EVERETT — When Everett Silvertips defensemen Jake Christiansen and Wyatte Wylie arrived for their first training camp with the Silvertips in 2014, the two became instant friends.
Many of the members of Everett’s 1999-born bantam draft class developed some instant chemistry, but the bond between Christiansen and Wylie had a unique relationship. After all, they played the same position.
Their WHL careers started at different times and have progressed at different rates, but in their final season of Western Hockey League eligibility, Christiansen and Wylie are putting together two of the best offensive seasons by defensemen the organization has ever seen.
Christiansen has already tied the franchise’s single-season record for goals by a defenseman with 17, in just 25 games, and Wylie is fourth in the WHL with 48 points and fifth with 12 goals.
“If you look at (their numbers) and what they’ve been able to do, obviously they’ve been an integral part to our power play, they drive our offense from the back end in five-in-five,” Silvertips head coach Dennis Williams said. “I’ve had a lot of really good D-men in my short time here, guys like Kevin Davis and Ondrej Vala … but it’s a pretty impressive number for those guys.”
Christiansen tied the Silvertips’ record set by Landon Oslanski in 2012-2013, with a two-goal effort on Sunday in a loss to Spokane. One more goal would vault him into the record books.
The record is something Christiansen isn’t giddy over, but it’s something he may look fondly on after his WHL career is said and done.
“I haven’t thought about it really much,” Christiansen said. “Somebody mentioned it to me after the game and was like, ‘you could have gotten the record.’ But it doesn’t really matter. I don’t look at it as something to reach for. I just want to help the team win and if I put one in the back of the net, that’s great.”
Christiansen has shot out like a cannon since returning from an amateur tryout with the American Hockey League’s Stockton Heat, where he was seeking an NHL entry-level contract. The overage defenseman has posted 1.52 points per game and 0.68 goals per game, a staggering number for a defenseman. Despite missing nearly half the season, Christiansen is on pace to at least match the Silvertips’ single-season record for points by a defenseman of 65, set by Kevin Davis in 2017-2018.
Wylie, who has played every game with Everett this season, shouldn’t be short-changed either.
The Philadelphia Flyers prospect has passed his career-highs in goals and points already this season, with 18 games left to play. With a 0.96 points per game, he’s also on pace to reach 65 points and match the Silvertips’ record.
“It’s definitely something special to accomplish that,” Wylie said. “I just have to keep working and keep working on my defensive game and my offensive game when it’s there. I just have to finish off the year strong.”
The point totals, while impressive, is not what stands out about Wylie and Christiansen’s play to Williams.
“I think what it is, with 20-year-olds, it can go one way or another,” Williams said. “They all want to play pro as a 20-year-old and be in the American (Hockey) League. We know all that. But those two guys, especially, came back and they’ve been fantastic. Obviously their offensive abilities and what they’ve been able to do with the puck speaks volumes and it’s easy to see that game-in and game-out, but even more so it’s what they’ve been doing without the puck. How they’ve played against every team’s top line while also maintaining that point production and keeping top lines at a minimal says how much their games have grown and the steps they’ve taken. And their leadership has been next to none. They’ve done a really good job with our younger players and the whole team, also. It’s great to have those guys and have them play in all facets.”
Butt’s suspension reduced
The WHL announced on Thursday that Dawson Butt’s suspension was reduced to 10 games, making him eligible to play against the Seattle Thunderbirds on Friday.
Butt was initially suspended 12 games for his major and game misconduct against the Regina Pats on Jan. 10, the longest ban the league had given out since the 2013-2014 season. Per a release from the league, Butt’s suspension was shortened because “the original length of (his) suspension factored information that the injury to the opposing player would keep him out of the lineup until early to mid-March, and possibly for the balance of the season.”
The player who was injured in the incident, Makai Mitchell, returned to Regina’s lineup on Tuesday.
Butt’s return is a much-needed boost to the Silvertips lineup, which is missing wingers Hunter Campbell (upper-body injury) and Justyn Gurney (suspension), and likely missing center Michal Gut (upper-body injury).
Seattle rematch may lack fireworks
If you think punches will be flying and the animosity high on Friday night when the Silvertips face their archrival for the second time in a week, you will likely be disappointed.
Sure, last Saturday’s tilt between Everett and Seattle featured tempers flaring, both during the game and with the post-game comments, but neither team can afford to lose any players to further suspensions or injuries.
Along with Everett’s suspensions and injuries, Seattle forward Henrik Rybinski was added to the Thunderbirds’ injury report this week, meaning neither team has a deep disposal of healthy scratches.
“I don’t know what changes with it,” Williams said of Friday’s game. “I don’t know if expectations are high or not. It’s another game for us. No one has told me anything is different. We need two points, no matter who we are playing. It’s nice to be back at home, and we’re limited some bodies, so we’ll have to move somethings around and get the most out of it.”
Silvertips to pick 4th overall in new U.S. draft
The WHL released the draft order for the brand new American-only bantam draft, which will be held on March 25, and the Silvertips received the fourth and 41st overall picks. The order was determined by a lottery process.
The two-round bantam draft, implemented to entice more Americans to chose the major junior route, is similar to the draft the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, one of the other three Canadian Hockey League leagues, implemented in 2018.
Josh Horton covers the Silvertips for The Herald. Follow him on Twitter, @JoshHortonEDH