Nick Patterson covers the Everett Silvertips for the Everett Herald. While covering the Silvertips’ preseason, he took some time to answer our questions regarding Canucks prospects, Kellan Tochkin and Taylor Ellington.
CHB: After leading all WHL rookies in scoring 74 points, what are yours (and the Silvertips’) expectations from Kellan Tochkin?
Nick Patterson: It’s interesting because although Tochkin led the team in scoring, he was thought of more as part of a unit than as an individual. He teamed with fellow 17-year-old rookies Byron Froese and Tyler Maxwell to form a young and dynamic line, and it almost became impossible to mention one without the other two. Therefore, I don’t think the expectations (and pressure) are as high for him individually in Everett as one might think. The expectations for that line, however, will be to become a top No. 1 unit — provided new coach Craig Hartsburg keeps them together — and Tochkin would be expected to accumulate the most points among the trio.
CHB: Tochkin wasn’t drafted in his first eligible draft season, but shined in Canucks prospect camp enough to get the Canucks to sign him to an entry-level contract. Two things: Why do you think Tochkin wasn’t drafted? What impresses you most about him (i.e. what is it about him that probably led the Canucks to sign him)?
Nick: My understanding is that Tochkin was a very polarizing player among the scouting community. Some loved his offensive abilities, while others believed his modest physical attributes would prevent him from ever being an effective pro. It’s those physical attributes — small and a below-average skater — that probably kept him from being drafted. But Tochkin has about as good a passing vision of any player who’s come through Everett, and I’m sure that’s what the Canucks were looking at when they signed him.
CHB: Taylor Ellington finished his WHL career as an overager with a career-high 32 points and career-worst -20. Do you think Ellington has the game to make it in the pros?
Nick: I think Ellington can make it in the pros, certainly in the minors, as he has decent size, his skating is OK and he’s willing to play a physical game. However, he’s not a highly-skilled player, so he’s never going to be more than a stay-at-home defenseman. My guess is he’ll need a couple years in the minors to adjust to the pro level, but he’s a dedicated guy who should be willing to put in the work necessary to raise his game.
CHB: What does Ellington need to work on to make it in the pros?
Nick: Even though he’s going to be a stay-at-home defenseman, Ellington is still going to have to improve his puck skills, particularly making sure his first pass is always on the tape. And even though he’s a pretty strong guy, he’s going to have to get stronger in order to play his role against fully-mature opponents.
CHB: What were Ellington’s biggest contributions to the Silvertips organization?
Nick: Ellington’s always going to be remembered in Everett as the guy everybody liked. He was a great teammate because he’s a goofy, happy-go-lucky individual who gets along with everyone. As a player he’s a perfect illustration at how much a player can improve over five seasons in the WHL. There were times as a 16-year-old when you wondered whether he was ever going to figure out the mental part of the game. But he got better every season, and despite an ugly plus/minus was very deserving of being named the team’s co-MVP last season, as he logged a ridiculous number of minutes against top offensive players.