WHL Next Generation is a 22-part series highlighting a handful of the future stars of the Western Hockey League. From first-round bantam draft picks to later-blooming selections, get to know the names of players set to establish themselves as the newest crop of exciting talent to grace the WHL. From August 1 through August 31, get the inside scoop on the incoming rookie class of 2019-20.
Team: Brandon Wheat Kings
Position: Right Wing
Weight: 165 pounds
Draft: BDN (2018) Round: 1 (#15)
While the pressure after a WHL Draft year lessens significantly for 15 year-old-players, there’s a continuous desire to improve their performance and show they are worthy or even better than their selection. Players strive for a strong performance in their first year of midget hockey and to be given the opportunity to affiliate with their WHL team.
For the Brandon Wheat Kings’ newest winger, he did both.
Jake Chiasson excelled with the Canadian Sports School Hockey League’s (CSSHL) Yale Lions Midget Prep team, finishing the season with 69 points (27G-42A) in 36 games. That points total left Chiasson eighth overall among scorers in the CSSHL and as the first overall among 2003-born players in the division. The 6-foot-1, 165-pound right-wing proved not only can he compete with older guys in a new league at a faster pace, but that he can go beyond expectations.
Unlike a lot of players who are first to attribute their success to their individual work ethic or their team’s efforts, Chiasson began with his head coach.
“Getting our new coach Mark Holick in was big for me,” Chiasson said. “He’s been around a lot of leagues in hockey, so he prepared me for Junior-style coaching. I felt I got a lot more mature under his direction and my game matured too.”
Not only was Holick a WHL coach for the Kootenay ICE and Prince George Cougars, he was also a player for the Saskatoon Blades and New Westminster Bruins from 1984-88. Holick’s junior experience as both a coach and a player helped cultivate Chiasson’s game, preparing him for the jump to the WHL next season.Perhaps one of the most important lessons Chiasson learned from Holick was about the active choice to stay confident in the process and in your team.
“Our team was the 10th seed for most of the season, so he [Holick] drilled it into our minds that it’s important to stay confident and stay focused on your goals,” Chiasson said. “If I make Brandon’s roster next year, I know that’s something you have to remember during such a long season.”
To add to his successful campaign with the Lions, the Abbotsford, B.C. native made it into his first WHL game on January 29th against the Edmonton Oil Kings
“It was pretty cool to play in Rogers Arena against Edmonton,” Chiasson said. “It was nice being around the guys [Wheat Kings], learning the way that they carry themselves on and off the ice and learning to play at that pace. It even made me feel like I was a part of the league for that short time.
“I was around the other rookies a lot. Guys like Ridly Greig and Vinny Iorio – who’s another B.C. kid – made me feel pretty welcome for that game. It’s nice heading out to Manitoba knowing that there’s another B.C. kid in your shoes.”Although Chiasson didn’t register a point in his game, he did come away with what some may consider a more important feeling.
“It’s a huge confidence boost,” Chiasson said. “You always have it at the back of your mind, wanting to play at that level and once you step in there you say to yourself ‘I can do this’ so that was big for me and I carried it over into my season and my prospects camp at the beginning of the summer.”Even with this confidence, Chiasson knows there’s work to be done to ensure his spot on the team. Summer training plays a big role in a 16-year-old’s development and potential to earn a rookie position on a WHL team.
“You hear it a lot but it’s pretty important to get bigger and stronger heading into your first year [in the WHL] with the guys you’re playing against and the season that you’re up against,” Chiasson said.
For Chiasson, his motivation for making the team is multidimensional. It’s a chance to show the hockey world that his steady increase in success is going to continue and that the Wheat Kings made the right decision with their first-round selection in the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft.
“I want to make the team, not just to make it, but to really go there and play and make an impact,” Chiasson said. “I don’t want to give them any reason to send me home [at the end of camp] so I’m going in there looking to punch my spot on the team.
“Ever since I watched the Chilliwack Bruins when I was younger, I wanted to be a part of that lifestyle. I always looked at them as professionals and now that I could be stepping into the league next year myself is huge. It’s a goal I can check off in my life.”