattle goalie Rylan Toth, center, dives on the puck as Spokane's Rykr Cole, second from left, and Hudson Elynuik, second from right, converge while Seattle's Turner Ottenbreit, left, and Ethan Bear, right, defend in the first period of play Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017 at the Spokane Arena. The Spokane Thunderbirds edged the Spokane Chiefs 2-1. JESSE TINSLEY jesset@spokesman.com (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

This is the first of an eight-part online series wrapping up the Spokane Chiefs’ 2016-17 season, as well as looking forward to next year. Today: The 20-year-old situation.

The Spokane Chiefs’ underwhelming 2017 season is finally over.

Even after missing the playoffs for the first time since 2005-06. The team was within striking distance of a playoff position at the midway point, but a series of trades made the team younger and the Chiefs floundered down the stretch.

“Your goal is always to win. And it’s always to be in the playoffs and try to win a championship,” Spokane Chiefs general manager Scott Carter said, “But if you’re being realistic, and you’re looking at where your team is in trying to win a championship, I didn’t feel that would have been a realistic goal (this season).”

A disappointing season, yes. But with key building blocks projected to return, the Chiefs could be primed to take a step forward in 2017-18.

The Chiefs’ 20-year-old players will be key in Spokane’s development next season.

If the current roster stands, defenseman Tyson Helgesen and forwards Hudson Elynuik and Rykr Cole will make up the Chiefs’ three overage players next season.

But that isn’t set in stone quite yet.

Elynuik, a third-round pick by Carolina in the 2016 NHL draft, was signed by the Hurricanes’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers, on an amateur tryout contract (ATO) on March 21. But he hasn’t appeared in a game yet.

There is still a chance Elynuik, who was third on the team with 73 points this season, could be signed on an entry-level contract during the Hurricanes’ preseason training camp, but Carolina has until June to do so.

Helgesen, the team’s captain and Defenseman of the Year in 2016-17, wasn’t drafted in the 2016 draft, but Carter said teams have been inquiring about him and could be selected in this year’s draft.

Even with that information, Carter is hopeful both return next season.

“I think they’re a pretty good chance both of them are back,” Carter said.

Cole scored only six points in 29 games with the Chiefs after being acquired in a trade with Regina this season, but Carter said he’s capable of scoring in greasy areas. The team also likes his speed and toughness.

Coming tomorrow: A look at the Chiefs leadership.

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