There’s just something about Western Financial Place that seems to work for Jeff de Wit.
The 19-year-old forward made his debut for the Kootenay Ice last Thursday and quickly proved his worth. In game two on Saturday, he scored a pair of goals and was given a rousing ovation as the night’s first star.
It was the second multi-goal performance of de Wit’s WHL career. His only other two-goal game was on December 31, 2015 as a member of the Red Deer Rebels during a road game in Cranbrook.
“I think you can see the talent he has,” said Ice head coach James Patrick after Saturday’s 5-3 win over the Everett Silvertips. “He can make high-end plays [and] he can play [in our] top six forward [group].
“I know he wasn’t playing as much in Regina, so I think his conditioning still has a way to go. Hopefully, in the next couple of weeks, he can really pick up on that.”
de Wit was acquired from the Pats on October 10 in exchange for gritty fourth line winger Tanner Sidaway and a seventh-round draft pick. While he played his first game centering the checking line without any practice time on Thursday, for Saturday he was promoted to a top line winger.
“He was a first-round player coming into this league and he showed that [on Saturday],” Patrick said. “He’s obviously got talent.”
His abilities were on full display in the first period against the Silvertips, when he opened the night’s scoring with a toe-drag to bar-down wrist shot that quickly got the crowd on their feet.
He was rewarded at the end of the game with an empty net goal, assisted by linemate Colton Kroeker, to solidify his team’s 5-3 victory.
“I’m excited to be here [and] I’m excited for the opportunity ahead,” de Wit said on Friday afternoon about playing for the Ice. “I think we have a young team, but [are] a group that’s able to make a push for the playoffs.”
— Kootenay ICE (@WHLKootenayICE) October 13, 2017
While, as a member of the Memorial Cup host Regina Pats, de Wit was guaranteed a long post-season, he believes that his experience can help Kootenay make the leap this year to being a more competitive team.
In three full seasons in the league, de Wit has competed in the Memorial Cup with the Red Deer Rebels and went to league finals last year with the Pats.
“I know there are a few guys [here] that haven’t had a taste of the playoffs yet [so] I guess what I can tell them is that playoffs is a whole lot of fun,” de Wit said. “It’s definitely something that, as the year goes on, you have to push for. Games in October and November are huge. We’ve got to stay the course here [and know that] every game counts.”
As for his own game, the Red Deer-native has a solid idea of what he is expected to bring to the table.
“As an older guy, [I’ve] got more responsibility as a player,” he explained. “Offensively, I need to chip in and I need to play a 200-foot game.”
He also said that he is finding the transition into the new locker room and city to be pretty seamless.
“It’s an easy group of guys to get along with [and] with my character and my personality, it’s not too hard to fit in with a new team,” de Wit said. “It’s good. I’m not too worried about that. Day by day, it will get better.”
Captain Cale Fleury agreed and expressed excitement at his new teammate’s early success after the Saturday win.
“It’s awesome [to see him doing well],” Fleury said. “[We] actually made mention of that after the game too, how easy we made it for him to transition into the team on and off the ice. I’m happy that he’s happy here and I’m glad to have him on the team.”
With 11 career games at Western Financial Place as an opponent and now a member of the Ice, de Wit has 7 total goals. He will look to continue his success in the Cranbrook arena during the team’s next home game on Tuesday against the Moose Jaw Warriors.