EVERETT — Daniel Woolfenden has never pulled on an Everett Silvertips jersey. It’s possible he never will.
But regardless of whether he does or not, Woolfenden will always be considered a pioneer in Silvertips lore.
Woolfenden became the first local product ever drafted by Everett when the Mill Creek resident was selected by the Tips in last week’s bantam draft.
“It was a great feeling, just fantastic,” Woolfenden said about being drafted by the Tips. “I watched the Silvertips from a young age, I can remember helping do the 50-50 raffle at games. To have my name called by Everett is really cool.”
Woolfenden, a 15-year-old freshman at Jackson High School, was taken by the Tips in the seventh round (136th overall) of the May 3 bantam draft. The 5-foot-9, 155-pound defenseman was the eighth of Everett’s 13 selections.
“It’s exciting for us to have drafted a local player,” said Everett coach Mark Ferner, who was the first member of the organization to identify Woolfenden. “But that’s not why we drafted him, he’s a good player.”
The Tips have had one-time Snohomish County residents on its 50-player protected list before (T.J. Oshie, Ryan Doner). Everett has also had Washington residents on its team in the past (Damir Alic, Eric English).
But Woolfenden, who grew up playing in the Mountlake Terrace-based Seattle Junior Hockey system and played this season with Team Seattle, is the first locally-produced player who warranted selection in the bantam draft. And now he has the opportunity to be the first truly local player to make the team.
“I’ve played a couple games (at Comcast Arena), but I’ve always imagined playing there when the stands are packed like at Silvertips games,” Woolfenden said. “Thinking about that is exciting.”
Said Woolfenden’s mother, Joanne: “I think it’s very nice. When you have kids playing hockey at a high level they usually end up going away from home. Now there’s the possibility he can come back home.”
Woolfenden and his family moved from Wisconsin to Mill Creek when he was 4 years old. His parents chose the location in part because of its proximity to Seattle Junior, and Woolfenden followed his older siblings into hockey, starting up with Seattle Junior in 2001.
But though Woolfenden was in Everett’s back yard, the Tips had to travel a thousand miles to discover him. Team Seattle, a traveling team that combines players from the Seattle Junior Hockey Association and the Kirkland-based Sno-King Amateur Hockey Association, doesn’t tend to get much attention from WHL scouts.
So it wasn’t until the WHL held its annual U.S. prospects camp on April 13-15 in Anaheim, Calif., that the Tips found Woolfenden. Ferner was asked to coach one of the teams, and while coaching he couldn’t help noticing one of the opposing defensemen.
“We didn’t know where he was from,” Ferner said. “We were just watching and they didn’t have the home cities on the sheets they gave to the coaches, just the names and numbers. We did a little research and found out he was from Mill Creek — Mitch (Love, one of Everett’s assistant coaches) is almost his neighbor.”
Love and fellow assistant coach Chris Hartsburg were dispatched to USA Hockey’s Pacific District select camp, held in Kent two weeks later, to take another look at Woolfenden. They verified Ferner’s initial observations.
“I think his hockey IQ is fabulous,” Ferner said. “He makes great decisions, he always seems to be in control back there. His skating is good and he has good skills, but it’s his hockey IQ that’s great. When he plays with better players he elevates his game.
“Mitch and Chris saw both him and Keoni Texeira (selected in the second round by Portland and considered the best 1997-born defenseman in the western U.S.), and they said Daniel was every bit as good. Different, but he made just as positive an impression.”
Woolfenden will attend Everett’s upcoming spring camp, then the team’s training camp in August. Then he’ll head to Culver Academies in Indiana to spend the 2012-13 school year playing prep hockey.
And after that, the Tips may be in his future.
“It’s hard to imagine right now, the players seem so much older and stronger and bigger than me” Woolfenden said. “It’s crazy to think I’m a part of that organization, and I’m hoping to play for them one day.”
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.