SUMMERSIDE – It’s been a smooth transition to the MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League) for Jordan Spence of Cornwall.
The right-handed-shooting Grade 11 student at Bluefield High School not only played his way onto the Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals in training camp, he now finds himself a central figure in the team’s youth movement and has to be in the conversation for the league’s rookie of the year.
“It’s been great,” said Spence, who along with Thomas Harper, Cameron Roberts and Josh MacDonald are midget-aged players playing regularly with the Caps. “At the start I had to adjust and change my game a little bit with the structure that we are playing. So far it has gone really well, and I really like it.”
The Capitals drafted Spence in the third round, 40th overall, in 2017.
“He’s a poised, composed young man that is a true professional in every sense of the word when he comes to the rink,” said Caps head coach Billy McGuigan. “He wants to play, he wants to be put in the situations in the last minute of the game, he wants the power-play time, he wants the PK (penalty killing) time. He’s just a kid who is learning and striving to get better.”
It’s been a rapid progression. Going into Saturday’s 7 p.m. home game against the Woodstock Slammers at Eastlink Arena, Spence sits third in team scoring with 17 points in 18 games. He has three goals, including two on the power play, and 14 assists.
“Jordan is basically a point-a-game guy,” said McGuigan. “To say the least, the Maritime Hockey League has always been a challenging league for 16-year-olds.
“I don’t remember a time when there’s been a 16-year-old defenceman having this type of success in the league.”
Even Spence admits his offensive production has surprised him.
“I didn’t know I was going to make the Caps at first,” he continued. “I came here to try out, and suddenly I made the team.”
Listed as five foot 10 and 160 pounds, Spence admitted he had to make some adjustments transitioning from the Charlottetown Bulk Carriers Pride of the New Brunswick/P.E.I. Major Midget Hockey League to junior A.
“I’m not really a big hitter, so I have to be smart in how I play the game,” explained Spence. “Honestly, I just wanted to be a hard-working guy first. . .
“I just focus on the defensive zone first, and if it’s there I go for the offence. We really have to focus on defence first.”
When asked if Spence has exceeded expectations in his first three months wearing a Caps’ jersey, McGuigan responded: “Absolutely. Going into training camp we didn’t even know if he was going to be on our roster.
“As things went, he earned his spot, and he just keeps earning things. There was a time I moved the power play around and put him on the second unit, but put him as a forward on the first unit. He just continues to find a way to play, and a way to get those opportunities.”
Western Capitals’ game-day notebook:
Next game – Saturday
Where – Eastlink Arena.
When – 7 p.m.
Opponent – Woodstock Slammers.
Records – Caps: 8-9-1-0 (won-lost-overtime losses-shootout losses); Slammers: 5-10-3-1.
Last games – Caps: 4-2 win over Valley Wildcats on Thursday; Slammers played in Campbellton on Friday night.
Head-to-head matchups – Sept. 16: Caps 3 at Slammers 4; Sept. 30: Slammers 2 at Caps 3; Oct. 21: Caps 4 at Slammers 1.
Points leaders – Caps: TJ Shea, 35; Slammers: Sam Cameron, 13.
Goals – Caps: TJ Shea, 14; Slammers: Conor MacLean, 6.
Assists – Caps: TJ Shea, 21; Slammers: Sam Cameron and Brendan Bornstein, tied with eight.