At the 2003 WHL Bantam Draft, the then expansion Everett Silvertips made Zach Hamill the first selection in team history. Since then, all the Port Coquitlam, B.C. native has done is become the ‘Tips all-time leading scorer.
“It started a long time ago,” recalls head coach Kevin Constantine. “Zach was one of those rare 15-year-olds that was so good we were willing to give him five games during that season. And he actually ended up playing about 15 playoff games for us, too.”
As many Silvertips fans can attest to, Hamill indeed had an immediate impact on the ice.
“As a 15-year-old against the Spokane Chiefs in our first-round playoff series, Zach scored a game winner for us in overtime,” Constantine smiled. “So it’s not a surprise to us that he’s blossomed into our career leading scorer already in his 18-year-old season.”
This season, Hamill shares the lead in Silvertips’ scoring with 15 goals and 30 assists through 36 games. Teammate Peter Mueller (PHO), who has been away since early December with Team USA at the World Junior Championships, also has 45 points through 26 games.
Hamill played both games for Team WHL at the ADT Canada/Russia Challenge in late November, along with ‘Tips defenseman Taylor Ellington (2007 eligible). Goaltender Leland Irving (CAL) played in the first game.
“It was one of my goals to be chosen to play in those ADT games,” Hamill explained. “I’m pleased it happened and it was a fun time to meet some new guys and to win both games. They’re all elite players. It was great for my confidence and I appreciated everything they said and did for us there.”
Hamill admitted he was bothered when passed up by Hockey Canada when the roster for the WJC selection camp in Calgary was announced, although he remained philosophical about the decision.
“It’s disappointing but I respect their decision,” Hamill sighed. “Hockey Canada is a great organization and I respect what they do. I know it sure has me motivated for next year. The next goal here in Everett is to win a Memorial Cup.”
Keith Gerhart, who handles the play-by-play for Everett, has also watched Hamill grow into a consistent WHLer.
“I think for Zach, he was really disappointed at not being invited to the selection camp,” Gerhart said. “But I think we’ll see him take it to heart and play as if he really has something to prove the rest of this season.”
Along with Mueller, Irving is also away at the WJC with Team Canada. Like many teams across the country, Hamill recognizes the Silvertips will play a chunk of their regular season schedule without a pair of key contributors.
“A lot of guys, including myself, have to step up and fill roles,” Hamill said. “That’s what good teams do. Veteran guys have to contribute and lead the team to win.
“I think our team has been good this season, ranked No. 1 in the CHL right now. It’ll only get harder as the season goes on. That’s been a highlight for sure, so I hope we keep working hard together to keep it going.”
The group in Everett has matured, showing resilience on a few occasions this season. During the weekend before Mueller and Irving left for the WJC, the Silvertips put in a lackluster effort and dropped a road game in Kelowna against the Rockets by a 2-0 count. The next night, they returned home to face their U.S. Division rival Seattle Thunderbirds. After two periods, the ‘Tips trailed 3-0. In the final frame, Everett scored three power-play goals, including the tying goal by Mueller with only four seconds remaining. The comeback set the stage for Hamill and, “The Goal”.
“I thought about doing it the last time we played Seattle, but the guys told me not to do it because I had been pretty successful in the shootouts,” Hamill recalled. “But I figured if I score, I score and if I miss, I miss.”
Irving shut the door on the T-Birds first four shooters before Hamill moved in on Seattle goaltender Derek Yeomans with a chance to end the game. He dropped the puck between his legs and flipped a shot over a stunned Yeomans to send a sellout crowd into a frenzy. (The play made the rounds on the website YouTube, providing Hamill and his mates with some unexpected online exposure.
“Luckily it went in,” Hamill grinned. “And fortunately it helped us win the game. It’s just fun, but it was important that we won the game. It was a big comeback for us and I think it showed a lot of character for us to come back and win.”
As the current campaign passes the midway mark, Hamill is focused on improving his play every night out.
“I try and get better every day because that’s my goal and I think that’s what you have to do as a hockey player,” Hamill said. “I can feel the game pretty good as a player and I think that helps, especially with the new rules.”
Currently, and for the first time this season, Hamill finds himself out of the International Scouting Service’s Top 30 Skaters. The WHL talent pool is very deep this year with a total of 12 players making the current ISS Top 30. However, Gerhart wondered aloud about Hamill’s placing among 2007-eligible prospects.
“I think Zach is a bit underrated,” Gerhart suggested. “I’m not sure he gets the attention he probably deserves. I think the current rankings are a bit of a shock, even last month when he was rated as the 21st skater in the WHL by the Central Scouting Service.
“He has great vision on the ice. He’s a slightly different style of player compared to Mueller, but certainly with similar vision out there. He’s on with Dan Gendur (free agent) and Ondrej Fiala (MIN) and they’ve looked good.”
“I’ve kind rotated around a bit this year,” Hamill added when asked who his linemates have been. “Last year I played with John Lammers (DAL) and Brady Calla (FLA) and we worked well together. When Lammers graduated, maybe that set me back a bit in five-on-five situations. I’m trying to click with a couple other guys. I think we’ll build some chemistry here.”
Everett is currently first in the CHL Top Ten Rankings, followed closely by the Vancouver Giants and Medicine Hat Tigers. The ‘Tips are clearly gearing up for a run at the league title and a berth in the Memorial Cup in Vancouver. And should the club achieve its goal, it will be due in part to the organization’s ability to identify a solid group of 1988 players.
Looking back on the club’s first ever bantam draft, Hamill, Mueller, Irving and 2007 eligibles Taylor Ellington, Graham Potuer and John Harty are all on the current roster. Calla, who was recently traded to the Moose Jaw Warriors, was also a 2003 bantam draft selection. Not only are the ‘Tips a contender this season, the future certainly looks bright.
The last word on Hamill is Constantine’s.
“Zach is a dynamic guy and his puck skills are top of the world,” said the Silvertips bench boss. “Along the way he’s added a couple inches in height and about 20 pounds, which has turned him into a 190-pound skilled centerman.
“We’ve always been thrilled with Zach as a player and we continue to be.”
Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.