|Photo by Kyle Scholzen |
The 18-year-old Jacobs, a Coppell native and direct product of the Stars’ migration south from Minneapolis nearly two decades ago, joined a slowly-but-surely growing list of Texans to be drafted when the Buffalo Sabres selected him in the fourth round last month.
As Hull secured the Stars’ first-ever Stanley Cup with his dramatic Game 6 triple-overtime winning goal against the Sabres in Buffalo, the youngster Jacobs began thinking about what it would be like to follow in the footsteps of Hull, Mike Modano, Joe Nieuwendyk, and the rest of their teammates who took the Metroplex by storm in the ‘90s.
“(Hockey) started getting popular when the Stars started making the playoffs, and I think it was just me hopping on board that bandwagon,” he said during the Sabres developmental camp for prospects in early July. “It was kind of a new thing to try.”
Since his father had spent some time in Europe playing soccer, and his mother grew up in Port Neches, Texas, it was up to the youngster to take the initiative to lace up the skates and tape the stick to see if hockey would be his thing. He became involved with the Dallas Ice Jets organization as a kid, and quickly started raising eyebrows with his outstanding play when he became a teenager.
By the time he was 16, Jacobs had scouts from Canada’s Junior A Western Hockey League watching him, as well as recruiters from Michigan and representatives from USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program.
After the WHL Seattle Thunderbirds drafted him in 2008, Jacobs decided to head to the Pacific Northwest rather than take his game to Ann Arbor.
As a rookie with the T-Birds, Jacobs recorded 13 goals and 26 points in 72 games, and admitted the inaugural year was a feeling-out process. His totals improved to 22 goals and 44 points in 68 games this past season.
Those numbers may seem ordinary on the surface until you realize the obstacles he had to overcome and barriers he was dealing with.
“The fact that he played most of the year with two dislocated shoulders that a lot of people didn’t know about goes to show you the toughness of the kid,” Sabres director of amateur scouting Kevin Devine said. “As a 17-year-old (rookie) he had over 100 penalty minutes, so we thought he could be more physical last season. We were wondering what happened. Turns out his teammates didn’t even know about the injury. He’d leave the game, disappear for about half the period and come back out. We didn’t know what happened to him, but when we interviewed him we found out about it. The shoulder would pop out and he’d go back into the room and pop it back in and come back in and play. So that explains everything. We think we got very good value with him.”
The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder has plenty of muscle on his frame, and describes himself as a power forward with skill. That lethal combination of strength and skill is certainly a prized-possession in today’s NHL.
“What caught our eyes is he had real good stats, is a center, and has a real good two-way game,” Devine said.
Devine also isn’t surprised that the state of Texas is starting to nurture and churn out players such as Jacobs, especially since the son of former Dallas Mavericks forward Popeye Jones -- Seth Jones -- is expected to be a Top 10 pick in the 2013 draft.
“It’s a game when once kids start playing it they really like it over other sports,” Devine said. “There are many times now that you run into where the kid’s dad was a football player or basketball player, yet the kid wants to play hockey.”
For the time being, though, Jacobs has had to put playing hockey on hold. He was unable to skate with Buffalo’s other young talent during the team’s six-day camp in Niagara Falls, as he continues to rehab his shoulder. But he’s confident he’ll be healthy enough to show that the best is yet to come when he joins Seattle in a couple months for his third season there.
“I want to go out and perform at my peak,” he said. “I’m taking it day by day, and have had to battle through it. I’m getting that much stronger, and it’s exciting to see the progress I’ve made in such a little amount of time. When I get back to playing, I’m going to be really excited to show people what I can do when I’m 100 percent.”
And when he does show that skill and drive, some six-year-old in Dallas will sure to be inspired to start passing the puck rather than the ball.