The Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League continue to widen their lead above the west.
With all the talk out West surrounding the Prince Albert Raiders and their incredible season, another team in the WHL is certainly being overlooked. The Silvertips are far and away the best team in the WHL’s Western Conference, and are 13 points ahead of second-place Portland heading into Wednesday’s action. Everett’s looking to build off last year’s finals appearance, with their sights set on being in Halifax in May for the Memorial Cup.
Similar to Prince Albert, Everett has consistently been one of the best teams in the league. They have only suffered two losses in a row once this season, and that was the first two games of the season. They have also scored four consecutive wins on four different occasions this season. The winning formula the ‘Tips have created features two very simplistic concepts. Keep the puck out of the net, and score when you need to.
A lot of teams currently in the WHL’s playoff picture tend to have one or two elite offencive threats, which is fine seeing that it works for many teams across the CHL. However, the Silvertips have a different mindset. Their leading scorer is Connor Dewar. The Minnesota third-round pick from the 2018 draft has 58 points in 40 games this season, which puts him tied for eighth in league scoring. Dewar is also ninth in the WHL in power play goals with 11, and tied for second in game-winning goals with seven. He is the only Everett player that is in the top-10 in league scoring, and the only Silvertip with over 50 points so far. Following Dewar, Everett features four other players well above 30 points this season.
This includes Bryce Kindopp. An undrafted winger from Lloydminster, British Columbia, Kindopp has put up 45 points so far this season. If the winger can keep up at this rate, he will score more points than he had in his first two seasons with Everett combined. Since the beginning of December, he has been one of the most consistent scorers for the ‘Tips, as he has 14 goals in his last 17 games.
One of the most productive players on the Silvertip roster on both ends of the rink has been defenceman Wyatte Wylie. The homegrown talent from Everett has sparkled in front of his hometown this season. He’s 10th in the WHL in defencemen scoring with 34 points, already passing his 31 point campaign he had a year ago. He is also eighth in plus-minus, as he is a +28 through 44 games.
The biggest move Everett GM Garry Davidson made before the trade deadline was the acquisition of Zack Andrusiak on New Year’s Day from Seattle. Andrusiak has bounced around the league throughout his junior career, and is hoping that Everett will be the team to give him a shot at winning a championship. Before joining the Silvertips, Andrusiak produced 39 points in 34 games with the Thunderbirds. His natural goal-scorer’s touch that Everett was looking for was on display almost from the get-go, as he has put up four goals in the six games he has played since being acquired.
Missing from this list is the ‘Tips no. 1 centre, Riley Sutter. Sutter’s been out with a lower-body injury since Dec. 29. With 41 points through his first 38 games, Sutter was set to pass his career best that he set last year, 53 points in 68 games. There is no time frame for the return of the Washington prospect, but that goes to show how deep the scoring is with the Silvertips. Even without one of their top guys, they still find ways to put the puck in the net.
Exceptional Play in Net
Last year, the Silvertips biggest strength was goaltending, as Carter Hart almost single-handedly dragged Everett to the Memorial Cup, had it not been for the Swift Current Broncos. This year, the Silvertips biggest strength is goaltending, as Dustin Wolf has picked up right where the now-Philadelphia Flyer left off. The 17-year old Wolf spent most of last season backing up Hart, and watching him dominate the WHL. The Tustin, California native has shown that he clearly learned a thing or two from his predecessor.
There is much talk that Ian Scott may be the best goaltender in the WHL, but Wolf gives the Prince Albert net-minder a run for his money. Wolf is 29-9-1 this season, with those 29 wins being the most in the WHL. Wolf is second in the league in goals-against average with a 1.82 GAA, and his .930 save percentage is third in the league. The pairing of Wolf and his backup Max Palaga have only given up 88 goals this season, which is the least in the WHL. Six less than the Vancouver Giants have allowed, and seven less than the dominant Raiders have given up.
It is clear to see why the Silvertips are running away with the West. Timely scoring and outstanding goaltending would put any team towards the top of the league. This is not new territory for the Silvertips, as they finished first in the West last season. It is beginning to look a lot like déjà vu in Everett. Let’s see if this year’s Silvertips can make it to the promise land.
stats from eliteprospects.com