Fresh from USA Under-18 program, Peter Mueller has arrived in Everett, in a big way.
Opting to play for Everett as opposed to going the more traditional route of US college, the American has had a healthy impact on an impressive Silvertips squad.
Drafted by the Silvertips 21st overall in the 2003 Bantam Draft, Mueller’s had a lot of time to ponder his path. It’s a decision the Bloomington, Minnesota native certainly isn’t regretting.
“I took a couple of years and looked at the league,” admitted Mueller. “I’ve been thinking about coming here for the past three years.
“A lot of top guys come out of the league. You look at guys like Dion Phaneuf and former WHL guys that play in the NHL. It’s just one of those things that you want to look back and see how you played in the league.”
The adjustment to the league has been a tricky one for Mueller, who noted the playing schedule is a significant departure from the 50 games he played in the National Team Development Program last year. The more NHL-like schedule should help his development, he thinks.
“You feel like a pro going to all these arenas two weeks at a time and don’t go home,” said Mueller, who is currently leading his squad through a trek in Alberta and Saskatchewan, their first since 2002-03.
The move to the Western League has been an easy transition for Mueller, who is second in the league in both rookie scoring and team scoring, registering seven goals and 22 points in 20 games this season.
Last season, Mueller, who sports #88 in Everett, had 69 points in 50 games with the USA Under-18 squad, the same team he helped lead to a silver medal in the 2005 IIHF U-18 World Championships.
Mueller insists his points aren’t his motivating factor, though. Ever the team player, Mueller is more concerned about the standings than his stats page.
“I try not to pay attention to [stats]. I just try to focus on a game and if points come – good. I always try to go for the team and if the team gets two points.”
So far for Everett, wins have been plentiful. They currently sit atop the U.S. Division and in a four-way tie for fourth in points league-wide.
Despite his team’s early success and his own personal offensive success, Mueller was modest in his performance thus far this season.
He claims he just recently picked up the level in his play to where he’s happy with it.
“I expected it was going to be a physically faster, but coming into the first ten games I had to look back and ‘oh my god I’ve got to start playing,’” said Mueller with a smile on his face.
“You’ve got to come in every game, and it’s true, the WHL is a very hard league and you’ve got to compete.”
For those that suggest Mueller’s decision to go to the Western League, an atypical plan for most American-born players, was purely draft motivated, the 6’2, 204lb center simply shrugs his shoulders.
“Switching leagues is not really going to help you out,” said Muller. “I hope [switching leagues] makes you better, seeing all the great players out here. You’ve just got to learn from that and see where it comes.”
Mueller admits that the 2006 NHL draft is on his mind to some extent.
“It’s always in the back of my head,” Mueller said. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about it. You can’t think about it too much otherwise you’ll get distracted out there. You’ve got to play every game like it’s your last and see what happens.”
In their two-year existence, the Everett Silvertips have yet to have one of their players’ names called on draft day. Should things continue for Mueller, he’ll buck that trend.
“Ah geez,” said Mueller, pausing to laugh. “I haven’t put too much thought into that but if so, that’s awesome.”
Heading into the season, Mueller was ranked sixth overall by International Scouting Service. Based on his play early in the season, he’s a strong candidate to improve upon that position, and hear his name called early on draft day.
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