Billings develops skills with Janesville before move to USHL

By Tom Schreier

Jack Billings - Janesville Jets

Photo: Janesville Jets forward Jack Billings is developing his game in the NAHL before setting off on a course for NCAA hockey (courtesy of the NAHL)

After being selected by the Windsor Spitfires in the sixth round of the annual OHL Priority Selection, 17-year-old Jack Billings is now property of three teams.  He plays for the Janesville Jets of the North American Hockey League.  The Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League drafted him.  And now he’s also property of the Spitfires organization.

He’s more courted than a Kardashian.

“I got drafted by the Green Bay Gamblers,” says Billings, “but they wanted me to wait one more year and develop.”

Originally from the South Side of Chicago, Billings spent two years playing U-16 hockey at Culver Academy in Indiana and felt ready for junior.

“My advisor called [Janesville] coach [Joe] Dibble,” said Billings. “I heard they liked the way I played, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.”

Although young in age, play at Culver Academy had prepared him for the rigors of junior hockey. The team plays a 40-game schedule against other prep schools, like Shattuck-St. Mary’s, and produced current NHL players Blake Geoffrion, John-Michael Liles and Ryan Suter.

“The only difference is we play more games here,” Billings says of the junior hockey, which plays a 60-plus game schedule, “but I’m used to not getting much sleep, always having to do my homework. Other guys have to transition to being away from home, getting used to that. I’ve already been through it for two years now.”

The move for Billings was rather dramatic the first time, though. Oak Lawn, IL is a large suburb located near Chicago.  Culver Academy is an hour south of South Bend, IN and Janesville, WI is an hour south of Madison.

“In Illinois I’m in a suburb right by the city so I’ve got everything right there,” he says. “In Indiana I moved to a small town—not too many people, just the Culver campus, really.  Now I’m in Janesville, which is a pretty good size, same size as my suburb at home, so there’s not much of a difference, just away from a city of course.”

Janesville has gained notoriety during the current presidential election. It is the hometown of Republican vice presidential candidate, congressman Paul Ryan.

Billings has spent time in Green Bay as well, having played in a couple games for the Gamblers.

“It’s a lot more skilled hockey,” he says of play in the USHL. “Where [here] it’s a lot more aggressive, physical, dump-and-chase hockey, in the USHL there’s a lot more skill players. It’s all about making plays and the first thing that you want to do is score rather than get in a fight or hit.”

As of now he’s only spent a weekend in Green Bay, but Billings played significant minutes in his first game with the Gamblers and could spend some time traversing the Badger State this season.

“If I’m going up every other weekend it may affect my game,” he says, “but right now I’m just getting used to the transition, playing hard and playing simple and getting some confidence.”

He does not plan on moving to Windsor in the near future, however. He plans to continue on the college route despite being drafted by the Spitfires.

“I’m definitely looking more towards the college route,” he says. “I went up [to Green Bay], had a great time. It’s a great club, great organization so right now I’m all for the college route.”

As for Windsor, he says “it’s always there,” but he never really considered the move.  After all, while most children aged 15 to 18 spend all four years in one city, he’s already lived in three.

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