Boone Jenner has a name that screams hockey player. It’s as if he had no other choice but to play hockey with a name like Boone. But the Dorchester, Ontario native credits his two older brothers for his dedication to the game, wanting to follow in their footsteps.
“I watched them play hockey and my brother [Leo] played in the OHL so ever since I started watching him do that, I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” said Jenner.
Growing up on a farm, Jenner became accustomed to hard, rigorous work – something that he feels has helped him on the ice. Though he has offensive upside, the Oshawa Generals captain is regarded for the intangibles he brings to the ice: his work in the face-off circle, his ability on the penalty kill, and his aggressive forechecking. His work ethic is lauded by scouts and general managers alike.
“My parents, they raised me that way. I carry that on throughout my life in all aspects but especially in hockey. The only thing I can control is how hard I work so I just try to bear down and do that.”
In fact, the 18-year-old seems drawn to hard-working, crash-and-bang hockey. Even before he was thinking of hockey as a career, his favorite team was the Dallas Stars, which, apart from Mike Modano, was a team made up of gritty veterans throughout the 90s and early 2000s.
And despite scoring 49 points in his OHL rookie season and eclipsing a point-per-game last year, Jenner realizes it’s the effort that goes into improving those intangibles that’ll hopefully make him a successful NHL player in the near future.
“I try to bring everything,” he said. “I can score given the opportunity and make plays, but I like to take care of my own zone, and kill penalties, get the puck out, and those little things I think go a long way.”
It was that relentless work ethic and attitude that made him the Columbus Blue Jackets first selection in the 2011 Entry Draft, 37th overall, though his 66 points in 63 games for the Oshawa Generals didn’t hurt either.
“It’s crazy,” said Jenner, referring to the draft. “Once they started saying Oshawa Generals, my heart was pounding, and then they said [my name] and to share that experience with my family and my friends it was unbelievable. Something I’ll never forget for sure.”
Another thing he’ll never forget is his first NHL goal. Albeit a preseason marker, Jenner has no trouble conjuring up the details of the goal he scored on Winnipeg Jets goaltender Chris Mason in a September 19th affair.
“It was a shot from the point, and I was just driving through the center and the rebound came right in the slot and right on my stick so I just kind of dragged it around the goalie and scored,” he said. “It was crazy. I hope there’s a lot more of those to come.”
Though he was – perhaps inevitably – sent back to Oshawa after his first NHL training camp, Jenner made a positive impression on the Blue Jackets brass with his work ethic and underrated offensive ability. While so many seem to focus on how good of a penalty killer he is, and how good he is on face-offs, it often gets lost just how skilled he is offensively. There’s proof in numbers; over two and a half seasons in Oshawa, Jenner has accumulated 141 points in 148 games and is the team’s leading scorer so far in 2011-12.
Certainly, he opened some eyes within the organization during his stay with the team, but more than that, it was an eye-opening experience for himself.
“Seeing NHL caliber players like [Rick] Nash and all those guys on and off the ice every day, it was pretty crazy. It was a dream come true and I think I learned a lot from it.”
One of Jenner’s biggest weaknesses heading into last year’s draft was his skating. He isn’t the fastest player on the ice and his skating doesn’t look as fluid as the majority of NHL players, but even at this point, his current skill set more than makes up for that.
But that’s not to say that he isn’t constantly working on improving his speed. After all, he is still defined by his work ethic.
“In these two years that I’ve played in the OHL I think my skating has come a long way, and I feel as fast as ever right now,” he said, adding that “there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
So far this year, Jenner has been the heart and soul of the Oshawa Generals, the engine that makes them go. After a ten game suspension was handed out to the team’s leading scorer from last season, Christian Thomas (NYR), Jenner has recorded ten points in seven games while continuing to play the same rugged style that has him regarded as an ideal third or fourth line forward for the Canadian World Junior team this Christmas, something Jenner admits is one of his goals.
Earning a spot on Team OHL’s roster for the Subway Super Series was certainly a step in the right direction for Jenner, but when asked how important an impressive individual performance in the game against the Russians was to his World Junior aspirations, he sort of downplayed the notion, emphasizing the importance of team play.
“I mean everyone wants to show their stuff for the world juniors, but I think if we play as a team then everyone will look good and the guys watching for [the World Juniors] will like us.”
And surely, that is the attitude that will make him a strong candidate to make team Canada in December.
But don’t be fooled if Jenner makes the team and you hear fans at this year’s tournament in Edmonton and Calgary booing when he touches the puck – they’re saying “Booooone.”
“It’s really unique and a lot of people love it now so I guess I [have to] thank my dad for that one,” joked Jenner.