COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Boone Jenner is getting rather accustomed to these playoff races.
In a span of a couple days, the 19-year-old Blue Jackets prospect will say goodbye to one playoff experience with his Oshawa Generals (OHL) teammates and dive head-first into the next significant challenge of his hockey career. When he joins the Springfield Falcons this week, Jenner will be part of another championship chase as the Falcons clinched a playoff spot and have a chance at the Calder Cup for the first time in 10 years.
Not a bad week, right?
And this won't be the first American Hockey League exposure for Jenner, either: the Blue Jackets' first pick (37th overall) in the 2011 NHL draft spent the tail end of last season on a tryout agreement with the Falcons, and scored one goal in five appearances. The circumstances are a bit different this time around under new management, a new coaching staff in Springfield and championship aspirations.
"He's an important piece that we need to develop and work with, and we're really excited about his future." - Chris MacFarland on Boone Jenner
But as Jenner has proved time and again, there's no stage too big for his simple yet intelligent style of hockey that has both aggravated and garnered the respect of his opponents.
"This is a big challenge for him, there's no doubt about that," Blue Jackets assistant GM Chris MacFarland told BlueJackets.com. "We think it's a good springboard for these guys as they go into the summer to get exposed to the higher pace and how strong players are at this level. It's no different this time; he's a year older, he's certainly stronger and improved in all facets of his game.
"We're expecting good things from him in Springfield, and for him to step into a great situation there and be a key part for them down the stretch."
Another aspect of this assignment is that Jenner isn't signed to any tryout agreement or bound to a specific length of time in Springfield. The Blue Jackets assigned him to the AHL today and per NHL rules, Jenner can play a maximum of five NHL games this season without triggering a year of his entry-level contract.
If the Blue Jackets wanted to recall Jenner after seeing him at the AHL level, they have the ability to do so. But for the time being, management has told him to give his best effort to the Falcons and help in any way that he can.
Judging by his recently-completed junior season with Oshawa, it's clear that he can: Jenner tallied a career-high 45 goals this season, the third-best total in the OHL. The 6-2, 204-pound center has recorded 111 goals and 135 assists for 246 points, 263 penalty minutes and a cumulative +22 plus/minus rating in 227 career OHL games.
"We still have games here, too, and there's always the recall possibility," MacFarland said. "He could come up here and help us make a push for the playoffs, as well, but at the end (of Oshawa's season) we felt that this move made the most sense for Boone and where he should start his pro career.
"We fully expect him to contribute and we know he's going to work very hard this summer, as well, and push for a spot in training camp. He's an important piece that we need to develop and work with, and we're really excited about his future."