Born: June 13, 1983
Hometown: Brampton, Ontario
Weight: 188 lbs
Although he’s only 16-years-old Jason Spezza already has one OHL season under his belt and most NHL scouts drooling. Spezza spent last season with the OHL’s Brampton Battalion as a 15-year-old underage player.
Spezza, a Brampton native, had a tremendous season in bantam with the Toronto Marlboros bantam team in 1997-98, which probably attributed to his playing in the OHL as an underage. Spezza posted 53 goals and 114 points in 54 games, which turns out to be just over 2 points per game. You have to admit, that is impressive.
Spezza had an impressive season with the Battalion in 1998-99 considering they were an expansion team and had such a bad season. Spezza finished the season with 22 goals and 71 points. That put him in third place in the rookie scoring race behind Sheldon Keefe (116 points) and Denis Shvidki (94 points). Both Keefe and Shvidki spent the season in Barrie, although Keefe spent a portion of the season playing with Toronto St. Mike’s.
Despite playing in the OHL as a 15-year-old Spezza was already catching the attention of NHL scouts. Spezza was eligible for last month’s OHL priority draft where, as expected, he was drafted 1st overall by the Missisauga IceDogs. Spezza was the first of seven straight 16-year-olds drafted in the first round.
When you watch Spezza play and see the way that he handles himself it is very easy to forget how old he really is. You have to remember that he is playing against some players that are three or four years older than he is.
When the Battalion teamed Spezza with fellow rookies Raffi Torres, Jeff Bateman and Lucas Havel they had a group that would have been very impressive had they been able to play together for two or three seasons. Uunfortunately for the Battalion, we will never find out, because the only way they could have kept Spezza was to finish last overall and that didn’t happen.
The IceDogs are getting a tremendous player that is going to be scoring a ton for this team for the next few seasons depending on how long they can hold on to his rights before he turns pro. That will probably happen in the next few seasons as Spezza has tons of talent.
Spezza has already been dubbed a superstar in the making. If he is this good at 16-years-old I’m curious as to how good he is going to be at 26-years-old. Only time will tell. Spezza is fairly big for a 16-year-old and he still has room to grow. The IceDogs should have a good club next season with guys like Spezza, Lou Dickenson and Mark Jerant.
If you can put a good team around him it’s kind of scary to think of the potential that he has. Shvidki and Keefe played with a great team in Barrie alongside players like Dan Tkaczuk, Brian Finley, and Martin Skoula. If Spezza played alongside players like that he could be even better.
Spezza has at least two more seasons of junior hockey and that’s only going to help him get better. Rico Fata of the London Knights is a prime example of that. He played in the OHL as a 15-year-old with his hometown team, the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. He was then drafted 1st overall in the OHL priority draft by the London Knights. After 2 seasons there he was drafted sixth overall in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft by the Calgary Flames. If he had not come into the league as a 15-year-old underage he might not have got drafted as high in the NHL draft. Instead of going in the top 10 he might have gone in the top 15. The point being: Spezza is only going to get better with all the experience that he is gaining. Most players in their NHL draft year have only one season of junior hockey experience. In Spezza and Fata’s case they have three seasons of junior hockey under their belt. Fata just completed his fourth season of junior and he is just 19-years-old.
Spezza is going to be a really big help to the IceDogs as he will help a lot in the goal scoring department. Scoring is something that the IceDogs had trouble with in 1998-99, but with Spezza in the lineup it can only get better. Now don’t get me wrong Spezza is not going to turn the IceDogs around in one season, but if he sticks around for 2 or three seasons he, along with some good draft picks and the players they already have, could turn the IceDogs into a respectable hockey club.