There is a level of comfort for Tri-City Americans coach Mike Williamson when defenseman Parker Wotherspoon is in the lineup.
Wotherspoon, 19, missed the first two games of the Americans’ season while attending the New York Islanders camp. In the five games since his return, he has made an immediate impact with nine assists (six on the power play) and a power-play goal.
“It’s great to get him back,” Williamson said. “He’s back in a good frame of mind. He had a good camp. They gave him some good feedback on what to work on coming back. He is off to a great start for us. He logs a lot of ice time and is a key part of our team in all situations.”
A fourth-round NHL draft pick of the Islanders in 2015, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Wotherspoon said he enjoyed New York, but is happy to be back.
“It was awesome. I got to play with the big guys again,” Wotherspoon said. “You learn as much as you can while you are there. The big difference is the level of professionalism. The guys are serious about the job. It’s awesome being around guys who care so much. It’s their lifestyle. It’s good to be back. I have a lot of fun coming to the rink every day, and it’s exciting to go to war with them every night we have a game.”
Wotherpsoon and the Americans will be back on home ice Friday, when they host the Kamloops Blazers, and Saturday when the Prince George Cougars roll into town. Tri-City is 3-0-0-0 at Toyota Center this season and 4-3-0-0 overall.
“They are a couple of good teams that have proven themselves so far,” Wotherspoon said of the weekend competition. “We’re just looking to win at home. That is one of our strengths, and that’s what we need to do this year.”
With a big stretch of road games coming up on the schedule, Williamson said winning at home is key.
“We want to make sure we are a tough team to play on home ice,” Williamson said. “The guys have done a good job of that. These two games are extremely important. After these two, we go on the road for six. We are playing two good teams that are supposed to be at the top of the conference. It should be a good challenge for us.”
Wotherspoon’s nine assists have him tied for fourth in the WHL, while his six power-play assists rank second. His 10 points tie him for the team lead in scoring with Michael Rasmussen (8 goals, 2 assists).
The nine assists leave Wotherspoon with 103 for his career. He just surpassed Steve Jacques (98, 1988-90) on the defensemen leaderboard and is one shy of tying the late Todd Klassen (1990-93). Tyler Schmidt (2006-11) leads with 132.
“He’s been such a key part of this organization for a long time,” Williamson said. “He’s a top defenseman in the league. He plays in so many different situations. He puts up points, but he also plays against other teams’ best players every night, and he kills penalties. It’s great to have a guy like that in your lineup with his experience. He has been a great Tri-City American, and he wants to help us win games.”
UNDER-17 HOCKEY CHALLENGE: Americans rookie forward Carson Focht was named to Team Canada’s roster for the Under-17 Hockey Challenge, set for Oct. 27-Nov. 5 in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
“It’s a great tournament,” Williamson said. “It’s a good honor. It recognizes him as one of the top players in that age group. He is a tremendously talented hockey player, and it’s a good opportunity for him to go and play against his own age group for a week and hopefully use that experience and confidence and come back and really push himself into some more situations for us.”