Finn Withey's road to the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League took a little bit of a detour this summer.
After committing to the perennial contender Campbell River Storm following six games as an affiliated player last season, the Whistlerite was traded to the rival Comox Valley Glacier Kings in September in exchange for veteran grinder Sheldon Brett.
After Comox Valley suffered a down year last season, Withey has been at the centre of a Glacier Kings resurgence, as they are challenging the Storm for first place in the North Division. With 17 points, Withey sits fifth in league scoring and was just named VIJHL player of the week after a five-point outing against Oceanside.
After getting some experience last season, he knew he'd come into the season prepared, but even with a mind for the game, surprised even himself to this point.
"Maybe not this many points, but I was hoping to get a good start. I was really happy with how it's been so far," he said. "It's definitely helpful to have good linemates. I have Derick Smith and Zach Ahola and they're really helping me out. They're really helping me get some points when they finish off my passes.
"I think the game well, so it helps put me up over my opponents."
Glacier Kings head coach Joey Ewing, a longtime bench boss in the Whistler Winterhawks system, has known Withey for years and was excited for the chance to be reunited with the 17-year-old with a nose for the net.
"Finn's doing great," he said. "We wanted to spark a little life into the program and I know Finn when I used to coach up there. I've known him since he was a little kid.
"The Whistler connection, I always try to bring back here because it was my home for so long."
Ewing said he had high expectations for Withey, though he has exceeded them to this point.
"Finn has just turned into an amazing hockey player and such a great kid. His scoring touch and his idea of what he does around the net is pretty amazing," he said. "He's been more than we expected here. He's playing on our top line. He's got six power-play goals. Everything he's doing is amazing right now."
One area Ewing is focusing on is defensive responsibility, as Withey has been more offensive-minded in the past. The coach noted improvement should come quickly, as Withey slides into new systems fairly well.
"The defensive side of the puck is probably the biggest adjustment for him and he's still working on that, but he's surrounded by great players, two American kids that are very good hockey players," he said. "I believe throughout his career, he'll just adjust to the next level. He's one of those kids that figures it out. (He's) very quiet, but understands very well."
Withey expects so, too, as with much more opportunity to practice than he's enjoyed in the past, he'll get more time on the ice tinkering with those skills of his game.
"It's definitely something our team and me, myself need to work on. That'll probably come with more practicing during the season," he said. "Hopefully that part of my game steps up, too."
And with the Glacier Kings seemingly on par with the Storm to this point in the season, Withey, who won a provincial title in the Winterhawks system last year, could find himself celebrating at season's end again.
"I think we can go all the way if the players on the team commit themselves to it," he said.