Prep Watch is a new weekly feature on THN.com that focuses on minor hockey prospects destined to become big names in major junior or the NCAA – and hopefully one day, the NHL.
High school football. Longhorns. Dr. Pepper. This is Texas.
At least, it’s the Texas that comes to most outsiders’ minds when they think about the Lone Star state. But a host of young hockey players are changing that opinion; turning heads in the hockey community and proving that if you build rinks, the kids will come.
And of all the youngsters making noise, 15-year-old power forward Colin Jacobs of the Dallas triple-A Stars may be the brightest of the lot.
“He’s a powerful kid – 6-foot-1, 6-foot-2, 200 pounds,” noted Karson Kaebel, who has coached Jacobs for years in Dallas. “He’s got the full NHL package.”
With both size and skill, Jacobs is deadly on the ice, but very poised and humble off it. That will happen when your agency (CAA) brings you to California to skate with fellow teen titans such as John Tavares, Drew Shore and Ryan Spooner.
“I learned a lot of the little parts of the game that no one gets to work on team-wise in practice,” Jacobs said of his trip west. “Making the first pass, things like that.”
Though the NHL is still at least a few years away, Jacobs wants to model his game after the cream of the crop.
“I use my physical size to my ability and shoot a lot,” he noted. “I like the finesse of Sidney Crosby and the powerful shot of Alex Ovechkin.”
As with many young talents in the American South, Jacobs was the benefactor of shifting NHL geography. His interest in hockey stemmed when the Dallas Stars held a practice at his local rink. From there, the kid was hooked – and he wasn’t the only one.
“It’s been weird how it all played out,” Jacobs said. “I’m amazed at how it’s gone from one team in Dallas to all sorts of programs and rinks everywhere.”
Indeed, since the NHL’s Stars landed in the early 1990s, Texas has taken quite a liking to hockey. Thanks to a grassroots initiative spearheaded by the Stars, the Dallas metro area has seen an explosion in youth participation, number of rinks and especially high school squads, which went from none before the Stars touched down to at least 80 now.
If Jacobs was surprised by the sport’s growth, imagine what the rest of the country thought when his Dallas Ice Jets peewee team stormed the ranks and won the USA Hockey national championship in 2006. Suffice it to say, it was the first national title for Texas hockey and a great learning experience for Jacobs.
“Just going to the rink everyday and having a certain mindset of working hard really paid off,” he noted. “Being from Texas we had to overcome a lot of obstacles. We were not the most skilled team there, but we were the hardest working.”
Kaebel, who coached that Ice Jets team, gives a lot of credit to Jacobs for that success.
“He’s been a great player since he was young,” Kaebel said. “To play at the highest level you have to be a tremendous athlete and that’s the thing, Colin has.”
But like many pros, Jacobs knows he is far from complete at this point. The teenager lists consistency and conditioning as the two areas he wants to work on most this season. The latter of which he believes will help him play the same dynamic game in the third period as he brings in the first and second.
“Colin realizes there are a lot of great players out there,” Kaebel said. “It’s a long road for any of these kids, but I think he has the opportunity to play at the highest level.”
Jacobs’ progress with the triple-A Stars this year will certainly be followed by intrigued insiders, but the youngster also has some important decisions to make regarding his future. His major junior rights belong to the Western League’s Seattle Thunderbirds, who took him in the bantam draft. But he is also being courted by the U.S. National Team Development Program (NTDP), which would allow him to pursue the college hockey route as well, where there’s no shortage of interested schools.
As for being a budding hockey star in a state where his fellow high schoolers usually worship football stars? Jacobs bashfully admits his classmates know about his talent.
“They do,” he said. “I don’t know how they found out, but they do. They always ask if I’m going to move to Canada or if I’m going to play in the NHL.”
Give it a couple years…you never know.
Prep Watch, which features minor hockey players destined to become big names in major junior or the NCAA, appears every Thursday, only on thehockeynews.com.
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