By Carmen Dittoe – Silvertips Staff Writer
EVERETT, Wash. – For first-year players in the Western Hockey League, there are not many solid expectations. Everyone gains speed and improvement at different rates, contributing different aspects of value to a team’s roster. However, one member of the Everett Sivertips managed to exceed all expectations before there were hardly even any in place.
Reece Vitelli, a 2001-born right wing, played 70 games last season—an incredible stat for a first-year player.
“What’s great about Reece was that when he first came to camp, I don’t know if he thought he was even going to make it,” said head coach Dennis Williams. “As it turned out, he played a whole lot of minutes for us because he proved himself responsible.”
When Vitelli learned he made the team, he was more than ready for the new experience.
“Going into camp, I wasn’t expecting much,” said Vitelli. “But, I knew I wanted to make the team so I just kept working hard. I was really excited to come to Everett for the season—playing in the WHL has always been my dream, my family was really proud of me.”
After claiming his roster spot, he kicked off his rookie season and league debut with his first WHL career goal just 17 minutes into the home opener against Portland. From that point on, it was a climb of adjustments and hard work for the young forward.
“I was learning and adjusting as I went. I’d never had such a long season—playing all those games and minutes was definitely different for me,” said Vitelli. “But we were going into the gym everyday and eating the right stuff. I was really just doing all I could to prepare myself and my body to be at its best each and every game.”
Vitelli’s work ethic and performance is in character for the Winnipeg native, said teammate Connor Dewar.
“He’s a relentless worker,” said Dewar. “He is a mobile player who brings so much energy to the ice and creates a lot of chances for us. He exceeded everyone’s expectations by following the ones he had in place for himself.”
Williams said the team relied heavily on Vitelli, especially through the playoff stretch.
“He was always a solid effort,” the coach explained. “He never had a lack of compete or grit to his game. Next year, the ice time he had in his first season will only benefit him and make him more of a contributor.”
As for next year, the standard for Vitelli is set high. After taking everything day by day for his first season and logging ten points in 70 games, Dewar believes the expectations for his teammate are fitting.
“After the performance he had, everyone believes in his abilities, work ethic, and determination. He set the bar high for himself,” said Dewar, “but we all believe in him and in the fact that if he wants to take his game to the next level, he will.”
Vitelli said he received valuable experience from his first year, especially after he learned what it took to be effective against players who are older and bigger than himself.
“My goal for next year is to be a top-six guy and keep working really hard to put myself in that position,” explained Vitelli. “I also want to be able to step up as a second year player and be able to point new guys in the right direction, especially when it comes to how they need to treat their bodies in order to perform every night.”
The possibilities are endless for the forward’s second year in the league.