There was no guarantee Lucas Cullen would play a significant role or even suit up for the Everett Silvertips during the Western Hockey League playoffs.
But so far Cullen, who was called up as an affiliate player from the West Kelowna Warriors of the British Columbia Hockey League, has carved out his niche, manning the left wing on the Silvertips’ third line for Everett’s first two playoff games against Tri-City and scoring a goal in Friday’s Game 1 rout.
“He’s come in here and demonstrated exactly what we thought he could do: Play with a lot of speed and quickness,” Silvertips general manager Garry Davidson said. “He’s got grit to his game and he’s 19 years old, and I think he’s got that mental maturity. We heard he was a quality person, too, and he’s demonstrated that in the short period of time he’s been here.”
Cullen, a West Kelowna, native, was listed by the Silvertips midseason and was called up to Everett after his BCHL team lost its first-round playoff series against the Wenatchee Wild. He played the final two regular season games against Victoria, which served as a sort of a trial period. The coaching staff liked enough of what it saw to slot him into the lineup for both of Everett’s playoff games.
That’s no guarantee for late-season callups. Ty Westgard was called up for the playoffs last season from the BCHL’s Surrey Eagles, but dressed for just two of Everett’s postseason games during its run to the WHL Finals. In 2017, Keith Anderson was recalled from Alberni Valley, but suited up for just three games.
Cullen referred to the goal on Friday as “a confidence booster,” but the biggest vote of confidence he gets from Everett head coach Dennis Williams is simply reading his name on the lineup card each night.
“It’s awesome,” Cullen said on Friday night. “Obviously it’s a different league for me with different paces, different expectations, so it’s a lot to adjust to. But at the same time, being able to play in some of those key situations and play a regular shift and regular minutes is really nice.”
Some of the opportunity may have arisen out of a lack of forward depth. But Cullen is seizing it, nonetheless.
“What gets him in the lineup is his compete and speed. And off it he’s got good skill,” Williams said. “For the most part, now that he’s been here a couple weeks, the nerves have calmed down.
“He’s been a great late pickup for sure and a guy we’ve relied on plenty in the playoffs.”
Silvertips forward Connor Dewar did not skate during regular practice on Monday and is still questionable for Game 3 on Wednesday at Tri-City with an undisclosed injury suffered in the third period of Friday’s 6-1 blowout in Game 1.
After Game 2 on Saturday, Williams was optimistic Dewar could suit up for Game 3 on Wednesday at Tri-City, but his status remains in question with just a day of practice remaining before Wednesday’s game.
Sutter skates again
Riley Sutter, who’s been out with a lower-body injury since Dec. 29, skated again on Monday morning, according to Silvertips general manager Garry Davidson. He skated for the first time since the injury last Monday.
He’ll continue to skate in Everett while the team is in Kennewick for Games 3 and 4 against the Americans on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.
Christiansen picks up playoff accolade
The Western Hockey League announced on Monday that Jake Christiansen was named the league’s player of the week from March 17 to 23. Christiansen recorded five points over the Silvertips’ wins in Games 1 and 2 over Tri-City. He finished with three assists in the 6-1 victory on Friday and a goal and an assist in Saturday’s 4-3 triumph.
Silvertips forward Martin Fasko-Rudas is tied with Christiansen for the most points in the WHL after two playoff games. The 2000-born import has scored in each of his past four games, including a hat trick in the regular season finale against Victoria.