With the Everett Silvertips losing Noah Juulsen, Lucas Skrumeda and Aaron Irving off their blue line, there was going to be many opportunities for defensemen to step up and make a difference.
One defenseman, who is doing just that this year is Everett native, Wyatte Wylie. The late-birthday 1999-born blue liner played in the bottom pairing when he got into games last year as a 17-year-old and played conservatively when out there.
That has changed drastically this year. Wylie, who had 10 assists in 50 games last year, already has five goals and 20 assists for 25 points this year.
Recently Wylie had his first three point game with two goals and an assist in a win over Spokane. He set up the overtime winner. NHL Central Scouting has noticed his recent play and ranked him 179th among North American skaters. Wylie has stayed humble.
“I just think it’s hard work. I didn’t mind or let it get to my head and I still don’t today. It’s all about the work you put in,” Wylie said.
As for his statistical take off, Wylie credits a lot of hard work put in over the summer and throughout the year on his shot. His 111 shots on net through 54 games ranks him third among d-men who have been with the ‘Tips all season.
“That’s one thing I wanted to work on after my season last year. I wasn’t happy with how that ended for my shot. I focused on it over the summer and this year I’ve focused on getting my shot through. If your shot gets through then there’s more opportunities for your forwards.”
What has helped Wylie a lot this year has been new coach Dennis Williams and his more free-flowing system.
“The coaching staff this year really gives you the support and lets you do what you want. Obviously there are systems involved but you are able to be a hockey player out there. For them to have the confidence in me and putting me in situations allowing me to do what I’m good at I’m thankful for.”
Beyond Williams and assistant coach Mitch Love, Wylie credits overage d-man Kevin Davis with helping his game.
“Davis has been here since I’ve started here. He’s really helped me in making sure I’m comfortable and not stressed out. He’s helped me through a lot of things. Obviously when you watch him and (Ondrej) Vala, they are really confident with the puck. You just have to confident and not cocky in your play.”
As the Silvertips head down the stretch with so many important games against divisional opponents, Wylie has personal goals that will help his team achieve theirs: winning another U.S. Division title.
“I want to continue being physical and being a presence out there on the ice. I also want to continue working on my shot. That is one thing I really want to perfect. I know that is a lot of work, so I will just have to keep at it every game and get better.”
While a division title would feel great, Wylie and Everett have the playoffs in mind. After playing in 10 playoff games last year, Wylie wants more.
“Playoffs are a different story than the regular season. It’s a completely different atmosphere. The other teams are more physical and faster. It’s just a whole different world. I’m really excited.”
Wylie has more of a personal connection with his team than most of his teammates. He grew up playing on the ice he still calls home as he played in the Everett Jr. Silvertips program.
“Everybody starts somewhere and everybody has the same opportunity no matter where you are. It just comes down to who is willing to put in the work and stay dedicated to it. I’m really happy with how the organization is turning out over there.”
The sixth round pick of the Silvertips back in 2014 is making the most of his situation. Between getting a new coach that fits his playing style, playing in his hometown and playing on a team that sits atop the entire Western Conference currently with a record of 34-17-1-2, Wylie’s situation seems like a recipe for success.