Produced by the WHL in partnership with BC Tree Fruits, “Growing the Game’s Best Talent” is a multi-part series highlighting the next generation of WHL stars set to embark on a journey pursuing NHL dreams. “Growing the Game’s Best Talent” can be seen monthly at WHL.ca, featuring a key member of the upcoming 2018 NHL Draft Class. Together, the WHL and BC Tree Fruits are “Growing the Game’s Best Talent.”
When it comes to the National Hockey League and Everett Silvertips defencemen, the pair seem to have knack for developing a closer relationship in recent years.
Taylor Ellington was the first Silvertips rearguard to be selected by a NHL team, going in the second round, 33rd overall, by the Vancouver Canucks in the 2007 NHL Draft. Since then, names like Noah Juulsen, Ryan Murray, Mirco Mueller, and Radko Gudas have graced the Silvertips, heard their name called at the NHL Draft, and also continued their game to the NHL level.
Enter Wyatte Wylie. Another Silvertips’ defencemen, he’s the next blueliner on the radar of NHL Central Scouting looking to be selected when all 31 teams convene in Dallas, Texas next weekend. While the previous five have overlapped in the odd year, Wylie has been there to see it all.
That’s because to Wylie, the Silvertips are more than just the hockey team he plays for, it’s the hometown club he’s been able to experience since their inception to the Western Hockey League. The first hometown product to play for the 2018 Western Conference Champions, Wylie is boosting his profile and the growth of hockey in the Pacific Northwest at the same time.
“I was too young to remember the 2004 WHL Championship, the last time they were there, but I’ve always watched them,” Wylie said while his team was competing for the Ed Chynoweth Cup last month. “It’s cool to just see them win and now to be here it’s awesome.
“I experienced it being a fan, it was cool, but I never realized what it was like to be a player and having everybody supporting you and how loud they are when you’re on the ice. It’s very cool.”
Wylie has gone from being behind the glass to battling on the other side and he’s done more than hold his own against the best the WHL has to offer. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound 18-year-old has caught the notice of NHL Central Scouting, rising 108 spots from the midterm rankings to their final rankings in April 2018. He’ll be seventh-highest ranked WHL defenceman going into next week’s draft coming in at 71st among North American skaters.
“It’s fantastic to see his growth in his game, to see his game mature throughout the year,” Silvertips head coach Dennis Williams said. “He’s worked his way into a great spot, getting lots of interest from NHL teams.
“It’s just been a remarkable season for him in terms of his game, growing in the right manner; it gets better each day.”
As much time as he’s spent with the game hockey in his hometown, as a fan and a player, this is just the start of the beginning for what Wylie, the Silvertips, and Everett Youth Hockey program hope is a long hockey career. Despite the local connection and increasing passion for the game of hockey, Wylie said he doesn’t get the superstar treatment around town, but the fans know who to cheer extra hard for when he’s on the ice.
“Everett Youth Hockey is evolving definitely from what it used to be,” Wylie said. “I’m happy to see the direction its going. To come from there and be here is cool.”
But the work doesn’t stop when you make the grade for NHL Central Scouting. In many ways, it just intensifies. With this year being so important, Wylie’s offensive game took a step forward too as his production tripled from 10 points in his rookie season, all assists, to 31 points (6G-25A) this year. He’d go on to add eight points (2G-6A) in the 2018 WHL Playoffs.
“I saw that I made the mid-term list and it was very exciting for me, but I knew that meant nothing and you had to put in the work and continue going and finish the year strong,” Wylie continued.
He was invaluable to the Silvertips during their run to the 2018 Rogers WHL Championship Series and left a strong impression on Williams, who came in as the Silvertips’ new head coach for the 2017-18 WHL regular season. Williams himself urged his players to paint a canvas for him in reference to their playing style and how much they want to be relied upon as Williams built new relationships with the players, tinkering with the lineup.
“When he’s playing hard on pucks, when he’s physical, hitting, playing good defence, moving pucks up the ice quickly, he’s been a great player for us,” Williams said of Wylie. “When he came back this season, knowing that he has a clean slate to just go out and play his style of hockey, he’s been a big factor for our team’s success in the regular season and into the post-season.”
Ready to use next week’s draft as a catalyst for taking his game to the next level, Wylie’s rise to prominence is proof of the game’s growth in the Pacific Northwest. Now, it’s his time to shine.