Zack Andrusiak skates toward the bench during Silvertips practice Wednesday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Zack Andrusiak skates toward the bench during Silvertips practice Wednesday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A ‘different’ journey: new Silvertip’s road ends in Everett

Newly acquired forward Zack Andrusiak persevered and developed into one of the league’s top scorers.

Zack Andrusiak’s left forearm is etched almost entirely in black ink.

On the inside depicts a hay bail and wheat sheaves to signify his home province of Saskatchewan, renowned for its agriculture. On the outside of his foreman are towering evergreen trees with a mountainous backdrop to represent the terrain of central British Columbia, where his family moved when he was 14. Below the renderings are the words, “God built me to last” wrapped around his wrist.

Each stroke and pattern is not only representative of Andrusiak’s upbringing, but serves as a reminder of the journey’s he’s embarked on in his hockey career.

Tattoos adorn the left forearm of Silvertips forward Zack Andrusiak. (Josh Horton photo)

Tattoos adorn the left forearm of Silvertips forward Zack Andrusiak. (Josh Horton photo)

The overage forward, who the Everett Silvertips acquired in a bombshell New Year’s Day trade with archrival Seattle, displayed resiliency throughout his career to eventually bloom into one of the Western Hockey League’s top goal-scorers and end up in Everett, which will be the final stop of his junior-hockey career.

“When I was younger there were a few moments where it was tough to understand,” Andrusiak said. “I had a few friends that did the whole fast track thing (to the WHL) and they’re in the NHL now. Obviously you wish you could have the same journey as them, but like I said, it’s different for everybody. I’m just trying to get better every day and hopefully be there at the end as well.”

The Yorkton, Saskatchewan, native was not drafted in the 2013 bantam draft but was eventually listed by Tri-City. He spent his first two seasons of WHL eligibility mostly oscillating between the Junior ‘A’ and Junior ‘B’ level before the Americans eventually traded him to Prince Albert, which flipped him to Seattle after he played just eight games with the Raiders.

Tattoos adorn the left forearm of Silvertips forward Zack Andrusiak. (Josh Horton photo)

Tattoos adorn the left forearm of Silvertips forward Zack Andrusiak. (Josh Horton photo)

Andrusiak was a role player and minor contributor on the Thunderbirds’ 2016-2017 team, which won the Ed Chynoweth Cup as the WHL champions, before blossoming as a point-per-game player with 74 points (36 goals, 38 assists) as a 19 year old.

The first year in Seattle was quintessential to Andrusiak’s foundation and the second allowed him to blossom into the player he is now.

“I didn’t get a very big offensive role or many minutes,” Andrusiak said of his first year. “But I learned so much from guys like Matt Barzal and those guys, I think that really helped me become an all-around better player.

“We lost so much from that year, we were looking for some guys to step up offensively and take on those bigger roles and I was really excited about that and really looking to strive and do a good job with that.”

As a 20 year old, Andrusiak has solidified himself as one of the league’s elite goal-scorers. The left winger is tied for third in the WHL with 27 goals scored — Silvertips captain Connor Dewar is right behind, tied for sixth with 26 goals.

Zach Andrusiak listens as assistant coach Harry Mahood talks during Silvertips practice Wednesday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Zach Andrusiak listens as assistant coach Harry Mahood talks during Silvertips practice Wednesday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Dewar said he’s admired Andrusiak and his work ethic from afar and is elated to join forces in the second half of the season.

“To see him have success now, it’s cool,” Dewar said. “It sets the bar and shows people that if you put the work in you can achieve things.”

Dewar added that he believes Andrusiak should be a seamless fit in the Silvertips dressing room.

“He’s a proven goal-scorer and one thing I think is really important is that he’s played in the U.S. Division before,” Dewar said. “He knows what it takes, how hard it is and the systems it takes to win here, compared to guys coming in from out East, sometimes it’s a culture shock to them. It’s a short move up the road from him, so hopefully it doesn’t take long for him.”

Everett head coach Dennis Williams expects Andrusiak to assume a significant on-ice role.

“He fits great with us,” Williams said. “(He has a) great stick (and is) a pure goal-scorer that will help with our power play and continue our offensive production. He’s also a really good penalty-killer and plays all facets. Another big thing is he got to go to Memorial Cup with Seattle a couple years ago, so he knows what it takes to win and how to win. That’s really important as you make a stretch run in the second half to surround yourself with winners and guys that know what it takes. We’re really excited to have him.”

Zack Andrusiak talks to his teammates during Silvertips practice Wednesday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Zack Andrusiak talks to his teammates during Silvertips practice Wednesday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

It was a slow and deliberate process for Andrusiak to learn he was being dealt to Everett.

The Thunderbirds were traveling up Interstate-5 on the late hours of New Year’s Eve after a 6-3 loss to Portland — Andrusiak potted a pair of goals in the loss — and hightailing it to the border for their impending Eastern Conference road trip. But the team bus made a detour to drop off Andrusiak, goaltender Liam Hughes and defenseman Reece Harsch in Kent because the three were being traded, but they weren’t told where yet.

Andrusiak was the first to find out, and his trip was just a short drive up I-5 on Tuesday night. Hughes was dealt to Lethbridge later on New Year’s Day and Harsch didn’t find out until Wednesday that he was being shipped to Saskatoon.

“I was a little shocked at first, but then the excitement kicked in,” Andrusiak said. “Obviously with how good the team is and where they are in the standings, I’m just really excited to get the opportunity to come to such a good team and join them for a deep playoff run … “I love playing in this division. It’s a very high level of hockey and the rinks are awesome to play in, electric fans. I’m really excited to still be a part of that.”

The other end of the trade was a hard pill to swallow for the Silvertips, as 20-year-old forward Sean Richards was swapped to Seattle to open up an overage spot for Andrusiak.

Richards’ standing within the organization deteriorated after developing a repeat offender label within the league office after receiving five suspensions in the 2018 calendar year. Still, his absence was felt in the dressing room.

Zack Andrusiak (left) talks with teammate Jackson Berezowski (right) during Silvertips practice Wednesday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Zack Andrusiak (left) talks with teammate Jackson Berezowski (right) during Silvertips practice Wednesday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

“Richie is a player who I absolutely admired how he played the game,” Williams said. “He played the game hard and towed the rope a little bit and sometimes he was on the wrong side of it and had those penalty problems. But Richie is a great kid. He wants to be a pro hockey player and he’s great with the guys and plays the game hard. It’s unfortunate that move had to happen, but as (general manager) Garry (Davidson) alluded and ourselves, we have to look out for what’s best for our organization, our team, our owner, our fans, everyone involved.”

“For me, (Tuesday) was a really hard day just because of how close I was with Richie,” Dewar said. “He’s like a brother and our bond will live forever and I’ll keep in touch with him every day.

“Today I got to reflect on it more and it’s a business at the end of the day. Hopefully the trade works out from the hockey side of it.”

Zack Andrusiak skates with the puck during Silvertips practice Wednesday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Zack Andrusiak skates with the puck during Silvertips practice Wednesday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Tips call up new forward

Everett called up forward Justyn Gurney from the British Columbia Hockey League on Wednesday, the club announced. The 2000-born forward arrived at Silvertips practice on Wednesday and is available for Friday’s game at Tri-City. He’ll wear No. 22 with Everett.

He played 85 games with Calgary in his 16- and 17-year-old seasons before being traded to Regina before the 2018-2019 season. Gurney was released by the Pats and listed by the Silvertips on Dec. 13.

“I know he’s excited to be up here,” Williams said. “He’s played in the league before and he’s got some experience, so he knows what the league is all about. He’ll get a skate in today, another one tomorrow and we’ll see if he goes Friday.”

Wolf named WHL goaltender of the month

Silvertips netminder Dustin Wolf was named the WHL’s goaltender of the month on Wednesday, his first such honor of his career. Wolf was 6-0-0-1 with a 1.27 goals-against average, a .955 save percentage and a shutout in seven starts.

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