Boone Jenner has never fancied the easy way or the road much traveled, and it's no different for him this summer in Columbus.
Considered to be one of the club's brightest prospects and one with perhaps an immediate future in the National Hockey League, the former captain of the Oshawa Generals (OHL) is making his home at Nationwide Arena this offseason and training with the Blue Jackets' strength and conditioning staff.
After a decorated junior hockey career with the Generals in which he scored 111 goals and 246 points in 227 regular season games, Jenner took the next step this spring with the Springfield Falcons in their Calder Cup playoff run. In eight playoff games with the Falcons, Jenner was one of their strongest forwards and registered five points in those games - but that wasn't near enough gratification for him.
Jenner, who turns 20 years old on Saturday, has eyes on professional hockey in the fall and he plans on making the NHL his only option. He has spent the early part of the offseason with Blue Jackets strength coach Kevin Collins, going through intense workouts geared toward preparing him for what's expected at the NHL level.
"I want to get ready for the season and make sure that I can be part of it." - Boone Jenner, on the Blue Jackets' bright future
"Kevin is a really good trainer and it’s all top-notch here, so I’m looking forward to a good summer here and getting better as much as I possibly can," Jenner told BlueJackets.com. "I think it’s really been all about getting ready for next season. Since the summer started, I’ve been focused on training hard and making sure I’m doing whatever I can to be in the best shape possible for next year.
"I think I’m ready to make that next step to pro hockey this year and that’s been my goal in training is to get prepared for it. I got a taste of it in Springfield at the end of the year in the playoffs, and I’m looking forward to making the jump. Over the next couple months I’ll be preparing and training until camps open to be in the best shape I can."
Jenner was in the unique position to experience playoff hockey in two different leagues last season, qualifying for both the OHL's playoffs and then joining the Falcons for the AHL's postseason.
Having those experiences in his back pocket is something he doesn't take lightly, he said, and he knows well that merely possessing them isn't good enough - it's what he takes from them and carries to the next level.
"Once the season ended in Oshawa, it was straight from the junior playoffs up to Springfield and the AHL playoffs," Jenner said. "Playoff hockey is the best hockey you can play, obviously, and both of those teams were playing really well. I think I got a lot of valuable experience from that. The experience in Springfield helped me know what to expect in terms of the lifestyle and what it’s like to play pro hockey, and I was lucky enough to get that exposure."
And while he was getting big-game exposure himself, Jenner couldn't help but follow intently with the excitement going on in Columbus down the stretch of the 2012-13 season. Whether it was the team's 19-5-5 run to miss the Stanley Cup playoffs by a whisker, the blockbuster trade deadline deal for Marian Gaborik or the Vezina Trophy nomination for Sergei Bobrovsky, Jenner kept tabs on all of it.
What it did was make him realize how much he truly wants to hop on board, and fast.
"I watched (what happened in Columbus) the whole time," Jenner said. "It was so exciting, making the push for the playoffs and stuff like that. The team really took some big steps here in Columbus this year and there’s more coming, for sure.
"Right now, I want to get ready for the season and make sure that I can be part of it."