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Wingman

Harper sharpens his hockey skills in WHL facing tough competition

Posted: November 23, 2008 8:23 p.m.
Updated: November 24, 2008 4:55 a.m.

Valencia graduate, Shane Harper, plays right wing for the Western Hockey League's Everett Silvertips where he has scored 24 points in 24 games. His experience in the WHL could land him in NHL.

 
Skating hard and scoring goals 86 miles south of the U.S.-Canadian border, Valencia graduate Shane Harper is sharpening his skills while playing right wing for the Everett Silvertips.

The 19-year-old has been a fast learner with 24 points in his first 24 games this season - third on the team - playing in the Western Hockey League in Everett, Wash. It is one of the biggest feeders into the National Hockey League.

He plays close to 80 percent of his games in Canada.

"The play's a lot faster," Harper said. "You have to move the puck faster. I'm happy, but I guess you always want to do better."

The first-line player has come a long way from playing in peewee leagues as a 6-year-old at Ice Station Valencia. In 2005, while playing for Valencia High's club hockey team, he won the Most Valuable Player. On May 27, 2005, in the championship game of the Ice Station High School Hockey League, he racked up a hat trick in a 5-3 win over West Valley.

This season, Harper has scored eight goals in his third season, good for fourth on the Silvertips.

Everett is 13-8-3, third in the U.S. Division of the Western Conference.

Last season, Harper scored 17 goals and had 26 assists for Everett. The 5-foot, 10-inch, 190-pound winger helped the Silvertips reach the first round of the WHL Playoffs, where they lost in the first round to Spokane.

Since he was 17, Harper has been eligible to enter the National Hockey League Draft. He said he did not know if or where he would be drafted.

But the dream of playing in the NHL is certainly there.
"I feel confident I can make it," Harper said. "It's my dream, it's not going to stop. You never know. If I have a great year, I'll have a shot. If I step it up, maybe I'll get drafted. There are 15 or 20 NHL scouts at some of our games."

Harper plays on the same line with left wing Kyle Beach, who was drafted in the first round by the Chicago Blackhawks. He also played against former Tri-City goaltender Carey Price, who is now with the Montreal Canadiens. Last season, Price led all NHL rookie goalies in wins with 24.

One of Harper's self-described best goals came on Feb. 16, 2007, in a 4-3 shootout win over Kelowna from British Columbia.

"I scored the game-winner," Harper said. "It was a cool move, it was one-handed. It was all over YouTube."

This season, Harper scored one goal and dished out two assists in a 7-6 overtime win over Tri-City. On Oct. 18, he scored once and added three assists in an 8-6 win over Kelowna.

Harper began playing for Everett in the 2005-06 season, as a 16-year-old free agent. He attended Valencia as a freshman and sophomore, before moving to Everett High School as a junior and most of his senior year.

"I wasn't sure if I wanted to sign or go to college," Harper said. "I ended up loving it, so I stayed here."
Since he was signed by Everett, Harper has gotten adjusted to life on the road.

Everett plays 72 games per season and Harper only missed one last season. He now lives alone but close to his teammates.

"Being alone, you learn responsibility," Harper said. "You have to prepare for road games a day or two early. We play a lot of games per week, so it wears on your body."

Some of that wear and tear involved Harper's teeth. Three weeks ago, he broke two of his teeth near the front of his mouth. The injury requires him to wear a full cage.

"Someone was trying to score and I tried to block the shot," Harper said. "The puck hit me and I went down. There was a big old puddle of blood."

Harper's parents have been able to visit him two or three times per season. There is a Parents Day every January. His games also stream over the Internet, so anyone can watch him play.

"He's developed quite a bit," said Mike Harper, Shane's father. "It's the most difficult minor league in the world, second to one in Russia. It's very unusual to have a 16-year-old playing at that high a level."

Harper's first two seasons with Everett were spent playing with former NHL head coach Kevin Constantine, who formerly coached the San Jose Sharks, Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils from 1993 to 2002.

Constantine preached more of a defensive style, as opposed to current head coach John Becanic's more offensive preferences.

"It was stifling his offensive creativity, but it made him a better overall player," Mike Harper said. "His scoring went up these past two years."

In 2007, Harper was able to transfer back to Valencia High in order to graduate with people he grew up with.


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