EVERETT — Patrick Bajkov was a latecomer to the game of hockey.
Of course, in Canadian parlance, “late” for hockey means age 6 or 7.
“I skipped those first two years, I believe, when my friends played,” the 18-year-old native of Nanaimo, B.C., said. “I thought I’d join in and I loved (hockey) from there on.”
It’s easy for Bajkov and Everett fans to love a performance like the 6-foot, 180-pounder put forth Sunday, as he scored two goals in a 4-1 victory over the Spokane Chiefs. That win extended the Silvertips’ lead in the U.S. Division to seven points over the Seattle Thunderbirds.
“I’ve always been a little bit more of an offensive guy, so my defensive game has grown the most since I’ve been here,” Bajkov said. “Obviously under (head coach Kevin Constantine) — he’s really detailed — and a lot of energy comes from him. He wants to make sure guys are going at all times.”
The Silvertips are, in the words of Constantine a “score-by-committee team.” Bajkov is one key component of that committee as he ranks fourth among Tips players in both goals (14) and points (39).
“He cares, and he’s working on all parts of his game,” Constantine said. “He’s trying to turn into a well-rounded player for us. His gift is that he has a really nice crisp, fast, smart shot, so that’s his strength. But I think he’s working hard on all parts of his game.”
Bajkov has undoubtedly benefited from the chemistry he has with linemate Matt Fonteyne. While injuries have meant a revolving number of different players at left wing, Fonteyne and Bajkov have been together on the same line all season and this year they are key members of the Tips’ special teams.
“Both on and off the ice we’re always together,” said Fonteyne, who has 12 goals and a team-leading 28 assists. “We play together, we play power play together, we’re on the same line. Every day after the rink he’s always at my place and I think that helps a lot to build chemistry on the ice — being so close off the ice.”
As a late 1997 birthday, Bajkov is in his NHL draft year. NHL Central Scouting listed Bajkov No. 71 among North American skaters in its midterm rankings. That’s not as high on the NHL radar as Everett goaltender Carter Hart registers, and that’s just fine by Bajkov. He’d rather avoid the attention his netminding teammate receives.
“I don’t like to look too much into it — a big part of this game is mental and that can really suck a guy down,” Bajkov said. “I don’t really look too much into that, but wherever the cards fall we’ll see at the end of the year.”
Right now Bajkov and his teammates remain focused on the run up to the playoffs as the regular season concludes in less than a month. Everett (35-20-2-2, 74 points) has 13 games remaining including Wednesday night’s 7 p.m. tilt against the Kelowna Rockets.
“I think my consistency and energy are the big things I have to work on,” Bajkov said. “Throughout the end of this year and going into the playoffs with our details, and obviously it’s a lot of energy that you gotta put into the game. I think I’ve been doing all right in my defensive zone and obviously with the points — I think I can get a few more of those at the end of the year and help the team.”
The Rockets (41-16-3-0, 85 points) are the defending WHL champions though Victoria has recently eclipsed Kelowna for first place in the B.C. Division and the Western Conference.
Everett has beaten Kelowna all three times the two teams have faced each other this season. However, the first two games came while the Rockets were missing three players to World Juniors. Kelowna recently lost center Nick Merkley for the year due to injury, but still boasts a prolific offense led by Tyson Baillie (34 goals, 48 assists), Dillon Dube (22 goals, 34 assists) and Justin Kirkland (24 goals, 29 assists).
The Silvertips remain without forwards Riley Sutter and Dawson Leedahl for several more weeks. Forward Brandon Ralph and defensemen Jake Christiansen and Lucas Skrumeda are each listed as day-to-day on the WHL weekly report although Christiansen is the only one of the trio that practiced Thursday.
Everett follows Wednesday’s game with home games against Kamloops and Tri-City this weekend sandwiched around a Saturday game at Seattle.
For the latest Silvertips news follow Jesse Geleynse on Twitter @jessegeleynse.