EVERETT — One was named captain just moments after he arrived in town. One was the team’s talisman. And one became the team’s record goal-scorer.
The Everett Silvertips’ overagers for the just-completed 2013-14 season — forwards Joshua Winquist and Manraj Hayer and defenseman Matt Pufahl — had banner seasons, filling just about every role imaginable as they became one of the best overage trios in franchise history.
“Combine the three together and they turned the franchise in the right direction as a group of overagers,” Everett coach Kevin Constantine said.
And all three will be missed as they move on. Here’s a look back at what the trio meant to the team during their tenure with Everett.
Manraj Hayer, center
Hayer’s four-year career with the Tips was characterized by injuries. The Vancouver, B.C., native appeared in just 194 of a possible 288 games during the regular season because of a variety of physical issues.
But when the speedy Hayer was in the lineup he was a difference maker, especially this season. Hayer appeared in 53 of Everett’s 72 games, with the Tips going 34-12-5-2 in those contests. Everett was 5-11-2-1 when Hayer was out. While his 43 points (15 goals, 28 assists) were a good total, the statistics don’t tell the entire story. He also came up big in one of the most memorable games in franchise history, tallying two goals and an assist when Everett won 6-4 at Seattle in its final game of the 2011-12 season to beat out the T-birds for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot.
For his career with the Tips, Hayer finished with 38 goals and 65 assists.
“There were a lot of ups and downs,” Hayer said of his career. “I faced a lot of injury problems, but overall I think I had a pretty successful WHL career. I thought I played pretty well for the most part of my career. It was fun, I’m going to miss it.”
Hayer first came to Everett as an undrafted 15-year-old invitee to training camp in 2008, but he quickly won over the Tips and finished with a long career in Everett.
“I can say it’s definitely been the best four years of my life,” Hayer said. “I’ve told many people I wouldn’t have wanted to play anywhere else in this league. It’s a first-class organization and the fans are amazing. It doesn’t really get much better than the atmosphere in the building game-in and game-out. The teammates and memories from the years have been fun.”
Hayer hopes to continue his hockey career, perhaps in college in Canada.
Matt Pufahl, defenseman
Pufahl had the shortest tenure of Everett’s overagers, spending just one season with the Tips after being acquired from Saskatoon in an offseason trade. However, the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, native wasted little time proving his worth, being named the team’s captain in his only season with the franchise.
“Coming in here as a new guy you don’t really expect that,” Pufahl said. “It was a really good honor, a lot of responsibility, but I liked it. It was a fun thing to experience, especially my last year.”
Pufahl also had a quality season on the ice, too. He was brought in specifically to man the point on Everett’s power play, and he gave the Tips exactly what they needed, racking up 49 points (15 goals, 34 assists) in 62 games to far and away lead Everett in scoring among defensmen.
“It was a really good season, it was memorable,” Pufahl said. “I made a lot of good friends here, and experiencing living in the states for a year was great.”
The season capped off a four-year WHL career for Pufahl, including stints with Saskatoon and Red Deer. He ended up playing in 206 games, tallying 23 goals and 84 assists.
“I thought it was a really good career,” Pufahl said. “It had lots of ups and downs, but mostly ups. I have nothing to complain about, it was the best four years of my life for sure. I spent it with three great organizations, and finishing it off in Everett was great. It’s going to be tough leaving, but when I look back I’ll know I had no regrets.”
Pufahl drew some interest from professional teams toward the end of the season, and he’s hoping to catch on with a professional team next season.
Joshua Winquist, winger
Winquist is a rarity, as he became just the fifth player in franchise history to spend five seasons with the Tips, and one would be hard-pressed to find a player whose game progressed more than the St. Albert, Alberta native’s did.
Winquist arrived in Everett in 2009 as a 16-year-old rookie, playing part time and notching just seven points in 50 games. But he took a significant step forward in each of his seasons, culminating in this season’s record-breaking campaign. In 67 games the skillful Winquist set a new franchise record for goals in a season (47), and he matched Zach Hamill’s franchise record for points in a season (93). Last season he was named the team’s co-Most Valuable Player, this season he took the honors on his own.
“I progressed pretty well throughout my career,” Winquist said. “It was fun over the years, getting a little better each year, then at the end putting it all together and having a pretty successful year. It was a lot of fun.”
Winquist also put himself on several Everett career lists. He became just the third player to appear in 300 games in a Tips jersey, finishing at 301. He also ranks second in franchise history in career goals (101), assists (115) and points (216).
“I wouldn’t change anything,” Winquist said. “It’s like my second home now. I’ve been here one-fourth of my life. It’s a beautiful place and a great city.”
Not only did Winquist have a great career with the Tips, it may have launched him into the pros. Winquist signed an amateur tryout contract with the American Hockey League’s Oklahoma City Barons on Monday, giving him the opportunity to begin his professional career.
“I’m pretty excited,” Winquist said. “Not many players get an opportunity to do this, so it’s going to be a fun opportunity.”
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.