EVERETT — On a typical midweek afternoon, there is rarely more than one media member conducting post-practice interviews with Everett Silvertips players at Xfinity Arena.
Given the dearth of media presence, various Silvertips have taken to joining the interview scrums. Sometimes a fully intact hockey stick serves as the boom mic. Other times, players ask a question into the shaft of a broken stick before extending it forward to capture a teammate’s answer.
During one such occurrence, forward Remi Laurencelle was asked if he thought linemate Connor Dewar looks up to him.
The inquiry came from Dewar himself.
“I think he looks up to me as an older brother, a sibling to him,” Laurencelle said into the broken stick microphone, a hint of a smirk playing at the corners of his mouth. “I think he’s got a lot to learn. Obviously I’m the only person he can learn it from because I’m a really good player. I think if he wants to learn from anybody else he shouldn’t — he should just come to me.”
The exchange seemed a departure for the stoic Dewar, a 16-year-old forward whose demeanor never seems to change. Dewar isn’t prone to elaboration, preferring instead to allow his passion for the game manifest itself on the ice.
Look no further than Dewar’s short-handed, game-tying goal in a 6-5 overtime loss to Kelowna on Feb. 24. With Everett trailing 5-4, Dewar flipped the puck out toward center ice, outraced Kelowna defenseman Lucas Johansen and took the puck to the goal. Rockets goalie Michael Herringer saved the initial shot, but Dewar managed to slide the rebound into the goal as his feet were taken out and he fell to the ice.
The goal was the No. 1 play of the week on the Western Hockey League website and featured a smile and several fist pumps in a rare display of emotion by Dewar.
“That consistency of fortitude, that consistency of being a warrior, that’s been there every day,” Everett head coach Kevin Constantine said of Dewar. “I’ve watched the kid play since one of the preseason scrimmages where he showed some skill enough to where I (thought) he was ready to play this year. He’s shown that all along and it’s every day in practice. That’s something you can really trust as a coach — that you’re getting the same thing every single day.”
The 16-year-old rookie from The Pas, Manitoba, is doing things few his age are doing this season. Dewar ranks just 35th among WHL rookies in scoring, but that number is somewhat misleading because it includes all first-year players regardless of birth year. Among his 1999-born peers Dewar is third in goals (11) and seventh in overall points (18).
“I think I’ve been learning a lot,” Dewar said. “It’s not easy to come into this league as a rookie 16-year-old and it’s a big jump from midget to junior hockey. Lots of learning along the way from the older guys is what you have to do every day to get better.”
Dewar was Everett’s fifth-round choice in the 2014 WHL draft following a prodigious bantam season with the Parkland (Manitoba) Rangers in which he tallied 35 goals and 31 assists in 32 regular-season games.
He followed with a 15-goal, 22-assist performance in 43 regular-season games last season while playing for the Rangers’ midget team. Success at the lower levels doesn’t always translate to success at higher levels. Yet Dewar’s grit and even-keeled demeanor have helped him excel as the season has worn on.
“It’s extremely rare for a 16-year-old to be able to handle the rigors of this league and so that speaks to how good a player that kid is,” Constantine said. “I don’t think that there is an environment that is going to make him play differently. I think he enjoys being in the battle, so it doesn’t matter which team, it doesn’t really matter which players. He’s got a consistency to his game that is built on his standards of how he wants to play and that’s admirable.”
Dewar jumped up to the first line last month when captain Dawson Leedahl went down with a broken hand.
On that line he joined a pair of 1995-born overagers in Laurencelle and Carson Stadnyk, both alternate captains who have combined for 48 goals and 57 assists.
“They’re trying to give it their all. It’s their last shot at it and I’m trying to do my best to help them out,” Dewar said. “I think I was prepared for it. My attitude has always been to put in a lot of work and you’ll have success. It’s a good recipe here for that.”
The age range in major junior hockey is one factor that makes the sport unique. Players range from 15 to 21 years old depending on the time of the season. Fifteen-year-old players are allowed to play in a half-dozen games, while many players — including Stadnyk — turn 21 during their final overage season.
In that sense, players range from essentially sophomores in high school to juniors in college. Yet Dewar has made an impact while endearing himself to his teammates — even those four-plus years older.
“Once you’re on the team, you’re on the team (but) I think you have to earn your spot,” Laurencelle said after Dewar had put away his makeshift microphone and retired to the Silvertips’ dressing room.
“It’s harder as a 16-year-old to do that because you haven’t played on the team,” Laurencelle continued. “But I think he’s done that very well. I think everybody has to compete for their opportunities and I think he’s succeeded in that.”
For the latest Silvertips news follow Jesse Geleynse on Twitter @jessegeleynse.