Though raised in nearby Lake Stevens, he played his youth hockey in Everett starting at age 7 and has spent his entire amateur career there aside from a one-year stint in an Under-16 Dallas Stars development camp.
Lake Stevens product Wyatte Wylie has spent the past few days in professional hockey’s equivalent of boot camp: waking up and hitting the ice early mornings, doing drills away from the rink and donning skates for more work before dinner.
It’s all taking place at the Philadelphia Flyers development camp running through Monday at their practice facility in suburban Voorhees, N.J.; the culmination for Wylie of a wild week that began at the NHL draft in Las Vegas. Everett Silvertips defenseman Wylie, 18, had been seated with a friend in the front row at the draft when the Flyers selected him No. 127 overall in the fifth round, fulfilling a dream he’d carried since his youth hockey days.
“I was just sitting there hoping for anything and bracing for anything,’’ Wylie said Friday by phone, catching a breather between workouts. “And then, getting picked was absolutely the most amazing thing. I was so happy.’’
Wylie was one of three members of the Western Hockey League (WHL) Silvertips selected, joining forwards Connor Dewar and Riley Sutter, picked consecutively in the third round at Nos. 92 and 93 overall by the Minnesota Wild and Washington Capitals, respectively. The Spokane Chiefs completed the picks of players from junior teams in this state, with defensemen Ty Smith and Filip Kral taken in the first and fifth rounds at Nos. 17 and 143 overall by the New Jersey Devils and Toronto Maple Leafs.
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But those other Washington-based junior picks hail from Canada. Wylie is rather unique in that he was born in Everett, making him the first native of that city drafted by an NHL team. Though raised in nearby Lake Stevens, he played his youth hockey in Everett starting at age 7 and has spent his entire amateur career there aside from a one-year stint in an Under-16 Dallas Stars development camp.
Wylie became a fan of the Silvertips from an even younger age when his father began bringing him to games.
“I had a group of hockey friends there, and we kind of grew up together playing,’’ he said. “The culture between the fans and the players in Washington state is pretty cool.’’
It wasn’t always that way around here.
You can count the number of players from the Seattle metro area who’ve played in the NHL on one hand – Tom Bissett, Dylan Gambrell, Curtis Hamilton and recent Stanley Cup winner T.J. Oshie of the Capitals. Football, baseball and basketball typically carry sway around these parts, but not so for Wylie, showing the influence that having a junior team in Everett since 2003 has had for some athletes.
Still, influence or not, his game needed work.
A year ago, he was barely on anybody’s draft radar before improving on his transitional game to move up 108 spots in NHL Central Scouting rankings between mid-term and season’s end. He’d entered the draft ranked 71st among North American skaters and seventh among WHL defensemen.
That was among the biggest ranking improvements made by any single player, though still not high enough to avoid some pins and needles waiting for his name to be called on draft day.
Though Wylie hasn’t made the NHL yet, being in a camp run by the Flyers with 32 other draft prospects from recent seasons – including Everett’s MVP goaltender, Carter Hart – sure feels awfully close to him. Hart attended the camp a year ago and has helped Wylie adjust to some of what’s expected.
Though Hart is expected to be a key part of the Flyers’ future, Wylie could see additional time with the Silvertips before any full-fledged NHL career. Not many NHL junior picks stick permanently the first time around, though Flyers general manager Ron Hextall has identified a team need for right-handed shooting defensemen.
It won’t hurt that he and Hart have logged significant ice time positioned directly in front of and behind one another in keeping more pucks out of Everett’s net last season than any other WHL team. In doing so, Wylie was often praised for above-average hockey “sense” and “intelligence’’ in displaying an ability to clear the zone under pressure and initiate rushes with headman passes.
Wylie posted career highs of six goals and 31 points, had a plus-minus of 12 and didn’t miss a game all season in helping the Silvertips win the WHL’s Western Conference title. The only other time Everett made it that far was back in their debut 2003-04 season when Wylie was only 4 and too young to remember it.
Now, he’s the property of an NHL team and ambassador for a region hoping to add its own Seattle squad for the start of the 2020-21 season. Wylie sees the significance of that, especially when mirrored against his own progression in helping Everett produce a truly homegrown NHL player.
“It’s just going to grow more than it already has and beyond where it is right now,’’ he said. “Hockey’s such a great sport, and I’m just happy, and I’m hopeful that it happens.’’
And that he’ll get to take the ice at a revamped KeyArena, even if it is in a visiting team’s colors. As a long shot from Everett unsure he’d even be drafted at all barely a week ago, any uniform will suffice.