Jakes and Tootoo likely to be taken in Entry Draft

By Trenton Allen
At last year’s NHL Entry Draft, a number of Brandon Wheat Kings headed into the event with high hopes. The likes of Colin McRae, Ryan Craig, Brett Thurston, Mike Wirll, and even Robert McVicar sat anxiously by the phone hoping it would ring with the news that they had been drafted. Unfortunately, that season brought nothing but heartache. For only the second time in Wheat Kings history, no players off the team were selected in the draft.

Fortunately, the misery of 2000 has turned to promise for 2001. Two Wheat Kings figure prominently on the CSB lists. Jiri Jakes and Jordin Tootoo are listed in the top 65 on the CSB final lists and both have the scouts drooling. Here’s a breakdown on the players that figure to help put some shine back into the golden wheat shafts on the Wheat Kings logo.

Jiri Jakes is a 6’4, 210 Lb. right winger from Praha, Czech Republic. However, that’s the only indication that you’ll find about Jakes’s European background. Jakes’s style of play is completely opposite that of the traditional European. While most players trained on the other side of the pond tend to focus their attention on puckhandling, skating and one-on-one offensive skills, Jakes displays an obvious deficiency in these areas. Jakes plays a more up-and-down style, going into the corners, banging the body, digging for loose pucks, going to the front of the net and hoping for a rebound. He isn’t afraid to get his nose dirty or take a hit to make a play. He also has a good wrist shot, though most of his goals come of loose rebounds in front of the net or from walking out front from the corners. He does an excellent job of using his size in the offensive zone, never shying away from a hit. While playing in the Top Prospects Game earlier this year, he showed just this very feat. However, Jakes isn’t without his faults.

For starters, there is his skating. It is usually the first thing that anyone will notice about his game. To put it bluntly, it is awful. While it has improved slightly this year, it is still a major weakness and will be the major drawback in his getting drafted. At times, it almost appears as if he is running on the ice as opposed to actually skating. This weakness is probably what caused Jakes to fall in the draft rankings from 22rd (in North America) at mid-season to 43rd at the final rankings. The Hockey News has him ranked as the 81st best prospect in this years draft. His skating is the obvious reason for this drop, but not the only reason. Another reason would probably stem from the numbers Jakes has posted. As the season went on, Jakes’s numbers seemed to suffer. One of the teams best goalscorers earlier in the season, his production seemed to tail off as the season progressed and was invisible for games at a time. He seemed to get his second wind just before the playoffs started, but this second half slump didn’t help in the eyes of scouts. A combination of still adapting to the North American game, culture, and ice surface and the length of the CHL schedule probably had an effect on Jakes, but the scouts refused to except this as an excuse.

For Jordin Tootoo, it wasn’t his failures the scouts refused to except, but rather his accomplishments, and he has a long list of them. Tootoo, who’s also a right winger, is one of those amazing success stories that seem to pop up in hockey from time to time. Tootoo was born in Rankin Inlet, which is now part of the newly formed territory of Nunavut. While hockey is a form of entertainment in Nunavut, going to the NHL is hardly thought of by anyone as anything more then a pipe dream. But not Tootoo. At the age of just 14, Tootoo moved to Calgary to play hockey, moving over a thousand miles just for the love of the game. He was drafted by the Wheat Kings and in the 98-99 season played with his brother Terence on the Jr. A OCN Blizzard of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. That year the team won the league championship, the first in what has now become a dynasty with three straight (and counting) league titles. I had the fortune to work with that team and I have also since moved to Brandon, so I have been able watch Tootoo play for the past 3 years. Since coming to Brandon, Tootoo has continued to pile up the accomplishments. He has developed into one of the better fighters in the league, argueably the toughest player in the WHL pound-for-pound. Also, this year Tootoo’s offensive game has improved noticeably. He is getting time on the powerplay, even working the point, thus allowing him to use his incredible slapshot to good use. His slapshot was the hardest at the Top Prospects Game, clocking in at 96.1 miles per hour. His speed is also top notch as he was the second fastest player at the Top Prospects Game over the 150- foot dash, taking just 5.668 seconds to cover the distance. However, it is Tootoo’s thunderous bodychecks that garner him the most attention. Anyone who knows even a little about this years draft has heard of Tootoo, mostly because of his Micheal Peca type hits. He has that uncanny ability to be able to deliver bone crunching type hits without taking himself out of the play or taking a penalty. He is a textbook subject in the fine art of bodychecking. This area, while it is his calling card, is also the reason that scouts are leery of him.

While teams want that type of player who can hit like Peca, they also want him to be the same size as Peca. Tootoo is not. Tootoo stands all of 5’9, 182 lb. And don’t expect him to grow to much. He is already the biggest of the litter. This scares scouts. If Tootoo was 6’3, he’d be a sure fire first rounder. But his size has lead to him being ranked 96th in the mid-season CSS rankings, and 62nd at the final rankings. The Hockey News has him listed as the 79th best prospect overall in the draft, just two spots up on Jakes and two-thirds of the way through the third round of the draft. Amazing what six inches means in sports. Another drawback for Tootoo is his offensive instincts. While he did show an improvement in this area this year, I still can not see him being able to score much more then ten goals a season in the NHL, though his big slapshot could improve this total. I just don’t see enough natural talent to indicate that he can get much more an hard work, heart, and grit can only get you so much.

These two players are going to be drafted this year, no doubt. Where they go is still up in the air. For Jakes, if a team thinks he can improve his skating and that he is capable of scoring on a more consistent basis, he should go early second round. However, more then likely, he will fall into the 4th or even 5th rounds due to his sub-par skating before anyone takes a chance on him. As for Tootoo, it is a different story. While he could fall into the 4th round, the fact that his game covers all the little intangibles (skating, shooting, hitting, feistiness, leadership, and the ability to spark his teammates) should get a team that is lacking in these areas amoung their younger players to take a chance on him in the later parts of the second round. But like for all the prospects, these predictions will mean nothing until June 23rd and 24th, when reality will hit.