SUMMERSIDE - Former Summerside Western Capital Will Johnston of Suffolk is making the jump to pro hockey.
The six-foot-two, 210-pound forward has signed a one-year contract with the Cincinnati Cyclones of the East Coast Hockey League.
"I'm looking forward to it," said Johnston, who accumulated 134 points and 700 penalty minutes in 146 regular-season and playoff games with the Caps the last three years. "It's always something I've debated, whether I wanted to stay home or go away.
"I think I have made the right choice. If you have the opportunity now, you may as well take it because it may not come later in life."
Johnston, who turns 21 later this month, also entertained a couple of other pro offers, but he feels the Cyclones are the best fit for him.
Johnston, who was named the most valuable player of the MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League) playoffs, was a key contributor to the Caps winning their second Kent Cup in three years. In 15 post-season games, Johnston finished with 23 points, including 10 goals.
"You are a small fish in a big pond when you go down there, so it's kind of like starting over," Johnston said.
The turning point of his career, noted Johnston, was joining the Capitals. He previously played in the MHL for the Charlottetown Abbies, who folded after the 2007-08 season. When Johnston first broke into the league, he was known as mostly a fighter. However, over time, that changed with the Capitals.
"It's all in confidence," said Johnston. "If you're a player coming up and you get introduced to a fighting role and do real well at it, the picture is painted right off the bat - people think you are a fighter before you are even given a chance to show you can play hockey. . .
"Coming to Summerside and having Kenny MacDougall (as head coach in 2008-09), he gave me some confidence as the year went along. Then having Gordie (Dwyer as head coach) the last two years, he was the icing on the cake.
"When it comes down to the evolution of me as a player, it comes down to confidence."
In Cincinnati, Johnston hopes his playing ability will speak just as loud, or louder, as his toughness.
"Fighting is a part of hockey, and that's fine and dandy," said Johnston. "But being able to play the game is a whole other task. I'm going to go down (to Cincinnati), and play the way I did this year.
"I'm not going to go down and just fight. If you can play hockey, use all your tools."
Will Johnston's statistics with Summerside Western Capitals:
GP G A Pts PIM
2008-09 37 5 18 23 163
2009-10 42 23 22 45 224
2010-11 37 15 23 38 197
Totals 116 43 63 106 584
2008-09 13 1 2 3 75
2009-10 2 0 2 2 17
2010-11 15 10 13 23 24
Totals 30 11 17 28 116