The Everett Silvertips are hoping to improve on last year, and got a break with the NHL lockout. Defenseman Ryan Murray, the No. 2 pick in the NHL draft in June, is back in Everett, at least for the start of the season.

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EVERETT — As the Everett Silvertips celebrate their 10th-anniversary season, they have the luxury of having the best player in franchise history back with the team — at least to start the season.

Ryan Murray, the second pick in June’s National Hockey League draft by the Columbus Blue Jackets, is back in Everett because of the NHL lockout.

How long Murray stays with the team is uncertain, but no one doubts that he returns as the best defenseman in the league.

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“We’re obviously very fortunate to have him back,” Everett coach Mark Ferner said. “The lockout is unfortunate, and we’re hearing all kinds of things about how long it will last, so we’re just going to enjoy having him for as long as we can.”

The 18-year-old Murray brings uncommon hockey intelligence and will be a calming influence for a team that has a young defense and a veteran goaltender who was acquired last week.

“Ryan is obviously a player we trust in any situation,” Ferner said. “He’s come back with a great attitude. He likes his teammates, and he’s a great example for our young group to watch him and see how hard he works.”

The new goaltender, Cole Holowenko, was acquired in a trade with Prince Albert. Holowenko won’t start the opening game, however. That honor will go to 17-year-old Austin Lotz, who has played in only 18 games in his WHL career.

Last season Holowenko compiled a 13-26-1-1 record in Prince Albert with a 3.98 goals-against average.

The best scenario for the Silvertips would be for Murray to be around at least long enough to tutor Everett’s young defensemen until they are ready to take on most of the minutes.

Two young offensive players to watch are rookies Ty Mappin, the seventh overall bantam pick in 2011, and Carson Stadnyk.

“They’re both very talented,” Ferner said. “We have a lot of good, young talented players and a lot of returning players who are going to be better.”

Veterans returning are wingers Ryan Harrison and Cody Fowlie, and both will need to score to make up for the loss of leading scorer Josh Birkholz to graduation. Overall, Everett will field a young team that will need to mature quickly, especially if the NHL labor dispute ends and Murray returns to the big league.

“You can’t put too much on the young guys early, but we really expect them to continually improve,” Ferner said. “We know our division is very tough and are excited to get going.”

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