By Rich Myhre Herald Writer
Like a lot of kids in Snohomish County, Connor Nobach of Stanwood grew up an Everett Silvertips fan.
A hockey player himself, Nobach once played in a youth game during a Silvertips intermission at Comcast Arena. One of his favorite players was Mitch Love, a rugged defenseman in the team’s early years.
“I always watched the Silvertips when I was a little kid,” said the 15-year-old Nobach. “And I always wanted to be one of the Silvertips players.”
Some dreams never come true, but this one might.
Nobach, a freshman at Stanwood High School, has developed into a promising hockey prospect. So promising, in fact, that he was chosen in the fifth round of the recent Western Hockey League bantam draft.
Drafted by — you guessed it — the Everett Silvertips.
Nobach, a defenseman, is only the second Snohomish County player ever drafted by the Silvertips, following Daniel Woolfenden of Mill Creek, picked in the seventh round in 2012. No county player has ever played for Everett, but it could happen as soon as next season.
The possibility of being the first makes Nobach smile.
“That would be cool,” he said.
Nobach went to his first Silvertips game when he was 6, and a year later he was playing in the Seattle Junior Hockey Association. He was an average player for a few seasons, but then began making marked improvement.
A year ago he attended a prospects camp in Los Angeles and played well enough to be picked up by the LA Junior Kings of the California Amateur Hockey Association. In September he moved to Los Angeles, lived with a billet family in Burbank, Calif., attended nearby Glendale High School, and played hockey from September to March.
In April he returned to Los Angeles for a WHL prospects camp, where he was approached by a Silvertips representative. It was Love, Nobach’s childhood hero, who is today an Everett assistant coach.
Though the Silvertips were interested in Nobach foremost as a hockey player, the fact that he was a local boy was a bonus.
“He had a great showing in that (camp),” Love said. “He was one of the top defensemen … and he probably had one of the bigger hits on a skill player for another team.
“Being an old defenseman myself, when I watch his game I see a guy who moves pretty well. He skates pretty well, he moves the puck real well, and he does the little things right. … Connor sees the game real well and he thinks the game real well.”
On draft day, Nobach was in San Jose, Calif., for a USA Hockey camp. He had no idea his name had been called “until my phone started blowing up from my mom and my dad and everybody else calling to congratulate me.”
“We knew there was a chance (he would be chosen by the Silvertips),” said Rod Nobach, Connor’s father. “They let us know that they liked him, but that they were also looking at other players.”
Rod Nobach was watching a live broadcast of the draft, and when his son’s name was called “I was surprised, but it was great.”
Because he is only 15, Nobach cannot play fulltime for the Silvertips next season. He expects to return for another season in Los Angeles, but could play five games for Everett during the initial months of the schedule and then join the team fulltime after the LA Junior Kings finish their season.
But the 5-foot-11, 165-pound Nobach — and he is still growing — is also considering playing college hockey. He would lose that option by joining the Silvertips.
The decision of whether to play college or junior hockey “will depend on how good I am at that point,” Connor Nobach said. “If I feel that I need a lot more developing, than I’d rather go the college route. But if I develop in the next few years, than I would definitely go the WHL.”
His ultimate dream is a chance to play in the National Hockey League. On a scale of 1 to 10, he said, “that’d be a 10 for me. That’d be ideal.”
“He’s worked for this,” Rod Nobach said. “This has always been what he’s wanted to pursue.”
The funny thing is, another kid from Stanwood once fell in love with hockey and ended up in the NHL. T.J. Oshie grew up in Everett, but then moved to Stanwood — where much of his family still lives — before finishing his high school years in Minnesota. He went on to the University of North Dakota and today plays for the NHL’s St. Louis Blues.
Adding to the irony, T.J. Oshie’s aunt and uncle live just around the corner from the Nobachs in Stanwood. The two players have never met, but Connor Nobach knows about Oshie and certainly hopes to follow his path to the NHL.
“If I think to the future about what could happen, I always get excited about it,” he said. “It’ll take a lot of work, but it’s definitely a goal of mine to get there someday.”o