EVERETT — Patrick Bajkov is savvy enough not to dwell on personal achievements — particularly since the next one might be within reach the very next night.
Last Friday, the fifth-year winger broke Zach Hamill’s Everett Silvertips franchise record for points during a win at Kelowna. The next night, Bajkov had a hat trick to run his career point total to 269 and moved one goal behind Tyler Maxwell’s franchise record of 107.
“If you focus on it you probably don’t succeed. You just play with what you’ve been doing,” Everett head coach Dennis Williams said. “As long as you play the game honest and play the way you’ve been playing, it’s going to work out, and I think that’s what he’s been able to do the last month.”
There could be additional single-season and career marks broken by Bajkov in Everett’s final 18 regular-season games, including career assists, career games played and single-season assists. All remain in reach.
“It’s important to move on and make sure we’re focused on the task coming up,” Bajkov said. “It was nice to enjoy it for a couple hours or a day or so. It was exciting, but now we have a different task ahead of us.”
That next task is Friday as Bajkov and the U.S. Division-leading Tips (34-17-1-2, 71 points) play host to Spokane (28-19-3-2, 61 points) at 7:35 p.m. at Angel of the Winds Arena.
Bajkov perhaps isn’t the likeliest candidate to sit atop Everett’s franchise record books.
While the much-ballyhooed Hamill was chosen third overall in the 2003 bantam draft and went on to become a top-10 NHL draft pick in 2008, Bajkov was a 2012 sixth-round bantam pick out of Nanaimo, British Columbia.
Growing up the youngest of three boys on Vancouver Island, Bajkov described it as “eye-opening” when he started to travel the mainland for games and tournaments as his youth hockey career progressed.
“A lot more players obviously to choose from (in the lower mainland),” Bajkov mused. “They’re usually the stronger teams and it was nice to go over there and compare and see where you match up being from an island team.”
Bajkov didn’t expect to make the roster when he attended Everett’s 2013 training camp. The Tips were fresh off their two worst seasons in franchise history and had a new head coach as Kevin Constantine returned for his second stint behind Everett’s bench.
However, Bajkov was one of four 2012 bantam draftees to play regular minutes for Everett that season as he recorded nine goals and 10 assists.
He also met another forward named Matt Fonteyne.
Both players have November birthdays, so neither was able to drive when they first cracked Everett’s roster in 2013.
Their billet houses were just blocks apart and the two bonded over hockey and movies such as “Step Brothers,” “The Hangover” and “Let’s Be Cops.”
“We were always doing video together, we were always kind of learning the ways together, going through it all,” Fonteyne said. “Every day I’d find a way to his house or he’d find a way to my house. … We play off each other pretty well. It’s a fun relationship. A lot of jokes, a lot of movie quotes — it’s fun.”
‘Did we just become best friends?’
It’s extremely rare in junior hockey for players to skate together on the same line for five seasons, but Bajkov and Fonteyne have been linemates essentially from the beginning.
“It definitely helps playing with a guy like that at the start,” Bajkov said. “But having the chemistry throughout our five years is a big thing that we’re able to take advantage of. With his speed and skill, it’s something you don’t see out of every player. It’s nice to be on a line together and work off each other.”
Bajkov’s numbers jumped to 23 goals and 22 assists in his second year, but stagnated during his draft year of 2015-16 with 18 goals and 28 assists.
Last season he put together the sort of offensive season the organization envisioned him having when he led the team in goals (29), assists (47) and points (78) as the Tips won their second division title in three seasons.
“I think every year you just grow and develop a little bit more,” Bajkov said. “From 18 to 19 it just started clicking a little bit more points-wise, and I think a lot of the realization that it’s going to come through work, not just skill, so you need the whole package to make sure you’re a strong player in this league because of how good it is.”
It was the defensive side that required Bajkov to work hard as that portion of the game didn’t come as easily as it did to linemate Fonteyne.
“He worked with (Constantine) quite a bit with getting the D-zone going and moving that into the offensive zone, but he’s done a great job with that,” Fonteyne said.
“Defense is a big part of the game and we like to pride ourselves on that as well,” Fonteyne continued. “It’s nice to see he can play a 200-foot game, which will help him on to the next level.”
A clean sheet
Williams watched Everett’s playoff run last season. After he was hired as the Tips’ head coach when Constantine wasn’t retained, Williams had Everett director of video operations Patrick Pajak send individual player footage via DropBox that he could review over the summer.
“I came in with an understanding of what each player was, but wanting to give them a clean sheet as well,” Williams said. “Obviously from the get-go we’ve leaned on those guys to be our leaders and to perform night-in and night-out, and they’ve been doing that for us.”
The Tips have retained Constantine’s commitment to detail — particularly on the defensive end — while steadily working to implement Williams’ up-tempo, shoot-first offensive mentality.
Williams’ style plays into the skill-sets of players like Bajkov (27 goals, 54 assists) and Fonteyne (30 goals, 38 assists). Both are having career-best seasons and Fonteyne recently became the first Tips player to break the 30-goal threshold since Kohl Bauml in 2015.
Everett is currently on pace to score 262 goals — 20 better than the current franchise record of 242 set in 2014-15.
“He’s been a huge part of my development over this year and he’s obviously doing a great job with the team and me as well,” Bajkov said. “I owe a lot to the team around me, especially the linemates I’ve been playing with this year. … (Williams) has been able to develop everyone in a different way than we’ve had here and it’s helped us down the road.”
It’s a road the Tips hope doesn’t end until the end of May in Regina, even if Bajkov picks up a few personal milestones along the way.
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