EVERETT — Joshua Winquist’s first career WHL hat trick came in hostile territory.
Yet Winquist still received the satisfaction of seeing a few hats flutter to the ice.
“There was an Everett section across from our bench,” the Everett Silvertips winger said about scoring three goals at Vancouver in Sunday’s 4-0 victory over the Giants. “A couple of them threw hats on the ice, which was nice.
“That felt pretty good,” Winquist added about his first career hat trick. “It’s been a long time coming, four years. It just felt good to get that out of the way.”
But the hat trick was just the latest from Winquist, who is becoming Everett’s go-to offensive player.
Since arriving at training camp as a 15-year-old, Winquist always has displayed the potential of developing into an impact offensive presence. His progress toward reaching that level has been gradual, as he saw an incremental increase in points in each of his first three seasons with the Tips.
Now 19 and a four-year veteran, Winquist is taking perhaps his greatest leap forward to date.
Last season, Winquist tallied a respectable 41 points in 68 games. This season he’s approaching star status, scoring more than a point per game with 36 in 35 contests. His 36 points leads the team as does his 21 goals, despite missing 13 games because of a combination of a groin strain and mononucleosis.
Winquist has been particularly lethal since the turn of the new year. In eight January games, Winquist has seven goals and six assists. His contributions are a big part of why Everett is 5-3 in those games, including sweeping last weekend’s three-in-three.
“He’s on a different level right now than everyone else, it seems,” Winquist’s linemate Manraj Hayer said. “He’s just doing what he does. He’s an offensive player, he’s making plays and putting the puck in the net. He pretty much led our team to victory in those three games this weekend.”
Winquist was merely an offensive contributor during the first half of the season. But of late he’s become a reliable source of offense.
“I think a lot of these kids go home at Christmastime and do a little soul searching, on what their goals are in the second half,” Everett assistant coach Mitch Love said. “Josh has always been a guy who wants to score a lot of goals, and he’s doing that right now for this hockey club. He’s putting the time in, and he’s a very gifted hockey player. When he gets that opportunity, he tends to put the puck in the net.”
Said Winquist: “You’ve got to work hard and you have to try and create offense with your linemates. The more you guys cycle and play with the puck with each other, the more chances you’re going to get, and right now it’s going well. We’re scoring and winning right now, and hopefully everything keeps going well.”
Those linemates are looking out for Winquist, too, as their contributions to Winquist’s hat trick attest.
“When he had two (goals) me and Tyler Sandhu were both trying to get him his hat trick,” said Hayer, who assisted on two of Winquist’s goals. “We told him we’d get it to him by the end of the game, and when he put that third one in it was pretty special.”
Everett remains short-handed on defense as it begins its three-game road trip through Kamloops and Prince George. The Tips played their previous two games down three defensemen: Connor Cox (neck), Austin Adam (head) and Ayrton Nikkel (foot). Cox and Nikkel made the trip, but when they’ll be ready to return is still undetermined. Adam remained in Everett. Fifteen-year-old prospect defenseman Kevin Davis, who filled in over the weekend on an emergency basis, lives in Kamloops and will once again be on standby. Everett winger Dawson Leedahl, who’s been out since Dec. 11 because of a knee injury, has been cleared to return and is available for tonight’s game at Kamloops. Winger Lucas Grayson (lower body) has returned to practice, but remains day to day.
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.