What fans can expect is a general introduction to the two teams, coupled with vital statistics and keys to the series. In our player-specific sections, we will highlight Players to Watch that do not serve as the usual suspects – the best of the supporting cast or perhaps the darkhorse playoff warrior.
Finally, we close each of our series previews with a quick look to the past for a brief historical take on the rivalry that exists – or stands to develop.
In our second of eight opening round playoff previews, we examine the Western Conference Champion Everett Silvertips and the Victoria Royals.
When one of the Everett Silvertips or Victoria Royals emerges from this best-of-seven, first-round Western Conference series, chances are good plenty of credit will lie on the shoulders of either Carter Hart or Griffen Outhouse.
Hart, the reigning CHL Goaltender of the Year serves as the foundation at the base of an iron-clad and stingy Everett defense that allowed a league-low 169 goals-against through the 2016-17 regular season.
Outhouse – a human highlight real – is no slouch himself. No goaltender in the WHL logged more appearances or minutes than the product of Williams Lake, B.C., and with that, he also saw the most rubber and made the most saves of any netminder in the league. The kid knows how to stop a puck and there likely isn’t a more exciting goaltender matchup in the first round.
Outside the blue paint, the Royals boast some of the speediest and most skilled players out west, with Matthew Phillips having hit the 50-goal plateau in 2016-17. If he can find a way to solve Hart, that could break the series open and swing it in the favour of those pesky islanders.
While Phillips paces the Royals up front, Hart gets support from an enviable cast on the blueline, with the likes of captain Noah Juulsen and veteran Aaron Irving anchoring the defensive zone.
The Silvertips ride into the playoffs having gone 6-2-1-1 in their final 10 outings to close the regular season, and stand as the lone Western Conference club to reach the 100-point plateau. Meanwhile, the Royals were headed in the wrong direction down the stretch, entering post-season play winless in seven consecutive contests to close the campaign.
Game 1 – Friday, March 24 – XFINITY Arena – Everett – 7:35 p.m. PT
Game 2 – Saturday, March 25 – XFINITY Arena – Everett 7:05 p.m. PT
Game 3 – Tuesday, March 28 – Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena – Victoria – 7:05 p.m. PT
Game 4 – Wednesday, March 29 – Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena – Victoria – 7:05 p.m. PT
*Game 5 – Friday, March 31 – XFINITY Arena – Everett – 7:35 p.m. PT
*Game 6 – Sunday, April 2 – Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena – Victoria – 2:05 p.m. PT
*Game 7 – Tuesday, April 4 – XFINITY Arena – Everett – 7:05 p.m. PT
* = if necessary
Oct. 22 – Everett (3) at Victoria (1)
Oct. 29 – Victoria (1) at Everett (2) – OT
March 17 – Everett (4) at Victoria (2)
March 18 – Victoria (2) at Everett (5)
|Everett Silvertips||vs.||Victoria Royals|
|44-16-9-3 (100 points)||Record||37-29-5-1 (80 points)|
|Third Place||WHL Standing||14th|
|First Place||Conference Standing||Eighth|
|First Place – U.S.||Division Standing||Fourth – B.C.|
|229 (15th)||Goals For||239 (T-12th)|
|169 (First)||Goals Against||219 (T-7th)|
|20.7% (11th)||Power Play||20.3% (13th)|
|85.8% (First)||Penalty Kill||78.3% (13th)|
|Eliminated in Second Round||2015-16 Playoffs||Eliminated in Second Round|
|Patrick Bajkov – 29-49—78||Leading Scorer||Matthew Phillips – 50-40—90|
|Dominic Zwerger – 28-47—75||Second Leading Scorer||Jack Walker – 31-41—72|
|Kevin Davis – 9-50—59||Third Leading Scorer||Dante Hannoun – 25-39—64|
|Patrick Bajkov – 29 goals||Top Goal Scorer||Matthew Phillips – 50 goals|
|Kevin Davis – 9-50—59||Top Scoring Defenceman||Chaz Reddekopp – 10-33—43|
|Carter Hart(32-11-6-2, 1.99, .927, 9 SO)||Top Goaltender||Griffen Outhouse(34-24-3-1, 2.85, .915, 4 SO)|
Key to the Series – Everett Silvertips
Corral Matthew Phillips: We saw it all year long – the speedy, shifty and crafty Calgary Flames prospect seemed to find new ways to score each time he stepped foot on the ice. If Phillips has space and time – look out. He will make you pay. While Carter Hart is arguably the best last line of defence in the league, even the best fall victim to the creativity of players like Phillips. If the pint-sized dynamo is left alone, he will make the Silvertips pay. On the contrary, if a defensive group featuring Noah Juulsen, Aaron Irving and Kevin Davis can keep Phillips contained, the Royals are going to have a tough time finding offense.
Key to the Series – Victoria Royals
Break through the Silvertips’ structure: Everett head coach Kevin Constantine is renowned for his strict defensive structure and the Silvertips’ success to date is a very big product of exactly that. The Royals boast some of the WHL’s fastest forwards, in the likes of Phillips and Jack Walker. If Everett gets sucked into a run-and-gun, high-paced game that will play in favour of Victoria.
Forward to Watch – Everett Silvertips
RW Eetu Tuulola (18-13—31): There’s a reason the Calgary Flames saw fit to use a sixth-round pick (156th) on Tuulola at the 2016 NHL Draft and a big part of it probably comes back to his 6-foot-3, 225-pound frame. If that kind of power-forward build isn’t destined to develop into a playoff beast, we’re not sure what is. The hulking Finn can put the puck in the net, proven by the 18 markers he posted during his first season in North America. Park that big body in front of Griffen Outhouse and suddenly pucks aren’t quite as easy to see.
Forward to Watch – Victoria Royals
C Vladimir Bobylev (9-27—36): Speaking of impactful imports, enter Vladimir Bobylev. After opening the 2016-17 season over in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League, the burly Bobylev came back to the WHL and found his stride down the stretch run, managing 15 points over his final 13 games of the season. The 6-foot-2, 204-pound pivot collected seven assists during five post-season games last year. With Matthew Phillips, Jack Walker and Tyler Soy bound to see a bevy of attention, Bobylev’s role becomes all the more important.
Defenceman to Watch – Everett Silvertips
Lucas Skrumeda (4-12—16): Everyone knows the big names like Noah Juulsen, Aaron Irving and Kevin Davis, but perhaps one of the more steady and underrated defenders on the Silvertips blueline is the 20-year-old Skrumeda, a product of Winnipeg. Reliable at both ends of the rink, the 6-foot, 180-pound rearguard logged the best plus-minus rating among all Silvertips defencemen, rolling in at plus-18 through 47 regular season contests. With this his final WHL campaign, you can rest assured the alternate captain will be fired up to help his club make an extended run deep into the WHL Playoffs.
Defenceman to Watch – Victoria Royals
Scott Walford (6-24—30): Chaz Reddekopp and Ryan Gagnon are well-known for what they bring to the table, but blossoming over the course of the season has been Walford – an 18-year-old product of Coquitlam, B.C. Ranked 153rd among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting in its midterm rankings, Walford has often been one of the best defencemen on the ice for Victoria. As a rookie, he contributed six points (2G-4A) through 13 post-season contests last season with the Royals. After a strong 60-game slate in which he produced 30 points this season, it will be interesting to see if Walford can continue his upward trend when all the chips are down during the WHL Playoffs.
Goaltender to Watch – Everett Silvertips
Carter Hart (54 GP, 32-11-6-2, 1.99 GAA, .927 SV%, 9 SO): Where do we begin with the former second-round pick (48th) of the Philadelphia Flyers? Well, he led the WHL in a wide range of major statistical categories, including goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts. He has big-game experience to draw from, having helped Canada to a silver medal finish at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship. He is the reigning CHL Goaltender of the Year and with numbers like what you see above, he has a very real shot at repeating. Very few goaltenders can steal a game the way Carter Hart can.
Goaltender to Watch – Victoria Royals
Griffen Outhouse (63 GP, 34-24-3-1, 2.85 GAA, .915 SV%, 4 SO): The 19-year-old product of Williams Lake, B.C., is quick with the glove and has a strong cross-crease push, often resulting in the kind of acrobatic saves that seemed long lost back in the late 1990s when agile goaltenders were more populous than the bulky hulksters hockey fans have become accustomed to in the 2010s. As backup to Coleman Vollrath in 2015-16, Outhouse put up eye-popping numbers in a support role (18-3-3-1, 1.82 GAA, .937 SV%, 4 SO). In his first year carrying the workload, he showed last year’s efforts were no fluke. Now the real test comes in the post-season as the Royals will need his absolute best against Everett.
Playoff History – Everett Silvertips
In 2015-16, the Everett Silvertips advanced to the second round of the WHL Playoffs for the first time since 2006-07. Now, in 2016-17, the hope is to go a few steps further. That 2006-07 Silvertips squad is arguably the best in franchise history, having tallied 54 wins and 111 points under the tutelage of Constantine. But even then, they were knocked out of post-season contention in the second round. Over the franchise’s 14 seasons, it has only advanced to the conference championship on two occasions – 2005-06 and 2003-04 – while appearing in the WHL Championship once – 2003-04. All this considered, it begs to be eementioned that the Silvertips have qualified for the post-season in each of their 14 seasons – a feat well worth noting. Will this be the year the Silvertips make a long-awaited return to the Western Conference final? Or will a well-established history of early exits rear its ugly head once again?
Playoff History – Victoria Royals
Like the Silvertips, the Victoria Royals own a brief history relative to some of the more tenured franchises around the Western Hockey League. With that in mind, the club has yet to win a WHL Championship and since making the move to Vancouver Island from Chilliwack, it has yet to advance beyond the second round of the WHL post-season. The 2016 WHL Playoffs won’t be forgotten for a very long time in Victoria as the Royals, mere seconds away from advancing to the conference championship, saw the world crumble around them as the Kelowna Rockets scored a late tying goal before winning Game 7 of their second-round series in overtime. Is redemption in the cards for this year’s edition of the Royals?
Head-to-head Playoff History – Everett and Victoria
2016-17 marks the first time in WHL history the Everett Silvertips and Victoria Royals/Chilliwack Bruins will meet in post-season action.