Boone Jenner isn't the best skater in the world.
Heck, he might not even be the best skater on his team.
Nor is he the purest of goal scorers. But when he has the puck on his stick at a crucial point in a hockey game, there isn't another player you would rather have in that spot.
Jenner isn't the sturdiest kid or the most physical player on the rink, but when he opens a can on the opposition, it can make your keyboard tremble as you're watching it repeatedly on YouTube.
I guess there's no other way to put it: Boone Jenner simply has "it."
"It" is what attracted several teams, including the Columbus Blue Jackets, to the chiseled-jaw teenager from of Dorchester, Ont. a couple of years ago. The 18-year-old was projected to be a first-round selection by several NHL draft experts and scouting agencies, so when his name was still on the "best available" list in the second round, there were some perplexed faces around the room.
Some folks will tell you his skating is what held him back, and that's a perfectly reasonable explanation. Not everyone is blessed with an explosive stride or game-breaking speed, and the intangibles with Jenner were too impressive to ignore.
The Blue Jackets selected Jenner with the 37th overall pick at the 2011 draft in Los Angeles, and he has quickly become one of the most exciting and promising prospects in the organization.
Before we go any further, let's revisit what NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards said about Jenner prior to him being selected:
"The phrase, 'I want 20 of those guys on my team,' gets overused, but it not only applies to Boone, he can be the poster boy for it. Boone does what it takes to win. He blocks shots, wins battles along the boards and is an outstanding forechecker. He wants to be first to the puck every time. He's solid on his skates and fights through checks on his way to the net.”
That's lofty praise, for sure. But I really wanted to see this kid in action. I saw him at Blue Jackets development camp, I saw him in the World Junior championships and I got the chance to catch a couple of Oshawa Generals games on the internet last winter.
A month or so later, I phoned Gary Agnew, who served as head coach of the Generals last season. Agnew's one of the most honest people I've ever met in hockey, and can really deliver a solid evaluation of a player. When I talked to him, he joked that he couldn't really give me a read on Jenner because he hadn't been able to coach him much.
Jenner had been in and out of Oshawa's lineup due to injuries and the World Junior tournament, but Agnew quickly admitted that he didn't need much time to figure out what kind of hockey player and human being he had in Boone.
Agnew: "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 the final 15-20 games, he’s exactly what you need and he’s exactly what we’re missing right now. 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.
“He’s just a character guy. 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."
Jenner is now 19 years old, which is a crucial age for an already-drafted junior hockey player. It's the age at which the player is expected to hit the "next level" and be a dominant player for his team every night.
I don't want to say he's reached that point, but boy, the first two weeks of the Ontario Hockey League season sure are encouraging. Jenner has seemingly had a hand in every important goal for the Generals, who lead the East Division with a 4-1-0 record and a league-best +11 goal differential.
Oh, and there's this: Jenner is the OHL's leading scorer to this point with seven goals and 12 points in his first five games. He's killing penalties, anchoring a top line with another highly-regarded prospect (Tyler Biggs) and playing hard minutes.
There is a laundry list of cliches you could associate with Jenner; he's the "real deal," the "total package" or a "can't-miss prospect." I always found that last one ironic, because everyone misses on a boatload of prospects.
But there's one thing you can get everyone to agree on: Boone Jenner is well on his way to becoming a damn fine hockey player.