The Silvertips’ Hunter Campbell skates with the puck during a game against the Blazers on Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022, at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett. (Kristin Ostrowski / Everett Silvertips)

The Silvertips’ Hunter Campbell skates with the puck during a game against the Blazers on Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022, at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett. (Kristin Ostrowski / Everett Silvertips)

Everett native Campbell hopes to lead Silvertips to title

He grew up dancing for his dinner at Tips games, now Hunter Campbell is ready for his first taste of the playoffs as a player.

EVERETT — In his own way, Hunter Campbell is an original Everett Silvertip.

How so?

He’s danced for his dinner.

During the first several years of the franchise’s existence, Everett held an intermission contest for fans called, “Dance for Your Dinner.” Fans would be encouraged to dance at their seats to ditties like “The Chicken Dance” and “Cotton Eye Joe,” with the most enthusiastic dancers shown on the video board. When the segment was over, a winner was chosen and given a coupon for pizza.

Campbell not only participated in “Dance for your Dinner” during his formative years, he won. Multiple times.

“I won on Halloween once when I was dressed as a dinosaur,” Campbell recalled fondly.

So while all of Everett’s players will be fired up when the Tips open the playoffs Friday night at Angel of the Winds Arena with Game 1 of their first-round series against the Vancouver Giants, it’ll mean just a little bit more for Campbell.

The Everett native, Cascade High School graduate and Tips overage winger is the team’s true hometown kid, providing living proof that it’s possible for a Snohomish County youth to rise through the local hockey systems and develop into a future WHL impact player. And for his final act in junior hockey he’s hoping to help lead the Tips on a lengthy playoff run.

Campbell’s been an important cog for an Everett team that finished the regular season with a 45-13-5-5 record, which was the best in the Western Conference. At a rugged 6-foot-2 and 194 pounds he provides much-needed size and physicality up front, often doing the hard grinding in front of goal that allows teammates to generate offense, and he’s a key penalty-killer. When Everett held its end-of-season awards ceremony Campbell was named the team’s Unsung Hero.

“Hunter has had a great season,” Everett coach Dennis Williams said. “What is there not to like about Hunter? He’s the ultimate team guy, he’s a great leader who’s great with the first-year guys. He’s as honest as they come and he plays to his strengths. He put a lot of time in during the offseason, he worked on areas that he needed to work on, and I think that’s why he’s had the best individual offensive season he’s ever had.”

So how did Campbell come to be just the third ever Snohomish County native to play for the Tips, joining Lake Stevens native Wyatt Wylie and Monroe native Luke Ormsby?

Campbell grew up in south Everett, within shouting distance of the Everett Mall. His parents were season ticket holders for the Tips’ inaugural season in 2003-04, when Campbell was just 2 years old, so Campbell was naturally drawn to hockey at a young age. He was on skates at 3, and he he learned his craft through Everett Youth Hockey.

Campbell went away for his WHL draft year, playing for the Los Angeles Jr. Kings alongside future Everett teammate Dustin Wolf. He was subsequently selected by the Calgary Hitmen in the third round of the 2016 WHL draft and joined the Hitmen as a 16-year-old in 2017-18. A serious knee injury during his 17-year-old campaign slowed his progress, and midway through his 18-year-old season he was traded to Everett in exchange for winger Conrad Mitchell and a sixth-round WHL draft pick.

“It was awesome to be traded close to home,” said Campbell, who admitted he always pictured himself playing for the Tips at some point in his WHL career. “It was a surreal moment for sure, and I’m glad it happened.”

Campbell spent his first one-plus seasons with Everett as a role player. But the past offseason he decided there was one aspect of his game in particular that needed upgrading: stickhandling. Therefore, he acquired a SuperDeker. A SuperDeker is a hockey training device consisting of a slide board that has lights in various places. When the puck is stickhandled over a light, the light moves to a different random position on the board. The goal is to stickhandle over the most lights possible during a 45-second period. When he began the offseason he was scoring in the 40 range. By the end of the summer he’d achieved a high score of 76.

“Stickhandling was the biggest thing for me,” Campbell said. “When I left last year it was the one thing the coaches said I needed to work on most. So every day I was working on it during the summer, an hour a day, and it showed. I had more confidence with the puck when I came back.”

Campbell’s hard work resulted in a substantial offensive breakout. Prior to this season Campbell’s WHL seasonal point totals were 11, 13, 12 and 13 points. This season his numbers jumped to 47 points (21 goals, 26 assists) in 58 games, despite seeing limited time on the power play.

“He has the mindset of living in the net front,” Williams said. “He uses his size, ability and strength to get to the front of the net to not only screen for shots, but to make plays on rebounds. He’s done an unbelievable job transforming his game and a lot of the credit goes to his work in the offseason.”

When Campbell takes the ice Friday it will be the first WHL playoff game in his five-year career — he was injured for Calgary’s playoff run in 2019, and there were no playoffs in 2020 or 2021 because of the pandemic. He’s anticipating about 30 family members and friends will be in attendance.

“I’m super excited,” Campbell said. “I definitely have pent-up energy for the playoffs, it’s been a long time coming.”

Zellweger leads Everett honorees

Everett defenseman Olen Zellweger was nominated for two awards and named a first-team U.S. Division All-Star when the WHL made its awards announcements Thursday.

The 18-year-old defenseman was the division’s nominee for both the WHL Player of the Year and Defenseman of the Year awards following a season in which he led the league in scoring by a defenseman with 78 points (14 goals, 64 assists) in 55 games. The point total also broke the franchise single-season scoring record for a d-man.

Also from the Tips, winger Jackson Berezowski was nominated for Most Sportsmanlike Player, Williams was nominated for Coach of the Year and Everett was nominated for the Business Award.

Zellweger and Berezowski were named first-team U.S. Division All-Stars, while defenseman Ronan Seeley was named a second teamer.

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