EVERETT — The faceoff circle has not been kind to the Everett Silvertips lately.
With Riley Sutter going down with a week-to-week lower-body injury, the Silvertips not only lost their No. 1 center, but their best player at winning draws, with the 19-year-old winning 53.8 percent of his faceoffs this season.
“If you’re not winning draws, you’re chasing the game,” Silvertips head coach Dennis Williams said. “We haven’t been very good there, there’s no doubt about it. That’s a weakness for us right now. And it’s hard to put it on those guys because of our lack of centermen.”
Williams added Everett’s struggles in the faceoff circle don’t fall solely on the center’s shoulders.
“If the centerman is stripped quickly and cleanly of it, then that’s the centerman’s fault,” Williams said. “But a lot of the times, it’s 50-50s. … A lot of times (we) are more concerned about getting in position rather than getting possession. … We need to make sure we get the puck, then kick it back to our ‘D,’ then get to our spots. I think we get our mind going offensively too much.”
Everett leaned on the Capitals prospect heavily in the faceoff circle before his injury, with Sutter accounting for 1,015 of Everett’s total faceoffs this season (37.9 percent), even though he’s missed the past six games.
Since Sutter was injured on Dec. 29 in a 6-1 win over Prince George, the Silvertips have won 171 of their 365 draws, a 46.8 percent clip. They’ve relied primarily on Connor Dewar, a natural left wing who has played out of position most of the season due to Everett’s dearth of centers, and he’s been hit or miss in the faceoff circle with a 47.2 success rate (58 of 128).
After that, it’s Max Patterson, who Everett acquired from Swift Current in early December, who owns a 50.4 success rate in the circle. Reece Vitelli — who started the season, along with Sutter, as Everett’s only true centers on the roster — has taken 74 and owns a 45.9 success rate.
Zack Andrusiak, who the Silvertips acquired on New Year’s Day, has taken 32 draws in six games for the Silvertips after attempting just 25 in 34 games with his former team, the Seattle Thunderbirds.
Dewar’s time at center
With Sutter on the shelf, Dewar is back to playing continual shifts at center.
That’s been a constant almost the entire year. Dewar, who isn’t a natural center, started the season mostly playing up the middle due to the team’s lack of depth at that position — Everett started the season with just Sutter and Vitelli as true centers.
The acquisition of Patterson was supposed to move Dewar to the wing again, but it took a couple of weeks for Patterson to adjust to the Silvertips’ pace and Dewar was back to centering the lines.
Until Sutter returns that’s likely where Dewar will be stationed for the majority of his shifts.
“I think as soon as Riley is healthy, it changes the whole complexion of it,” Everett general manager Garry Davidson said. “Because those two (Dewar and Sutter) were very good linemates. They were last year, and them with (Garrett) Pilon may have been the best five-on-five (line) in the Western Hockey League playoffs.”
Williams said he envisions a top six with Sutter and Patterson as the team’s top two centers. But Dewar’s experience at center offers versatility in the future.
“Maybe there are games that Patty (Patterson) can go and play the wing because he can and Dewey can move to the middle,” Williams said. “It’s nice to have flexibility.”
In the meantime, the Silvertips are still banking wins with Dewar playing out of position. His sacrifice is emblematic of who he is as a player, according to Williams.
“He’s the type of kid that will do anything for the team,” Williams said. “Deep down, he just wants to play. It doesn’t matter (where). I could tell him to go out and play defense and he would go out and play defense. … That’s what makes him a great and special hockey player.”
Tips drop spot in rankings
The Silvertips dropped one spot in the Central Hockey League’s Top 10 rankings, falling from four to five. Everett has been in the Top 10 for the past eight weeks.
— Josh Horton (@JoshHortonEDH) January 16, 2019
Fellow WHL team Prince Albert remains at the top spot and Portland is an honorable mention.