15-year-old Looking to Improve Draft Stock in NOJHA

By Brad Coccimiglio

Name: Jeff Whitfield
Team: Soo Thunderbirds (NOJHA)
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 200 lbs
Age: 15
Position: Defense

Last year the Soo Thunderbirds boasted the OHL’s top draft choice in
centre Patrick Jarrett. This year the Thunderbirds boast another top
notch OHL prospect in defenseman Jeff Whitfield. Whitfield, 15, is 1
year removed from Bantam hockey in the Sault.

Whitfield is considered to be a top notch draft prospect for the 2001
OHL draft. I have seen him play a number of times and was very impressed
with what I saw. There are a few rough spots in his game but that’s
expected, especially considering he is playing against players 3 and 4
years older than he is.

The biggest thing I noticed about him is that he tries not to be fancy.
If he starts a rush he tends to not try to beat the defenseman with an
outstanding move. He is more likely to dump the puck in, let a shot go
or pass the puck off to a teammate.

If there is one problem with Whitfield’s game it is that he has
somewhat of a short fuse. He tends to let his opponents get the best of
him. His size, 6’2″ and 200 lbs, is intimidating enough, especially for
his age.

Any other problems with Whitfield’s game, and let me tell you that
there are not very many, will get better as he gets more experience and
becomes more confident. The only thing besides controlling his temper
that he needs to work on is picking his spots better. When I say picking
his spots better what I mean is he tends to pinch or throw a hit at the
wrong times. That will get better once he gets more confident in his
game and learns his limitations.

Soo Thunderbirds coach Jim Capy has shown a lot of confidence in the
young defenseman. Besides taking an almost regular shift, Whitfield is
on the ice in many shorthanded situations.

Whitfield has many strengths in his game. His positioning is very good,
especially when he is killing penalties. He plays his position very
well. He seems to instinctively know where he should be in his own zone.

Whitfield is the type of player that doesn’t like to see his teammates
get pushed around. He is willing to stand up for his teammates at all
times. His puck handling skills are good as well. He can skate well and
he has a powerful shot which comes in handy.

Whitfield is not a big offensive threat. In time he could be. He has
many of the tools (above average skating, hard shot) to become an
offensive defenseman in the mold of a Chris Pronger or a Rob Blake.
Right now though he looks as though he will be a defenseman in the mold
of Scott Stevens or Derian Hatcher.

Thunderbird coach JIm Capy is doing the right thing by bringing
Whitfield along fairly slowly and not putting too much pressure on the
young defenseman. Whitfield needs time to adjust to the high level of
play in the NOJHA. Once he becomes more comfortable he will be even
better than he is now.

Jeff Whitfield is a name that you will likely be hearing a lot more of
in the coming months and the weeks leading up to the OHL draft next
summer. Whitfield is a strong defenseman that will only get better.