By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — Joshua Winquist was an instrumental figure in the Everett Silvertips’ dominating 5-0 victory over the Seattle Thunderbirds on Saturday night at Comcast Arena. He scored two goals, finished a plus-2 and was named the game’s first star.
It was, all things considered, not one of Winquist’s better games of late.
Winquist is on the kind of offensive tear rarely seen in Everett, and he’s been a big reason why the Tips find themselves among the big boys in the standings.
“I’m pretty much trying to do everything the same all year,” Winquist said. “I’ve just been getting lucky and pucks have been going in for me and my linemates lately.”
Winquist has been piling up points faster than the squirrels are building their winter food stashes. Over Everett’s past five games Winquist has six goals and nine assists. His two-goal game Saturday ended a streak of four straight contests in which he accumulated three or more points. In those previous four games, the Tips scored 20 goals. Winquist was in on 13 of those.
For the season Winquist has 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists) in 16 games, which tied him for fifth in the league prior to Tuesday night’s games. He’s on pace to finish the season with 121 points, which would shatter the franchise record of 93 set by Zach Hamill in 2006-07. His 15-points-in-five-games stretch was never matched by former Tips star Peter Mueller. Hamill had one stretch where he had 16 points in five games, but he needed a seven-point outing to do so. Winquist didn’t score more than four points in any of his five games.
“He’s just so consistent with it, that’s what impresses me,” Everett coach Kevin Constantine said. “I’ve seen players get hot, and I’ve seen very good players have slumps. So certainly it could happen, but he’s been really consistent. Without a doubt, so far this year he’s been our most productive offensive player.
“It’s not easy to be successful offensively all the time, unless you have the skill to do it and you’re extremely motivated to do it. He’s showing that.”
After a quick start, Winquist had a brief three-game lull in which he didn’t record a point. But he was reunited on a line with Manraj Hayer and Tyler Sandhu, a trio that skated together last season, and his production took back off. He had one pointless game with Hayer and Sandhu before beginning his current scoring binge.
“Everyone on our team is good, but that helps,” Winquist said about getting back onto a line with Hayer and Sandhu. “When you have familiarity, your know where they’re going to be and they know where I’m going to be. It just works out and it’s easy to make plays with each other.”
Winquist’s development has been eerily similar to that of former Silvertips star Shane Harper. Both played for Everett as 16-year-olds and spent two seasons as minor contributors. Both broke the 40-point barrier as 18-year-olds. Both became essentially point-per-game performers as 19-year-olds, earning team co-Most Valuable Player honors. Now one can say both became one of the league’s top offensive forces as overagers.
Interestingly, Winquist brought up Harper’s name unprompted when asked about his development as a player during his time in Everett.
“You come in and think you’re going to be a scorer in this league already,” Winquist said. “But you have to know it takes time. That’s kind of what I’ve been going through. This year I’ve kind of put it all together and it’s just been working out for me. This is a tough league and it does take time to get used to it.
“My first year helped a lot, seeing Harper, because he kind of went through the same thing I did,” Winquist added. “He progressed every year and got better every year. Watching him helped a lot, and every year you try and pick up little things from the older players, see what they do that helps put the puck in the net.”
Harper earned himself a professional contract with the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers during his overage season. Like Harper, Winquist never received much attention from the pro scouts his first four seasons. Will Winquist’s impressive displays this season also catch the scouts’ eyes?
“It’s a little Moneyballish, but I believe people who produce in sports at any level have a really strong chance that they can produce at the level above them — the basic theory of Moneyball,” Constantine said. “If Josh can produce at this level, which he’s doing, and if he can learn and grow in other areas, I think he can play pro hockey. It might be in Europe, it might be in North America. But I don’t discount anybody who can get it done at the level he’s gotten it done at here.”
The verdict is in on Tips winger Dawson Leedahl. The length of Leedahl’s suspension for his checking-from-behind major penalty against Brandon on Friday was set by the league at two games. Leedahl has served one game, and he will sit out tonight’s home game against Kamloops. He’ll be eligible Friday when Everett entertains Tri-City. ? Everett center Jujhar Khaira has taken the next step in his recovery from his upper-body injury, as he took full part in Tuesday’s practice. However, Khaira remains in a no-contact jersey, and Constantine said Khaira would not get into any games this week.
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.