EVERETT — About halfway through the WHL regular season, Everett Silvertips public address announcer Greg Piland began announcing the hometowns of the Everett starters.
And, on the occasions when Tips defenseman Wyatte Wylie would get the starting nod, a particularly boisterous cheer would emanate from the Angel of the Winds Arena crowd in support of the first Everett-born player to be drafted by and suit up for the Tips.
That is an impressive feat in and of itself for Wylie as he prepares with his teammates for Everett’s first trip to the WHL Western Conference finals in a dozen years.
But perhaps more impressive is the fact that on Monday Wylie was ranked No. 71 among North American skaters in the NHL Central Scouting Service’s final pre-draft rankings. That means Wylie has a legitimate shot to be taken in the middle rounds in June’s NHL draft.
“You can see his game just grow week-in and week-out, and I think the last two months he’s really elevated his game from a physical standpoint, a simplicity standpoint of just moving pucks and getting it up ice, not trying to overhandle it or do too much,” Everett head coach Dennis Williams said.
“His numbers are absolutely terrific, and that’s because he’s been playing hard, tough, solid defense and with a mindset of not taking penalties,” Williams continued. “There’s a difference between going out and playing hard and playing undisciplined, but he goes out and is able to finish checks hard, keep pucks out and play strong defensively.”
Wylie made a monumental leap from the midseason rankings that had him pegged at No. 179. It was one of the biggest jumps made among all draft-eligible players and propelled him past teammate Riley Sutter (No. 80) who was on the NHL radar coming into the season and skated at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in January.
“(I’ve) just been getting help from my teammates and stuff like that and playing the game hard,” said Wylie, who learned to skate at the community rink adjacent to Angel of the Winds Arena and was a fixture at Tips games and camps while growing up in Lake Stevens. “When you have a good team around you it’s pretty easy to do good out there.”
Wylie, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound natural right-handed shot, has at times had to play on the left side during his Tips career due to injuries and a dearth of left-handed defensemen. The Tips acquired big-bodied, left-handed Ondrej Vala from Kamloops in January to help mitigate that situation.
Wylie spent most of the second half of the regular season paired with Vala, allowing him so switch back to his natural right side. During the postseason Wylie has partnered with Jake Christiansen, another lefty.
“They’re both great players, and when they make good passes to me it’s easy to be confident out there,” Wylie said. “Seams are opening up and when you get good passes from the forwards and they work it up to you and get to the net front stuff happens.”
Wylie’s offensive contributions have greatly increased since the second half of the season began on Dec. 27. Wylie scored four of his six goals and tallied 15 of his 25 assists in Everett’s final 36 regular-season games.
Wylie has one goal and five assists in 10 playoff games including the game-winner in the pivotal 3-2 Game 4 victory at Portland that gave the Tips a 3-1 series lead.
“He can shoot a puck hard, he can see the ice and make plays,” Williams said. “As the year has gone on, he’s really progressed being able to walk the (blue) line with his head up, opening up his hips, being able to evade players coming out, walking down the walls with more confidence, and for that he’s been able to snap pucks through and get them on net.”
Like his older brother, Wade, Wylie began his on-ice career in speedskating before transitioning to hockey. Wade, three years Wyatte’s senior, played junior hockey for the Great Falls (Mont.) Americans of the NA3HL and the Drumheller (Alberta) Dragons of the AJHL before concluding his career last season with the Seattle Totems of the WSHL.
Wyatte skated for Everett Youth Hockey as a youngster and was taken by the hometown Tips 128th overall in the sixth round of the 2014 bantam draft from the Everett Junior Silvertips 16U midget team. Wylie played his 16-year-old season with the Dallas Stars 16U team before making the Silvertips roster prior to the 2016-17 season.
“Good players all get noticed and it doesn’t matter where you’re from or what area you come out of,” Williams said. “This here is not a hockey hotbed in the Pacific Northwest yet, but good players get noticed and he’s done a fantastic job of just going about his game and not feeling like he has to panic and run all around North America to find that spot. He can just focus on the game and he’s going to have a great opportunity to play pro afterward.”
If it comes to fruition and Wylie hears his named called at the NHL draft in Dallas, it would be yet another step forward for the growth of hockey in the Pacific Northwest.
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