Ever since he laced up his first pair of skates, Winnipeg Jets prospect Jansen Harkins’ always knew where to go when in need of some hockey wisdom.
Jansen’s father Todd, who has 11 years of pro hockey under his belt, had always played a role throughout Jansen’s young hockey career. Wheather it was giving pointers on the fundamentals of the game, the ins, and outs of a breakout or the principles of work ethic, Jansen had an ex-pro like his father Todd to show him the ropes. “If your family member has been a professional athlete, I think they have a tendency to be pretty hard on you growing up,” said Jansen, who finished off his 2016-2017 season with the Manitoba Moose.
“I think it’s kinda made me the player I am now.”
Even as Jansen moved up from the midget hockey ranks to play for the WHL’s Prince George Cougars in 2013, Todd remained involved in Jansen’s hockey career as he was serving as the Cougars’ Director of Player Personnel at the time. The following year, Todd was hired as the Cougars’ General Manager and the whole Harkins’ clan couldn’t have been happier. Shortly after Todd’s promotion, more members of the Harkins family would join the Cougars organization. That summer, the families eldest son Nicklas became the team’s assistant equipment manager and in a few years down the road, the families youngest, Jonas, would be drafted by the Cougars in 2015.
Life for the Harkins family was all about the Cougars, which brought upon it’s fair share of difficulties. As enjoyable as it was for Todd to have Jansen on the team, balancing a father/son relationship along with a player/GM relationship proved to rather difficult.
“There were times that I struggled with [being Jansen’s GM and Dad] because I was very emotional with the game that just happened or the week that we just had as a team,” said Todd during our telephone interview. “I didn’t have my total undivided attention to my son [and] first and foremost, I’m his dad,” reiterated Todd.
Leading into his final WHL season, Jansen made an independent decision to move out of the families home and into the house of a billet family. Jansen was set to start his professional career a year later and it seemed like a fitting time to transition to what life was like outside his parents home. “By him moving out and having that separation when my son needed me for advice or any type of feedback, I knew he was calling me as a dad and not asking me as a general manager,” said Todd.
“I can tell you that I became closer with my son because of that.”
Jansen’s final WHL season saw him not only lead the Cougars in scoring but also embrace a leadership role with the club as he served as an integral figure in the team’s first-place B.C division finish. Despite the team’s impressive regular season, Prince George was knocked off by the Portland Winterhawks in the first round and three days after the Cougars were eliminated, Jansen inked a three-year entry-level contract with the Winnipeg Jets, marking the start of his professional career and the end of his career as a Cougar.
As difficult as it was for Todd to digest Prince George’s disappointing playoff, nothing could tame the excitement he had for his son. “It’s hard for me to put it into words how I feel as a dad [seeing] your son move on to play pro hockey and live his lifelong dream since he was a little boy,” said Todd with beaming excitement.
Fresh off the plane from Prince George, Harkins joined the Moose on April 7th to play the team’s final four regular season games. This wasn’t Harkins’ first kick at the can at the AHL level as the North Vancouver native had suited up for six games with the club a year prior. Harkins didn’t look out of place when he played his last ATO with the Moose, he even chipped in offensively with three points in six games. But this time around for the Moose, Harkins didn’t just fit the cliche of “bigger, faster, stronger,” Harkins looked like a much more complete player.
While skating on the left wing alongside AHL veterans Patrice Cormier and J.C Lipon, Harkins recorded four points in as many games. While Harkins played a large chunk of WHL days down the middle, the North Vancouver native is capable of playing either of the three forward positions, which comes in handy when you play for Moose Head Coach Pascal Vincent. Throughout the Moose’s season, Vincent had tried to add different tools to players toolboxes by playing players in all sorts of positions and with Harkins’ already used to playing all three positions—He was one step ahead of the game.
Over Harkins’ two AHL stints, he’s played in a variety of different roles, including some time on both the power play and the team’s penalty kill. Harkins’ is a hockey swiss-army-knife of sorts, possessing not only the ability to score but the ability to play multiple positions and be relied on in all situations. This ability doesn’t come naturally to every player, no matter how much skill a player has.
But of all the skills Harkins’ has in his toolbox, his hockey IQ may be his sharpest one.
“[Harkins is] a very smart player on the ice, you can see that he thinks the game right,” said Pascal Vincent after Harkins’ season debut on April 7th. “He can create some stuff offensively, but he’s also reliable defensively, he picked up [our] system pretty quick.”
Both the Winnipeg Jets and Jansen hope that his ability to be a quick study will lead to continued success with the Moose and maybe even into a true following in his father’s footsteps with a career in the NHL.