Pither has enjoyed an overage season which has made it easy to forget he's an answer to a trivia question: Who was drafted immediately ahead of Kings star defenceman Drew Doughty in the 2005 OHL priority selection?
With that in mind, one cannot help but feel a little happy for how Pither has come into his own as an offensive player during his final two OHL seasons, first in Belleville and more recently with Barrie, which has earned him a shot with the NHL's Philadelphia Flyers. He sort of exemplifies the frustrating/fascinating part of following junior, which is how a player's development can take a backseat to a coach, or a general manager's priorities.
Doughty needs no introduction. Pither's path has been a bit more twisted.. After Kingston chose him No. 4 overall in '05, one spot before Doughty went to the Guelph Storm, Pither lasted all of 73 games with the Frontenacs. Kingston GM Larry Mavety shipped him to the Storm in October 2006 to try to plug a leak in goal.
That move didn't work particularly well for anyone. The goalie who went to Kingston, Jason Guy, had a 4.30 goals-against average and .880 save percentage in 55 games for the Fronts across two part-seasons, least of all Pither. As he told Sunaya Sapurji last fall:
"Under then-head coach Dave Barr, Pither languished with the (Storm's) strict defence-first philosophy.
" 'He wanted to get the most out of me,' says Pither of Barr. 'So if it was sitting me for a shift, or moving me down a line, I'd have to work my way back up. I just think I was frustrated with it sometimes, but the more I look back at it, I think the more it helped me."
"A move to Belleville at the trade deadline last season ignited both his confidence and his scoring touch; he finished with 42 points in 23 games with the Bulls after netting 30 points in 41 games in Guelph. He was able to parlay that success into his first NHL camp, much later than he had ever anticipated.
Now Pither is on the NHL's radar screen, despite the faltering start. The defence-first system Barr ran in Guelph obviously paid off wonderfully for Drew Doughty.
Pither, though, managed to eventually find his form in the OHL, which is gratifying. It might not seem journalistic to play favourites, but who better than a journalist to know young talent is fragile? Besides, any hockey player born in 1989 whose musical stylings run toward "old acoustic standards, like Led Zeppelin and Neil Young," merits support.
(That Neil Young reference is from October, so no word if Pither has expanded his setlist to include covering Jimmy Fallon doing a Neil Young interpretation of Pants On The Ground.)