If Oshawa Generals head coach Gary Agnew could have Boone Jenner on the ice for all 60 minutes of a hockey game, he just might do so.
The 18-year-old native of Dorchester, Ontario is now in his third season with the Ontario Hockey League’s Generals, a team that many consider to be on the rise in junior hockey. His quiet confidence and unflappable demeanor make him a magnetic personality on and off the ice, and earned him the opportunity to wear the captain’s “C” for the first time this season.
His coach is no stranger to Blue Jackets fans, either – Agnew is a former Blue Jackets assistant and interim head coach (four seasons) and was appointed head coach of the Generals in September. Agnew knew immediately he could trust Jenner with both a leadership role and a large amount of on-ice responsibility, and he has been rewarded with a breakout year from the Blue Jackets’ second-round draft pick (37th overall) in 2011.
Jenner has been out of the Generals lineup since taking a hard hit behind the net a couple weekends ago, but told BlueJackets.com he’s on the mend and is getting ready to return to the ice as soon as this weekend. With Oshawa in a fight to make the OHL playoffs, his presence is sure to be crucial to the team’s success.
“We’re making a push for that final spot and guys are working hard to make sure we’re one of those teams that make it in,” Agnew told BlueJackets.com. “The problem we’re having is that he hasn’t been here. He’s such a big part of our team, and we only had him for three weeks to start the year because he went to the World Juniors, then he came back for a game and now he’s injured.”
Despite missing Jenner on the ice, the Generals have rallied around their captain and won four of their last six games to jump to sixth spot in the OHL’s Eastern Conference over their rivals in Mississauga-St. Michaels.
The final 13 games of the regular season are always the most competitive and spirited of the year, Jenner said, and the Generals are geared up to challenge for the Memorial Cup.
Unfortunately for Agnew and the Generals, what they’re missing Jenner is a player who brings all the intangibles – as well as a rounded two-way game – to the plate each time he jumps over the boards.
“He’s just a character guy,” Agnew said. “He’s a good leader, responsible, accountable - all those things you look for in a player that’s a two-way guy and has responsibilities at both ends of the ice. He can score and defend, and he’s exactly what you want in a center ice man like that.
“You want him out there in the last minute of a game to win a face-off, to block a shot or whatever needs done to win. If there’s an empty net, he does the right thing and tries to get the puck out of the zone and not try to score a goal.”
Jenner had a chance to show off his game on junior hockey’s biggest stage over the holidays when he represented Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships, held in Edmonton and Calgary. Though the Canadians fell short of their gold medal goal (eventually winning bronze), it was Jenner’s first opportunity to pull his country’s sweater on and feel the pride of playing for the nation.
“The World Juniors was an unbelievable tournament,” Jenner said. “I can’t express how much fun it was to put on that jersey and compete for a gold medal. There were so many memories from that tournament and it was a dream come true to play a tournament like that for Canada.
“I enjoyed it so much. It was awesome. It was special to be part of the best competition in the world and represent my country.”
Once he returned to Oshawa, the focus shifted back to the task at hand: getting the Generals into the playoffs during a very special season to both the Generals franchise and the city of Oshawa. This season is the Generals’ 75th anniversary and has been marked by a year-long celebration of their tradition, but Jenner and his teammates want to make sure the festivities extend well into the spring.
“It’s been a good year so far,” Jenner said. “We’ve had our ups and downs, but we’re starting to find our game lately and we’re working really hard as a team. I just try to play my game and bring the same thing to each game and help the team win some games. I’ve tried to be a bit more vocal in the room now that I’m captain, but other than that, I’m still the same guy.”
Coupled with the temperature rising in the playoff race, Jenner’s imminent return to action could not come at a better time. Agnew said Jenner embodies the attributes coaches think of when they talk about players who are made for the point of the season.
“He’s a guy that when push comes to shove, when the chips are down and the game ratchets up to a level where teams are gearing up for final 15-20 games, he’s exactly what you need and he’s exactly what we’re missing right now,” Agnew said. “Boone is your ideal playoff-run type of guy and a performer when it really matters for his team.
“He takes a hit to make a play, and that’s what it takes to win this time of year - a guy like that where not only his teammates, but everyone around him sees what he’s doing and it keeps us focused.”