‘Down on the farm’ is a bi-weekly feature series on Oil Caps prospects. First up in this series: Blake Jacques. Enjoy.
By Lanny Stewart
His last name is pronounced ‘Jakes’.
“Not too many know that,” said 17-year-old Oil Caps prospect Blake Jacques, who is hoping one day he’ll be a household name in the game he began playing at an early age.
Jacques grew up in the minor hockey system in Winnipeg, spending time with the Monarchs bantam squads and city midget team, eventually finding himself with the AAA midget Wild. After a short stint there, the Oil Caps prospect wound up finding a new home, joining the Rink Hockey Academy midget prep squad in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League last season.
Jamie Hodson, director of business and hockey operations for the Oil Capitals, says Jacques had an impressive showing at training camp and in Virden’s preseason games earlier this year and is excited about the progress the 5-foot-11, 174 pound forward has made since he was drafted back in 2016 in the sixth round of the MJHL Bantam Draft.
“He’s going to have a great year at RHA and continue to develop and he’s going to be a big part of our team success moving forward starting next year and potentially as an AP (affiliate player) this year too,” Hodson said.
Hodson says he’s a well-liked player in the dressing room, largely because he makes time for everybody, especially his teammates. Those intangibles are key factors in RHA’s decision to name him captain of the club this season.
“He’s a very unselfish individual and he wants what’s best for the team, not necessarily what’s best for him,” Hodson added. “It’s hard to find those kinds of characteristics in players sometimes. Those kinds of leadership qualities are going to be well utilized in our organization in the future.”
He’s also been labelled with the hockey term ‘200-foot player’ because of his ability to play at both ends of the rink – and that ingredient in his game is what has had a lasting effect on Oil Caps head coach and GM Troy Leslie.
“I think it’s going to allow him to get some minutes when he comes to us,” he said. “He’s a very disciplined guy. He’s always prepared for practice, he’s always prepared for whatever that’s in front of him. He’s come a long way since we drafted him.”
The CSSHL is an education-based hockey program where development is a key feature, says Rob Smith, head coach of Jacques’ RHA team. Jacques and the rest of the RHA squad attend Winnipeg’s Shaftesbury High School in the morning, and in the afternoon, take part in a list of hockey-based requirements, which includes a daily workout as well as on-ice and study hall sessions.
Along with a 36-game schedule as well as exhibition games and tournaments, Jacques and the RHA team will be travelling down south this season to take on teams from Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota.
“Exposure is key, so we’re trying to get our guys exposure to western Canada and down south as well,” Smith said.
Not only is Jacques receiving the necessary exposure, he’s also turning heads early this season as he’s off to a solid start in his second season at RHA with eight points in six games thus far (as of Oct. 15).
“Most players do obviously develop but he’s actually been one of our guys on our program who has really improved the most in my opinion,” Smith added. “Because of that commitment, he takes it very seriously and comes prepared every day. He knows what he wants.”
Asked who he models his game after? Jacques says it’s Patrice Bergeron of the NHL’s Boston Bruins, who just so happens to be one of the best ‘200-foot’ players in the game today.
“I just want to lead my team and hopefully we can win a championship,” Jacques said regarding his goals for this season.
Spoken like a true leader.
A scout’s take
Oil Caps head scout Brian Elder, who was with the MJHL club when Jacques was drafted, says the organization is thrilled to have Jacques in their system.
“We’re always excited in the draft when kids fall to us in those later rounds that we have projected going sooner. In this case, I think he has progressed the way we kind of envisioned. Obviously playing with RHA the last couple of years and being on the ice everyday in that program definitely doesn’t hurt him as a player. I think he’s done a lot himself to improve as a hockey player. I would say from a scouting perspective, he’s progressed nicely for us, that’s for sure.”
‘An exceptional golfer’
When he’s not focused on getting better on the ice, Jacques can be found on golf courses in the summer months. He finished in second place in the 15-and-under category at the 2016 Manitoba Summer Games. His foursome wound up winning gold in the team event.
“He’s an exceptional golfer,” Smith said. “I know that he’s a top golfer at his age in Manitoba. He’s been to some big events and he spends the majority of his summer training. I know he’s taken it to another level when it comes to golfing.”
Asked if he’s gone golfing with him, Smith replied, “I haven’t. I’m too scared (laughing).”