EVERETT — The Everett Silvertips were tossed straight into the postseason fire.
Everett is navigating the playoffs with one of the WHL’s youngest rosters — 16 of the players have never experienced the WHL’s postseason before now. Players who have no idea what the playoffs are all about are being asked to play substantial roles, and they’re having to do so against the league’s top team in the Portland Winterhawks.
But while it’s well documented that Everett’s youthful roster has little playoff experience, it’s easy to overlook that the Tips have a seasoned veteran who’s in that exact same boat with the rookies.
Overager Landon Oslanski has four full seasons in the WHL under his belt. But despite his vast WHL experience, this is his first taste of the postseason.
“I haven’t played playoffs my whole junior career until this year and I’m glad to be here doing that,” Oslanski said. “But I still know what it takes, what we need to do and what we need to improve on.”
It’s been a long wait for Oslanski, but he’s finally getting his chance to experience the intensity of the postseason first-hand.
“That’s a real positive for him,” Everett general manager Garry Davidson said. “We wanted to get into the playoffs so our whole group got some experience, and that’s what we’re getting.
“It’s a new experience for him, but I don’t think it’s fazed him,” Davidson added. “He seems mentally ready to play and he wants to contribute.”
Oslanski is no stranger to the WHL wars. The 20-year-old from Camrose, Alberta, has played 279 career WHL regular season games. That’s more than every other Everett player except Ryan Harrison, who’s played 325.
But in each of his previous three seasons, all with the Lethbridge Hurricanes, Oslanski found himself packing for home once game No. 72 was complete, instead of beginning preparations for a first-round opponent.
Rarely did Oslanski even have any hope of the postseason. In 2010 and 2012, the Hurricanes finished more than 20 points out of a playoff spot. The only time Oslanski had a sniff of the playoffs was in 2011, when the Hurricanes at least weren’t out of it by the time March arrived. But Lethbridge still missed out by eight points.
“It sucked,” Oslanski said. “The whole point of the 72 games is to get a playoff spot. We tried hard, but things didn’t go our way.
“It was frustrating,” Oslanski added. “I was young at one point, so I didn’t know. I was just listening to my leaders and whatnot. But I’m a leader now and I have to show what I have to show, so the young guys know what it takes.”
Had Oslanski remained with Lethbridge as an overager, he would have completed his WHL career without a single postseason game as the Hurricanes yet again found themselves on the outside looking in. But Lethbridge decided Oslanski was surplus to its needs last offseason, and Everett picked him up off waivers.
Oslanski was originally brought in to provide experience on defense. However, he ended up being Everett’s utility man, filling in on defense and at forward depending on the team’s needs. He finished with 17 goals and 31 assists in 72 games and was named the team’s co-Most Valuable Player. And by coming to Everett, Oslanski received his opportunity at the postseason.
So far in the playoffs he’s been deployed on the wing, registering one assist in Everett’s first three playoff games.
So what has Oslanski thought of the postseason?
“It’s a lot of fun,” Oslanski replied. “You find out what each player is all about, and it’s exciting. But it’s a battle.
“I expected it to be what it’s been. I’ve played hockey my whole life, so it’s not too new. It’s still a game.”
Everett heads into tonight’s Game 4 at Comcast Arena trailing 2-1 in the best-of-seven first-round series. Portland controlled the past two games after Everett pulled off the upset in the opener.
“It’s been a little up and down,” Oslanski said of the series, “but it’s a seven-game series, so you’re going to have that.
“We need to put in more effort,” Oslanski added. “We need to play our game for 60 minutes; we can’t play their game.”
But regardless of how the remainder of the playoffs go for Everett, at least Oslanski will now be able to say he’s been there.
Everett center Manraj Hayer’s season is over. The key 19-year-old center suffered a broken finger when he blocked a Seth Jones shot during the second period of Wednesday’s 7-3 loss in Game 3. Hayer’s finger was fractured in multiple places and will require surgery. … Tips overage winger Ryan Harrison still hasn’t returned to practice because of a concussion, and he’s highly unlikely to play in this weekend’s Games 4 and 5. With both Harrison and Hayer on the sidelines, Everett will be without two of its top-six forwards. … Fifteen-year-old prospect defenseman Daniel Woolfenden skated with the Tips in practice Thursday. Woolfenden, a seventh-round pick in the 2012 bantam draft, is notable for being the first-ever Snohomish County resident drafted by the Tips. He hails from Mill Creek.
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.