The Everett Silvertips played the first Western Hockey League game in franchise history on Sept. 19, 2003, losing at Kamloops 4-1. They completed their 15th regular season Saturday with an 8-1 domination at Victoria that clinched the franchise’s sixth U.S. Division championship.
I’ve been fortunate to be around for the entirety of those 15 years, and the franchise now has enough mileage under its belt that it seems appropriate to take stock of history. Presenting: The top 15 Silvertips over their first 15 years.
But how does one evaluate greatness? Should the players be judged based only on what they did while in Everett, or should we factor in what they achieved at higher levels? Should greater weight be given to the peak level a player achieved, or should longevity be a stronger factor?
The answer to those questions? I don’t know! So I threw all those factors into the mix. It made for a non-scientific process resulting in a highly subjective list worthy of debate (feel free to argue with my conclusions).
So here’s one observer’s list of the 15 best Silvertips over their first 15 seasons:
15. Shaun Heshka
Years in Everett: 2003-06. Stats: 204 games, 107 points (25 goals, 82 assists)
The defenseman came to Everett as a player unwanted by any other WHL team, earning a spot on Everett’s inaugural roster and playing an important low-key role in the Tips’ Cinderella run to the Western Conference title as an expansion team. He departed Everett as the team’s first first-team Western Conference All-Star, an honor he received in 2006. Heshka went on to play eight NHL games and continues to have a successful professional career in Europe.
14. Kyle Beach
Years in Everett: 2005-09. Stats: 159 games, 154 points (67 goals, 87 assists)
No one roused passions or divided opinions more than the controversial power forward. But when he was properly motivated — and was able to maintain his self control — Beach was a devastating force capable of dictating games both with his physical play and his goal scoring. He won the WHL Rookie of the Year award in 2007, was selected 11th overall in the first round of the 2008 NHL draft, and although he never broke through in the NHL, he’s carved out a professional career for himself in Austria.
13. Patrick Bajkov
Years in Everett: 2013-present. Stats: 342 games, 288 points (112 goals, 176 assists)
Bajkov is now the king of Everett’s offensive record book. The play-making winger turned the final stretch of the regular season into his own personal assault on the book, setting franchise records for career points, goals and assists, and also becoming the first Everett player to breach the 100-point barrier in a season. He’s a strong candidate for Western Conference All-Star honors this season and he was rewarded with a contract with NHL’s Florida Panthers.
12) Kevin Davis
Years in Everett: 2013-present. Stats: 347 games, 174 points (26 goals, 148 assists)
No player has provided more consistent, quality play over the course of five seasons with Everett than Davis. The defenseman immediately slotted in as a regular as a 16-year-old, and he’s been a staple of the Tips’ defense ever since. He holds the franchise records for career games played and career points by a defenseman, and with 65 points this season, he’s produced the two highest-scoring seasons ever by an Everett defenseman.
11) Joshua Winquist
Years in Everett: 2009-2014. Stats: 301 games, 216 points (101 goals, 115 assists)
It came gradually, but but over his five years with the Silvertips Winquist developed into one of the most dominating offensive forces in franchise history. The winger was just the third Everett player to break the 100 career goals mark, and his 47 goals in 2013-14 are still a single-season franchise record. He was twice named team MVP, and in 2014 he was a second-team Western Conference All-Star.
10) Shane Harper
Years in Everett: 2005-10. Stats: 335 games, 214 points (100 goals, 114 assists)
Harper was the originator of the five-year development model followed by Winquist and Bajkov. He began as a skilled but physically underdeveloped 16-year-old winger and ended as a 20-year-old offensive star. He was a two-time team MVP, a second-team Western Conference All-Star in 2010, and was the Herald’s Man of the Year in Sports for 2010. After a long career in the minors, he made his NHL breakthrough last season.
9) Ivan Baranka
Years in Everett: 2003-05. Stats: 122 games, 38 points (10 goals, 28 assists)
Baranka wasn’t a glamorous member of Everett’s legendary inaugural team, but he may have been the best. The defenseman was the only player with pedigree on the roster, having been selected in the second round of the NHL draft before being picked by the Tips in the CHL import draft. He was the epitome of a shut-down defender. He also played twice for the Slovakia at the World Junior Hockey Championships while with the Tips, and although he appeared in only one game in the NHL, he is a KHL stalwart and three-time Olympian.
8) Leland Irving
Years in Everett: 2004-08
Stats: 107-62-3-8, 2.05 goals against average, .925 save percentage
Irving was Everett’s first true fixture in goal. By the time his Tips career was over, he held just about every franchise goal-tending record. He was a two-time second-team Western Conference All-Star, was selected 26th overall in the first round of the 2006 NHL draft, and won a gold medal as a member of Canada’s World Juniors team in 2007. He saw time in the NHL in two separate seasons, and he’s also played professionally in Europe.
7) Radko Gudas
Years in Everett: 2009-10. Stats: 65 games, 37 points (seven goals, 30 assists)
Gudas is the only member of the list to have played just one season for the Tips, but the defenseman’s impact was such — pun intended, as he is the most devastating hitter in franchise history — that he still warrants a high spot in the rankings. In his one season in Everett he was a second-team Western Conference All-Star, represented the Czech Republic at World Juniors, and became a third-round NHL draft pick after being passed over the previous two years. He is one of Everett’s most successful NHLers as he’s currently in his sixth season as an NHL regular.
6) Mitch Love
Years in Everett: 2003-05
Stats: 129 games, 56 points (21 goals, 35 assists)
If this list was solely determined by quality of play on the ice, Love would not be a member of the top 15. However, no individual is more wrapped in the flag of being a Silvertip. The defenseman became a cult figure during Everett’s inaugural season because of his fire and pugilistic ability. He was the team’s charismatic captain in its second season, and he remains the most popular player in franchise history as his name is shouted by the fans during the playing of “O Canada.” He remains a central figure in the organization as the team’s assistant coach and assistant to the general manager.
5) Noah Juulsen
Years in Everett: 2013-17. Stats: 240 games, 124 points (30 goals, 94 assists)
Juulsen is the most-decorated skater from Everett’s current run, which is the winningest five-year stretch in franchise history. The defenseman was taken 26th overall in the first round of the 2015 NHL draft, was a second-team Western Conference All-Star in 2016, was team captain and a first-team Western Conference All-Star last season, and was a member of Canada’s team that won the silver medal at World Juniors in 2017. He recently made his NHL debut and scored his first NHL goal in his fifth game.
4) Zach Hamill
Years in Everett: 2003-08. Stats: 250 games, 262 points (87 goals, 175 assists)
The first ever player brought into the organization is also one of its best. Hamill became the first Silvertip when the center was Everett’s first pick in its inaugural bantam draft in 2003. He went on to a career that saw him hold the franchise career scoring record for a decade. He’s the only WHL scoring champion in team history, a feat he accomplished in 2006-07, and that year he was also a first-team Western Conference All-Star and wound up as the eighth-overall pick in the NHL draft. He appeared in the NHL in parts of three seasons and he’s currently playing professionally in Europe.
3) Peter Mueller
Years in Everett: 2005-07. Stats: 103 games, 136 points (47 goals, 89 assists)
Mueller is the most-gifted offensive player ever to don a Silvertips jersey, capable of winning games single-handedly with his skill and vision. The center spent just two seasons in Everett, but in those two seasons he was named the WHL Rookie of the Year in 2006, was selected eighth overall in the 2006 NHL draft, became a first-team Western Conference All-Star in 2007, and twice represented the United States at World Juniors. His promising NHL career was hindered by concussions, but his 160 NHL points are the most by a former Everett player.
2) Ryan Murray
Years in Everett: 2009-12
Stats: 191 games, 121 points (22 goals, 99 assists)
When one takes into consideration the combination of ability and character, no one tops Murray. Those qualities led Murray to being a two-time captain, a two-time team MVP and a two-time second-team Western Conference All-Star. He was a member of Canada’s World Juniors team that won the bronze medal in 2012, and that year he also became the second-youngest player ever to appear for Canada at the Men’s World Championships. He is the highest NHL draft selection in franchise history, being selected second overall in 2012, and he’s currently in his fifth season as an NHL regular.
1) Carter Hart
Years in Everett: 2014-present
Stats: 116-46-10-12, 2.01 goals against average, .927 save percentage
His Tips career isn’t even complete, yet Hart is overwhelmingly the most-accomplished player in franchise history. He is a two-time WHL Goaltender of the Year, a two-time first-team Western Conference All-Star, a three-time team MVP, and he’s the only player in franchise history to win a CHL award when he was CHL’s Goaltender of the Year in 2016. He seems set to add to those awards this year, which would put him at the top of the conversation for the greatest goaltender in WHL history. He’s a two-time member of Canada’s World Juniors team, backstopping the team to the gold medal this year. He also was a second-round pick in the 2016 NHL draft and the Herald’s Man of the Year in Sports for 2016. If he can lead the Tips to playoff glory this year, he may never be bumped off the top of this list.
Just missed the cut: Byron Froese, Mirco Mueller, Matt Fonteyne.
Worthy of consideration: Jeff Harvey, Torrie Wheat, John Lammers, Jonathan Harty, Zack Dailey, Tyler Maxwell, Kent Simpson, Ben Betker, Kohl Bauml, Jujhar Khaira, Nikita Scherbak, Dawson Leedahl.
Building a resume: Connor Dewar, Riley Sutter.
Follow Nick Patterson on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.