(photo from Jets facebook page)
Man am I looking forward to some Trouba time. I think this kid is going to be awesome, and that comes only partially from my profound sense of pro-Jets bias.
Earlier this April, the Jets signed their 9th overall pick from the 2012 Draft, and as of yet, he has yet to do anything other than practice. But one of these days, we’re likely to see Trouba – who has been given #3 by the Jets, joining previous Jets Sergei Bautin, Ross Cory, Dave Manson, Bryan Marchment, Bryan Maxwell, Dan Mcfall, Robert Picard, Brent Thompson in the #3 Club – hit the Ice, and I can’t wait.
In his freshman year at the University of Michigan, the 19 year old, 6’2, 187LB defenseman from Rochester, Michigan, had 12 goals and 17 assists for 29 points in 37 games. Pretty decent numbers for a young defenseman in the fairly competitve NCAA. But it’s not the numbers that stand out to me.
You see, during the World Juniors earlier this year, I kept a very keen eye on Mr. Trouba. Between my being a night person, the games airing at 2:00am, and my extreme interest in finding out just who this kid was, I was in an ideal position to watch him play, unbothered by both loved ones and a sense of having to be elsewhere, doing otherwise.
And what I saw floored me. The poise. The shot. The positioning. He was beyond good. In fact, at everything, he was either good or above.
His shot is a Cannon – or to use more modern war technology, a Drone. And he seemed to unwind it effortlessly. He made smart passes, kept the play moving in the offensive zone, and generally had a poise to his game that signified both confidence and skill of the highest degree.
And then there was his Defensive game, which I would describe as incredibly astute. He was in position, strong, mobile, and generally significantly more effective than any other defenseman out there, including Seth Jones, who admittedly is a year younger. World Junior Tournament domination is not an automatic ticket to NHL greatness, but rest very well assured that there was a helluva good reason for Jacob Trouba being named the Best Defenseman of the Tournament.
But it was something beyond all that that imprsessed me more than any of the Gold Medal winning, Best Defensman Award winning and overall aptitude that sits well above ‘good’. I had seen a flash of it earlier in the Tournament, but in a game against Canada, he blew me away, and won over my fan-heart.
The play was deep in the Americans zone, in the corner to the right of the net. Battling hard for the puck was Trouba, with none other than Mark Schiefle, fellow Jet 1st rounder. It was the kind of moment that makes a non-parent proud. And what happened next made me glow.
The two of them battled hard for the puck, dragging each other to the ice just as Trouba had cleared the puck. Down they went, and immedialtely, Trouba began giving his fellow prosect some serious business, punching Schiefele in the face. In the face! Then he got up and joined the play.
Now, if you do that on Public Transit, you’re likely to spend some time in a court room, at least. But if you do that on the ice, you, my friend, are a winner. This is the exact kind of player I want on my Team 10 times out of 10. A battler. A competitor. A man with controllable bursts of rage.
And I know games get heated, and all kinds of associations are thrown out the window once the pucks drops, but I can’t for a second believe he didn’t know full well who’s face he was feeding with punches. I can happily report that Jacob Trouba is the kind of guy who’ll punch a future teammate in the face repeatedly – all in the name of Victory.
I was left with the distinct impression that the Jets had found themselves a real jewel of a Prospect. All I could think of when I watched him was ‘Shea Weber’, and ‘how cool is it to watch live hockey at 4am’.
How long do we have to wait to see him?
As of yet, we don’t know. His absence could be explained a couple of ways. One – he’s simply not ready yet. With the Jets engaged in a Playoff race, now isn’t the ideal time to throw an unproven rookie into the mix. What if he’s not ready, and Steven Stamkos blows by him late in the 3rd period to put Tampa in the lead? That’s bad news for both the Jets fortunes and Trouba’s confidence moving forward.
There’s another, and more likely, reason we haven’t seen him yet. The ‘Slide’ rule. Or, as Jets fans know it, the Schiefele rule. Essentially, by Trouba playing less than 6 games in this Lockout-shortened season, a Year on his contract will not be burned. It will ‘slide’ to next year. Basically, by not playing Trouba yet, they get to retain him for an extra season at his much cheaper Entry Level caphit.
And what do you know, the Jets have 6 games left. If you are a betting person, you should bet a dollar or two that Jacob Trouba will be in the lineup Thursday against Carolina – the Jets 5th last game of the Season. If Trouba can keep up, expect him to remain a mainstay on the Jets blueline for a very signifigant period of time, and expect an awkward reunion for Trouba and Scheifele at next year’s training camp.