Tim Bozon has had to make a lot of adjustments since being traded to the Kootenay Ice in October. But now, more than a month later, things are starting to come together for the former Kamloops Blazers forward.
And it's just in time to face his old team.
Bozon, 19, played parts of three seasons for the Blazers, before being dealt to the Ice on Oct. 22, along with 19-year-old defender Landon Cross. In return, the Blazers received forward Colin Shirley, defenceman Matt Thomas and three draft picks.
In 153 games with Kamloops, Bozon was one of the team's more prolific scorers, putting up 169 points, including 75 goals.
Now, in Cranbrook with the Ice, things have certainly been different.
"Well, obviously it has been a slow start," Bozon said Thursday, though his numbers tell a different story. In 18 games with the Ice this season he's chipped in 15 points, including four goals. "It always takes time to adjust after a trade but I think the last two weeks have been better and I've been playing my game. I'm looking forward to the rest of the season to get better and play my best."
Though critical of his early play with Kootenay, Bozon preached patience prior to his return to Interior Savings Centre tonight and said his game has been coming around of late. While he hasn't found the scoresheet in his last three games, he has been pleased with his play.
"It took me a while to get adjusted to the team, to the coaching staff, to the system. The Eastern Conference - it's a little bit different compared to the Western. It's more close games and I didn't really know the teams because in Kamloops I used to only play against these teams once a year or only a couple times a year."
Bozon is certainly being given the opportunity to shine with the Ice; he has spent most of his time on a line with Sam Reinhart and Jaedon Descheneau. Reinhart, who will likely be drafted in the first round of the upcoming NHL entry draft, has 47 points in 31 games this season, including 16 goals. Descheneau is also having a fine season with 39 points, including 19 goals.
Bozon has been reaping the benefits of skating with his new linemates and said playing with Reinhart has forced him to be at his best night in and night out.
Bozon said the coaching style of Ice head coach Ryan McGill has taken some getting used to as well, after playing the first part of his season under Blazers head coach Dave Hunchak. Bozon described both as great coaches but said that Hunchak's approach is more focused on teaching and he practises more patience with his players than McGill does.
"He's a coach that expects a lot from you, especially from the top players, he wants you to be at your best every game and to focus on details and make everything perfect, almost," Bozon said of McGill. "For sure when he's not happy, he's going to let you know and he won't be afraid to speak with you if you're not playing well to let you know he's not happy with you.
"So it's also been part of the adjustment when I first came in. I was surprised, but I think he's the kind of coach that's going to push me and it's up to me to perform every night."
For the most part, Bozon said the trade has been a good fit for him. The Ice is in the thick of the playoff hunt in the Eastern Conference - it sits in seventh heading into tonight's game against the Blazers - and in this, his final year in the WHL, Bozon is hoping to get another shot at competing for the Memorial Cup.
"I don't want to say bad things about Kamloops, I love the city I loved playing in Kamloops but if you look now where they are in the standings it was probably the best option for me," he said.
Bozon doesn't know what sort of reaction he'll get from the Blazers faithful at Interior Savings Centre tonight, but he's hoping to leave a lasting impression in his last game at the Kamloops rink.
"I'm really excited," he said. "I'm a little bit nervous because you never know what the game's going to bring to you, but obviously I want to play one of my best games because I know it's going to be my last game in front of the Kamloops Blazers fans. I'm really looking forward to it."