I remember hearing the praise for Boone Jenner when the Blue Jackets drafted him in 2011, but you can sometimes fall guilty to believing everything that's said about players when they’re picked.
“He works hard, he competes, he’s a good team guy.” Those words are tossed around like world peace at a beauty pageant and after a while, you wonder if people are just reading off a teleprompter.
But there are certain players that embody everything you hear about them, and when NHL teams get their hands on one, it’s awfully tough to pry them away.
Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson and his staff have a lot to look forward to with the now 19-year-old captain of the Oshawa Generals – who are the Ontario Hockey League’s first-place team and on quite a roll at home.
Jenner is also the league’s leading scorer with 16 points in his first seven games, and has put a young Generals squad on his back in the early going.
To get more insight on the fantastic start by both Jenner and his Oshawa club, I reached out to Jeff Marek of Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. Jeff’s one of the most insightful guys in hockey, and he’s also co-host of the “Marek vs. Wyshynski” podcast with Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski.
Being a member of the hockey media in Canada, Jeff is able to get a first-hand look at the OHL on a nightly basis and possesses a wealth of information on the Generals (and Jenner).
And it’s clear that, to this point, no player has garnered as much (deserved) attention.
“I know it’s still early in the OHL schedule and we’re like seven games deep, but he’s on a different planet than anyone else in the league,” Marek told BlueJackets.com. “There’s no one – save for maybe Mark Scheifele – that’s playing on the same level as Boone Jenner right now.
“He is head-and-shoulders right now the best player in the OHL.”
Jenner has garnered praise in the first weeks of the season for his offensive output, but anyone who has watched him will you tell there’s so much more to his game.
Praising his attention to detail might be selling Jenner short, because the kid pays attention to every single detail. And he wants to make sure each one of them is better today than it was yesterday.
“The thing with Boone is that he’s always been really great inside his own zone,” Marek said. “Last year was really the beginning of the coming out party for Boone when he became a point-a-game guy for Oshawa. This year, not only is he a point-per-game guy or sometimes more, the thing is that he’s still great in his own end.
“Every summer, he’s the kid that goes away and works on something and wants to get better. This year, the thing for him was face-offs. Boone Jenner may be the best face-off man in the OHL from what I’ve seen so far this year. He is the best guy at the dot and it’s just remarkable.”
The Generals’ first-place standing and division lead has been a group effort, as well. Jenner’s sporting two new linemates this year: Tyler Biggs, who transferred to the OHL from Miami (Ohio) University, and a junior hockey rookie named Michael Dal Colle.
Both rookies have benefited from playing alongside Jenner, Marek said, and in turn, it has made the Generals an even stronger club.
“(Dal Colle) is second behind Connor McDavid in terms of rookie scoring in the OHL so far, and honestly, Boone Jenner is making both of these guys look like geniuses,” Marek said. “If not for McDavid, Dal Colle would the talk of all rookies in the OHL this year but it’s all because of Jenner.”
That is what first-year Generals coach D.J. Smith has looked to Jenner for: to help the young players along and make sure everyone is held accountable on and off the ice. He’s a leader of men – not afraid to be vocal when the situation calls for it, but prefers to let his game do the talking.
And lately, his game has been exceedingly vocal. Jenner’s dedication to becoming a multi-tool hockey player has come full-circle, and as his former coach Gary Agnew once told me, he’d have him on the ice for the entire game if he could.
“He carries himself like a leader of the Oshawa Generals, and when you look at what he’s turned himself into in junior, he’s become one of the most complete players in the game right now,” Marek said. “When you put him in any situation he excels. He has become the ultimate OHL player right now.
“In my mind, there’s no better player in the Ontario Hockey League so far this season.”
The next burning question about Jenner’s career is going to involve where he fits in the NHL. Will the scoring and offensive production move with him to the next level? If not, what’s his career projection?
“I have second-line center written all over this guy,” Marek said. “He’s a second-line center that a coach loves and this kid will play 10 years in the league with no question. He’s one of those guys that you don’t have any reservations tapping him on the shoulder in any situation. He’s a guy you want on the ice to start the game, he’s the guy you want on the ice in the last minute when protecting a one-goal lead.
“I don’t know that his scoring will translate at the NHL level the way it is right now, but he may prove me wrong. If there’s one thing this guy has it’s an incredible work ethic. When you’re not only the best player on a team but the hardest-working guy on the team, the sky is the limit. Even if the scoring doesn’t translate – and it very well could – this guy is a second-line player within his first couple of years in the NHL with no question about it. That’s how good the individual skill set is in every facet of the game for this kid.”
Fans in Columbus got a brief taste of Jenner during the preseason a year ago, when he dressed in a few games and even scored a goal during exhibition play. One of the more memorable moments was hearing the crowd at Nationwide Arena chant “Booooone!” when public address announcer Greg Murray announced the goal – it was electric.
Marek said the Blue Jackets faithful should have no reservations about Jenner when he arrives in the NHL.
“Whenever he’s on the ice, he gives you absolutely everything,” Marek said. “There’s no ‘lick the envelope, put it in the mailbox’ shift. This guy leaves it all out there. At the end of the game, you have an exhausted hockey player.
“Some guys run around the entire game and don’t get results – but with Jenner, you’re getting a guy that marries work ethic with production. That’s what so fantastic about him. When you put the entire package together, you think: ‘damn, that’s a good hockey player.’”