Zach Hamill still is a rookie in the Western Hockey League, but he has such poise and presence that he occasionally evokes the "G" comparison. "His sense of anticipation is almost...
Zach Hamill still is a rookie in the Western Hockey League, but he has such poise and presence that he occasionally evokes the “G” comparison.
“His sense of anticipation is almost Gretzky-like,” Everett Silvertips General Manager Doug Soetaert gushed about his 16-year-old center.
“You almost hate to say that, but he does have this spider sense of knowing where people are. He’s a very special hockey player.”
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Soetaert doesn’t note the resemblance between a young Wayne Gretzky and Hamill lightly.
“Zach is just an all-around good hockey player and is very valuable to us right now,” Soetaert said. “When he gets older and naturally gets bigger and faster, he can dominate.”
Hamill is no ordinary rookie. He got a full season of experience during Everett’s run in the playoffs last year.
The Port Coquitlam, B.C., native took advantage of a league rule that allows underage players to compete in the playoffs and ended up in 24 Everett games last season.
So even though he is listed as a rookie, his Western Hockey League career now spans 55 games.
“I still have a lot of stuff to learn in this league, both offensively and defensively,” Hamill said, before making a veteran move by deftly passing off praise to line mates Tyler Dietrich and Brady Calla.
“Last year in the playoffs, I was on the wing and only worried about scoring. I didn’t really know anything about defense until this year.”
Hamill has learned quickly and said he now takes considerable pride in his plus-minus rating, a system that awards each player a point if he’s on the ice when his team scores and deducts one if the opposition scores.
So far this season, Hamill is at plus-11, one point behind Calla for the team lead.
“I’m really enjoying being on the plus side,” Hamill said. “I know our system much better this year and don’t have to try and think and play hockey at the same time. I can just react.”
Soetaert selected Hamill in the first round of the 2003 bantam draft with the third overall pick. He said he would have taken him even if Everett had had the No. 1 pick.
“He’s very quick to react, and his hand-eye coordination is phenomenal,” Soetaert said. “He has above-average speed and is uncanny at anticipating where the play is going.”
That ability seems to keep Hamill a stride ahead of the play. And at 5 feet 11 and 163 pounds, he’s still growing, still getting better.
“He already knows what it takes to play at this level and is a cornerstone of our hockey team,” Soetaert said. “All the [National Hockey League] scouts already know his name.”
Silvertips to play
Everett has three games before the holiday break: tonight against the Tri-City Americans at home, Friday at Vancouver, B.C., and Saturday at Portland.
After a nine-day break, the Silvertips will return to action with a very short bench with seven players away at all-star tournaments and a key veteran injured.
Center Mark Kress, who has 10 points in 30 games, has a fractured arm and is out for at least three weeks.
Defenseman Ivan Baranka and winger Karel Hromas will be at the World Junior Championships Dec. 25 through Jan. 4 in Grand Forks, N.D.
Hamill, Calla, Brennan Zasitko, Jonathan Harty and Leland Irving will be at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Lethbridge, Alberta, from Dec. 28 through Jan. 4.
All four of the Silvertips’ games while they are shorthanded will be against U.S. Division teams, including two games against Seattle that could decide the division leader.