KITCHENER, Ont. -- Growing up with two older brothers in a hockey-playing family can be a challenge.
But for Blue Jackets prospect Boone Jenner, being the youngest of three boys has helped shape his identity.
“I was always the smallest one when we were growing up,” said Jenner, now a 19-year-old standout center with the Ontario Hockey League’s Oshawa Generals. “Whenever my older brothers told me to do something, I had to do it. That’s part of being the younger brother, though.”
Doing what he was told was only one part of the challenge that young Boone faced. Because when you have two older brothers who play hockey—one of whom who would become a 6-foot-4, 225-pound defenseman with the Plymouth Whalers—looking out for your own personal safety is also a top priority.
“We always played hockey against each other growing up,” said Jenner. “And they didn’t take it easy on me, either. But one thing I know for sure is that playing against them so much really taught me to elevate my game.”
Although it has been a few years since Cole and Leo Jenner—now 22 and 23-years-old, respectively—helped their younger brother graduate from their self-made school of hard knocks into Canadian junior hockey, Boone hasn’t stopped elevating his game.
In fact, after finishing sixth in scoring on the Generals with 49 points in 43 games last season, Jenner is the entire OHL’s third leading scorer through this season’s first month, with his 19 points in 14 games putting him just three points back of former Winnipeg Jets first-round draft pick and current Barrie Colt Mark Scheifele for the league lead.
“I don’t know if you can ever say that one guy is the absolute best player in a league,” said Jenner’s head coach with the Generals, DJ Smith. “But if you’re looking at the complete package as an overall player, I would have to say Boone is among the top two, three, four or five players in the OHL.
"For me as a coach, Boone’s a guy that I can put on the ice to win faceoffs, block shots and score goals. He does everything, and when he competes as hard as he does, it’s difficult for other guys to match.”
Without doubt, Jenner’s intensity is partially a product of years of competing against his older brothers, both on and off the ice. However, Jenner can thank his uncle, former seven-year NHL veteran Billy Carroll, with helping to teach him the specific nuances of how to be a winning professional hockey player.
"If you’re looking at the complete package as an overall player, I would have to say Boone is among the top two, three, four or five players in the OHL." - DJ Smith, Oshawa head coach
Jenner’s uncle’s lessons can all come from first-hand experience, too. Carroll won four Stanley Cups and played on teams that made it to the Final for five straight years in the 1980s, when he was as a valuable fourth-line checking forward on the New York Islanders teams which won Stanley Cups in 1981, 1982 and 1983, before winning his fourth championship as a member of the Wayne Gretzky-era Edmonton Oilers in 1984-85.
“My uncle won a lot at the NHL level, so he knows what it takes,” said Jenner. “We talked a lot of hockey growing up, and we still talk about my game whenever we see each other. I’m lucky to have a resource like him available to me.”
While Jenner’s playing abilities translate far beyond the lessons he was taught by his brothers and uncle, his years of apprenticeship have contributed to why he has become one of the Blue Jackets’ most promising prospects.
Another reason that Jenner is so highly thought of is because his unique combination of personal background, savvy and on-the-ice skills have blessed him with the “it” factor. Boone’s “it” factor doesn’t necessarily manifest itself in the form of the finesse of a Pavel Datsyuk or the overall pizazz of an Alexander Ovechkin; rather, Jenner’s skillset makes him somewhat of a Mike Richards-type player in that he finds a way to do everything well while emphasizing the game’s finer details.
“They (Jenner and Richards) both skate and compete hard,” Smith said. “These are guys who can score, kill penalties, play on the power play and do everything that everybody wants someone on their team to do.
"It’s a lofty comparison and it can be hard to directly compare someone Boone’s age to someone who is a veteran in the NHL, but I can see the similarities.”
Lately, Jenner isn’t just shooting up the totem pole of leading scorers in Canadian junior hockey. He is also helping his linemates, rookies Michael Dal Colle and Tyler Biggs, become more noticeable, while providing the same type of big-brother mentorship to his younger teammates that his own real-life big brothers provided him.
“Being a 16-year-old who’s still in high school, Boone shows me a lot of things that I’m going to have to do as I get older,” said Dal Colle, who won’t be eligible for the NHL Draft until 2014. “The thing with Boone is that he works as hard as he can every time he steps on the ice, whether it’s in a game or for practice. He’s the heart and soul of our team, and he sets a great example.”
“The intensity Boone plays with opens up so much more room on the ice for me,” added Biggs, a former first-round draft pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs who has 13 points in his first 14 games this season. “Our line has had a lot of success so far this year as a group, but Boone is our leader. Really, he’s our whole team’s leader.”
The respect that Jenner’s teammates have for him is represented by the “C” he wears on the shoulder of his Oshawa jersey, which is a tradition-filled organization whose notable alumni includes the likes of Bobby Orr, Eric Lindros and John Tavares.
With 2012-13 being Jenner’s final junior season, he has a couple big-picture goals he’s looking to accomplish before hopefully turning pro with either the Blue Jackets or the AHL’s Springfield Falcons next season.
First, he’s looking to fulfill his personal goal of earning a spot on Team Canada’s roster at the World Junior Championships in Ufa, Russia this December. Second, he’s looking to help the Generals win their first Memorial Cup since 1997, when current Blue Jackets assistant coach Dan Hinote wore an Oshawa jersey.
Although the 2012-13 season is only one month old, Oshawa is shaping up to be a championship contender this season, sitting in first place in the OHL’s Eastern Conference’s East Division with a 9-4-0-1 record through Thursday night’s action.
The Generals are next in action when they host the Saginaw Spirit on Friday night, with the team finishing its weekend schedule with a home tilt against the Peterborough Petes on Sunday afternoon.