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Prep Watch: California love

Brendan Jensen was drafted by the WHL's Vancouver Giants in the '08 bantam draft.

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Brendan Jensen was drafted by the WHL's Vancouver Giants in the '08 bantam draft.

The makeup of Canada’s roster at the World Junior Championship is always a subject of heated debate, but for Brendan Jensen, the selection process is of particular interest.

Despite the fact Jensen hails from the Northern California town of El Granada, the 15-year-old goaltender is hoping Canada tabs Vancouver Giants netminder Tyson Sexsmith to tend the pipes in Ottawa.

Jensen, the Giants’ sixth-round pick in the 2008 Western League bantam draft, will dress for Vancouver if Sexsmith is gone, which would give Jensen his first taste of life in the WHL.

If Sexsmith doesn’t make the squad, Jensen will still make his way to Van City in order to take in some practices and learn about the team.

“It will give him a chance to see our culture, get him familiarized,” said Giants GM Scott Bonner. “He can meet us on a personal level.”

Even if he does see some action in the Dub, Jensen will still probably fly under the radar in his hometown, where hockey isn’t exactly a top draw.

“When I go to school and tell kids what I’m doing, it’s like ‘Oh, OK,’ ” Jensen said. “They don’t get what level I play.”

That level would be “high.” At 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds, Jensen already has the frame of an NHL goaltender and along with the WHL’s Giants, garnered interest from the U.S. National Team Development Program.

The NoCal star is currently plying his trade with the L.A. Selects, which means a lot of travel and a lot of commitment to a home team located 380 miles away.

“Me and another teammate fly down to practices and games every weekend,” Jensen noted.

Considering the youngster’s affinity for the game, it’s no surprise he would go the extra step to put himself in elite company. Jensen’s mom, Chanda, is an Indiana native who introduced the family to the sport. Soon, flex packs for San Jose Sharks games were being purchased and Brendan was getting his first taste.

At six years of age, Jensen took up skating, courtesy a camp run by beloved Sharks goaltender Arturs Irbe, so maybe it’s no shock he chose to don the pads, too. Whether there are any stylistic similarities remains to be seen.

“I communicate well with my defense,” Jensen said of his strengths. “I control my rebounds, I’m very technical and I think I get in the right position at the right time.”

As for improvements, the young goalie wants to get better on odd-man rushes.

On the other side of the ledger, Jensen’s father, Lars, has also been a boon to his son’s development. The elder Jensen has been a highly successful wrestling coach at nearby San Francisco State University for 26 years, winning the Division II national championship in 1997.

“It’s great, he helps a lot with training,” Brendan said. “He shows me the proper techniques for weightlifting and helps me with nutrition as well.”

For Bonner, that competitive background has brought out some very good attributes in the goaltender, who also impressed Giants goalie coach Sean Murray on a recent trip to California.

“He’s so competitive and fierce with the puck – he wants loose pucks,” Bonner said. “I think the kid has expectations. He wants to get better all the time…He’s a sponge. Our goalie coach said he couldn’t wear him out.”

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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