Oh, ho-hum. Another year, another year of contention for the Everett Silvertips.
With key pieces such as Connor Dewar, Riley Sutter, Artyom Minilun, Sahvan Khaira and Zack Andrusiak moving on, along with plenty of young players sliding into the lineup, the Silvertips’ status entering the 2019-2020 season was uncertain.
Would Everett contend, rebuild or be somewhere in the middle?
At the Western Hockey League’s 2019 Christmas Break, the Silvertips clearly fall into the “contender” category.
Everett leads the U.S. Division standings with 50 points — with Portland two points behind — and the Silvertips boast the best winning percentage in the WHL at .750.
With a stellar record of 24-6-2-0 through the first 32 games of the season, there’s plenty of credit to go around.
Most outstanding player: Dustin Wolf
What can you say about the 18-year-old net-minder? Wolf, a Calgary Flames prospect, has developed into one of the premier goaltenders in all of junior hockey. Here’s how Wolf’s numbers stack up in all three of the Canadian Hockey League circuits — WHL, Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Save percentage: .941 (first).
Goals-against average: 1.91 (second)
Shutouts: five (first).
Wins: 17 (fifth).
The Silvertips were always going to have a high floor with Wolf in net. But with the rapid development of some of Everett’s skaters, the Silvertips also appear to have an incredibly high ceiling.
Honorable mention: Bryce Kindopp, Wyatte Wylie
Top forward: Bryce Kindopp
After leading the Silvertips with 39 goals as a 19-year-old, Kindopp has been even more productive as an overager. His 24 goals lead the WHL and his 41 points lead all Everett skaters. With 94 career goals, Kindopp is 18 goals from tying Patrick Bajkov atop the franchise’s all-time list for goals scored.
What’s more, Kindopp’s two-way game on the ice hasn’t dipped despite his increased offensive role, and as the team’s captain, he has provided tremendous leadership.
Honorable mention: Cole Fonstad, Gage Goncalves
Top defenseman: Wyatte Wylie
Wylie has been one of the league’s best two-way defensemen for a couple of years now and he’s been just as good as an overager. Wylie is tied for third with Lethbridge’s Calen Addison for points among WHL defensemen with 29.
The Snohomish County native and Philadelphia Flyers prospect has plenty to play for as the season progresses. The Flyers have until June 1, 2020, to sign Wylie to an NHL entry-level contract or he becomes a free agent.
Honorable mention: Gianni Fairbrother, Jake Christiansen
Top rookie: Michal Gut
Gut, the 57th overall selection in the 2019 CHL import draft, has provided a big boost to the Silvertips’ lineup in his first season playing at the major junior level. The 17-year-old center from the Czech Republic is fifth among WHL rookies with an average of 0.79 points per game.
The only thing that’s held Gut down is his health. Two separate upper-body injuries have left him out for eight games.
Honorable mention: Olen Zellweger, Brendan Lee
Unsung hero: Jackson Berezowski
At 5-foot-10 and 174 pounds, Berezowski certainly isn’t one of the biggest players on the ice, but what the 17-year-old lacks in size, he makes up for in heart and work ethic.
The Yorkton, Saskatchewan, native plays in all situations for the Silvertips, whether it’s five-on-five, on the power play or on the penalty kill. With solid hands and a willingness to crash the net, Berezowski boasts 10 goals this season, just one short of his total from last season.
Honorable mention: Dawson Butt, Justyn Gurney
Best addition: Cole Fonstad
The Silvertips traded a decent haul to Prince Albert for Fonstad, a Montreal Canadiens prospect, but he’s delivered by recording at least a point in 19 of the 20 games he’s played with the Silvertips.
A gifted passer, Fonstad has racked up 32 assists this season, tied with Kamloops’ Zane Franklin for second in the WHL. He’s scored just four goals since coming to Everett, so if his stick gets hot, he could rack up points in bunches in the second half of the season.
Breakout player: Gage Goncalves
After scoring just one goal as a 17-year-old rookie, Goncalves has erupted for 16 this season. The lanky, yet dynamic forward has transitioned into the team’s top-line center as an 18-year-old and has popped up on the NHL Draft radar in his second year of eligibility after serving in a bottom-six forward role as a rookie.
Honorable mention: Ronan Seeley, Gurney
Second-half breakout candidate: Ronan Seeley
The 17-year-old defenseman got off to a slow start, with just two points over his first 17 games. But Seeley, a first-round bantam pick in 2017, has picked it up drastically with 14 points over the last 15 games going into the break.
Expect Seeley, who is rated as a “C” prospect by NHL Central Scouting, to continue that kind of production in the second half.
Best win: 5-0 at Medicine Hat
While on their Central Division road trip in early December, the Silvertips went into Medicine Hat and drubbed the Tigers, who boast the second-highest winning percentage in the Eastern Conference.
The Dustin Wolf save from earlier. Nasty. https://t.co/hHwQRT2opu
— Josh Horton (@JoshHortonEDH) November 3, 2019
— #JayAndDan (@JayAndDan) December 18, 2019
— Everett Silvertips (@WHLsilvertips) December 7, 2019
First half three stars:
First: Dustin Wolf
Second: Bryce Kindopp
Third: Wyatte Wylie
Josh Horton covers the Everett Silvertips for The Herald. He can be reached at email@example.com.