WHL Next Generation is a 22-part series highlighting a handful of the future stars of the Western Hockey League. From first-round bantam draft picks to later-blooming selections, get to know the names of players set to establish themselves as the newest crop of exciting talent to grace the WHL. From August 1 through August 31, get the inside scoop on the incoming rookie class of 2019-20.
Team: Regina Pats
Weight: 190 pounds
Draft: REG (2018) Round: 10 (#201)
When it comes to scouting defencemen, there are a lot of checkboxes that need to be ticked off to meet the requirements of the role. Big-bodied, physical, dual-minded with an emphasis on the defensive zone first, and sacrificial all come to mind when looking for a solid defenceman you want protecting your blueline.
The Regina Pats were able to check off all of those boxes and more in defenceman Jake Johnson.
“I’m a two-way defenceman,” Johnson said when describing his style of play. “I’m pretty big-bodied and I like to be physical, block shots, make a good first past and then jump up into the offence when the time’s right.”With skills like these, Johnson hopes to bolster the Pats’ blueline efforts in the upcoming season. Along with his skills on the ice, Johnson has been working on maturing his mental game. While players continue to mature as they age up in hockey, for Johnson, he really started to recognize his mental growth in his second year of bantam with the Compuware Bantam Major AAA team in Plymouth, Michigan in the Higher Performance Major Bantam Hockey League (HPBHL).
“I think there are ups and downs in every season and you just learn how to adapt to those,” Johnson said. “It happened more in my 14-year-old year when I played in Michigan. It was a bigger learning curve for me when I wasn’t on the ice as much, so I had to work really hard during those shifts that I got to hopefully produce and earn more ice time.
“Even though it was a tough thing to learn, it helped me mature my game. I know that every time I step onto the ice, I have to give it my all.”Johnson also saw the newly gained maturity translate to his performance this past season when he played with the Phoenix Jr. Coyotes Under-15 team of the Tier 1 Elite Hockey League U15 level (T1EHL U15). In 24 regular-season games, Johnson recorded 17 points (3G-14A), leading his team in defensive scoring. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound blueliner was also appointed captain for the season.
“I got a lot of confidence this year being the captain and the leader of my team,” Johnson said. “I was put on the ice for a lot of situations this year, so I was able to prepare myself for next year in the WHL when things get tougher.” After checking off the required boxes to get to the next level, maturing his game and preparing himself physically with a heavy workout regime, Johnson feels ready to head into Pats camp at the end of August.
“I skate every Tuesday and Thursday and then I’m in the gym Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturdays for workouts with my trainer to get bigger and stronger for next year.
“The main goal is obviously to make the team, but you also have to have fun when you’re there. You only get one rookie camp, so I want to enjoy it and take it day by day.”
With these things in mind, Johnson looks to check off the next box in his hockey career: making Regina’s roster.