NOJHA: Jeff Whitfield Update

By Brad Coccimiglio

Name: Jeff Whitfield
Team: Soo Thunderbirds (NOJHA)
Hometown: Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
Position: Defense
Number: 5
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 200 lbs
Many of you may remember a feature that I did around mid-October about
young defenseman Jeff Whitfield of the Soo Thunderbirds. Well, I’m back
to give you a report on his progress since then.

Whitfield has shown some steady improvement since the start of the
season, especially in the last month or so. The improvement has come
more in his defensive game than his offensive game, but both have

I believe one of the reasons for the improvement in Whitfield’s play
has to be the increase in confidence shown by Thunderbird head coach Jim
Capy. Capy has been giving the young defenseman a slight increase in ice
time and he plays in many different situations. Where some coaches may
hold their youngsters on the bench during a penalty kill or in the 3rd
period of a tight game, Capy does use Whitfield in some of those
situations. That increase in ice time from Capy also helps boost the
confidence of Whitfield.

I mentioned in my previous article that Whitfield had a short fuse.
Well, he is no longer letting his temper, and opponents, get the best of
him. This has helped Whitfield in the sense that he is on the ice more
working on his skills.

Whitfield needs to improve his upper body strength, but considering he
is so young that should come with some time as he still has time to fill
out. At. 6’2″ and 200 lbs it’s scary to think that Whitfield is still

I said his offense has improved and in a way it has. He seems to be
more confident with the puck when carrying it out of his zone and
through the neutral zone.

At the beginning of the season Whitfield seemed to be having problems
picking his spots for hits as well as for pinching in. He doesn’t pinch
in as often now and, although he doesn’t play an overly physical game he
has not seemed to be getting caught out of position much anymore.

The confidence he has gained since the beginning of the season is
evident in his overall game. In December Whitfield was named a game star
in 3 games.

There is some debate as to where Whitfield is going to be drafted in
June’s OHL Bantam draft. The only agreement among fans and scouts alike
is the fact that he will go in the first round.

What makes it hard for the media and public to judge the talent that is
available for the draft is the fact that the OHL doesn’t release a list
of eligible players and a player ratings list.

Many people agree that Whitfield’s strong point, and this is somewhat
obvious, is his size. Once he fills out he needs to use his size to
punish opposing forwards.

I have said this before and I’m going to say it again, Whitfield is a
defenseman in the mold of Scott Stevens or Derian Hatcher. I’m not
comparing him to them as I feel it’s unfair to put that type of pressure
on a young player. What I will say is that he will likely develop into
that type of defenseman.

If Whitfield keeps improving as he has been his draft stock will rise
as many teams are looking for tough defensemen with size. When the draft
rolls around Whitfield is a player that will definitely be heard from.