There are times Parker Wotherspoon gets so excited to shoot the puck that he doesn’t take notice of the defender in front of him.
While he knows you can’t shoot the puck through people, the Tri-City Americans veteran defenseman still is willing to take the shot — you never know what could happen.
“I love to shoot the puck, for sure,” Wotherspoon said. “One more year, more confidence for me. I’ve taken responsibility offensively. When you score, it’s a great feeling. Not many things compare to that. It’s like other sports — like a home run when you hear that hit off the bat.”
The 6-foot, 175-pound Wotherspoon has five goals this season, but his biggest contribution has come from assists, whether it be a slick pass or a shot that gets deflected into the net.
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When you score, it’s a great feeling. Not many things compare to that. It’s like other sports — like a home run when you hear that hit off the bat.
He has 22 points, third among Tri-City players. His 18 assists is second to Parker Bowles’ 19. Among Western Hockey League defensemen, he is 11th in scoring going into tonight’s game at Seattle, though just seven points back of leader Joe Hicketts of Victoria.
“It’s a big team stat,” Wotherspoon said of his success. “You get the individual aknowledgement, but there are all the players around you like Bowlsie and Tops (Jordan Topping) that score goals.”
Americans coach Mike Williamson appreciates what Wotherspoon brings to the ice.
“I think he is a very versatile player, an all-around valuable player,” Williamson said. “A player that as a coach you have out on the ice at the end of the game when you are protecting a lead, to start games to get the momentum. If you need a goal, he’s the guy you can rely on. He’s valuable in different situations. He’s not just a player who brings one thing to the table. He does a lot well. We rely on him a lot.”
And with responsibility comes ice time. Maybe too much in Wotherspoon’s case.
“We talked about finding a way to cut his ice time back because he is out there in so many different situations,” Williamson said. “His minutes seem to creep up especially when games are close or we need to get back in a game. You rely on your top guys to help in those situations.
“He likes to be out there. The biggest thing we talked to him about is to be more efficient. He plays a hard style, takes hits to make plays and puts himself in some situations where teams have a chance to finish their checks on him. We’d like to see him continue that competitive nature, but do it a little bit more efficient — move the puck faster, take less hits. He if does those things, it will be easier to play those minutes.”
Wotherspoon, a native of Surrey, British Columbia, was a fourth-round draft pick of the New York Islanders in June. His play in Tri-City is closely watched by the New York scouts, making Williamson even more aware of his development.
“The biggest thing is we want to see him continue to develop, and the Islanders want him to work on making simple plays and not trying to do too much,” Williamson said. “Some of the decisions he makes sometimes are more difficult than they have to be.”
While Wotherspoon works on refining his game, Williamson is happy to have him and fellow defensemen Brandon Carlo and Juuso Välimäki joining the offensive rush.
“We really want our defense to be part of our offense,” Williamson said. “We want them to join the play, we want them to shoot the puck, to jump in from the blue line. He, Carls and Juuso all have some good offensive instincts, and you want them to shoot the puck. If there is one thing we’d like him to work on, it’s shooting the puck a little quicker, opening the lanes and not getting shots blocked. When he’s getting pucks through, that is a big part of our offense.”
Wotherspoon is paired with Carlo most shifts, which makes life miserable for other teams.
“It’s awesome. He is a great player,” Wotherspoon said. “He is always reliable back there. I always know he is going to be there. He’s always talking to me, helping me out, being my eyes. Me and Carls play against the top line every night, just trying to keep the puck out of our net. The best offense is a good defense.”
While Wotherspoon makes things look easy out on the ice, he’s been playing with a fractured jaw the last three weeks and wearing a full face shield for added protection.
“I took a puck in the face in Calgary,” he said. “I got some stitches (in his chin) and played the next game without a shield because I didn’t know how bad it was. I went to the dentist and he told me I had a fractured jaw. I was shocked. Now I have to wear the cage for couple of months. I’ve taken a few sticks to the face with the shield, and without it I would have lost a couple of teeth. It’s hard to talk through it. I lost lost my voice (Wednesday at Everett) trying to scream through that thing.”