What we saw: 20s

I’ve been known to spend a little too much time thinking about the Silvertips. In those moments after the lights go out but before I drift off to sleep, I have a tendency to ponder Everett’s rosters — those of the past, present and future. I’ll think about what could have been, and what may yet be.

One of the questions that occasionally pops into my mind during those moments concerns Everett’s overagers. I’ve had the fortune of covering the Tips since they began play in 2003, so I’ve had the opportunity to get to know every overager group that’s come through Everett. So which was the best?

I think the answer might be this season’s.

Over the years Everett has run the gamut when it comes to overager groups. There’s been trios that led the team to great things, and groups that saw the team underachieve under their tutelage. There’s been groups comprised of players who spent almost their entire careers with Everett, and groups we hardly got a chance to know. But I’m not sure there’s been a group that meant as much to the team as this year’s trio of Joshua Winquist, Manraj Hayer and Matt Pufahl.

When I’ve pondered this question in the past, I’ve generally settled on two groups. In 2005-06 Everett’s overagers consisted of a team captain and point-per-game winger in Torrie Wheat, an excellent point man on the power play in Shaun Heshka, and an underrated defensive center in Mark Kress. That group helped the Tips capture the U.S. Division title. Then in the second half of 2009-10 the Tips put together an overager line of sniper Shane Harper, captain Zack Dailey and two-way ace Chris Langkow. That group led the Tips to a tie for the best record in the Western Conference. Arguments can be made for other groups (feel free to make your opinion known in the comments section), but for me these two have been the gold standard.

I think this season’s group was better.

Winquist’s season may have been the best offensive season ever put together by an Everett player as he set a new franchise record for goals (47) and tied the franchise record for points (93). One can argue that the seasons put together in 2006-07 by Zach Hamill (winning the league scoring title) and Peter Mueller (scoring at a greater rate) surpassed Winquist’s efforts. But those two did so much of their work together on the power play, during which the two of them were on the ice for about 1:40 of most opportunities. Winquist had to do much of his work on his own.

Pufahl did everything that could have been asked from a player acquired during the offseason. He was named the team captain and he did a good job setting the example for the rest of the team. He also gave Everett the offensive presence it was looking for from the blue line as his 15 goals and 49 points were both the second-most ever by a Tips defenseman.

Hayer, though he missed time because of injury, was rock-solid when he was in the lineup. His individual numbers were solid, with 43 points in 54 games. But it was Everett’s record with him in the lineup that really pops. The Tips were 34-12-5-2 when Hayer played, 5-11-2-1 when he didn’t.

Winquist and Hayer are even lifetime Tips, with Winquist becoming just the fifth five-year player in franchise history and Hayer joining him for four of those. These three meant so much to Everett this season, and they’re going to be very hard to replace.

Next: What we saw: 16s

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