Based on his size and physical development, maybe we should just go ahead and start calling him Jarrod ‘Iron’ Maidens. A 6-foot-1, 170-pound center with the Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs, Maidens has been wreaking havoc all year in minor midget, playing well beyond his 16 years on the planet.
“Jarrod’s a man,” said Hamilton coach Gord Weaver. “He’s a powerful skater and he shoots the puck like a man. His game translates well to the next level.”
The Bulldogs head into the playoffs on a terrific run, having already accepted an invitation to play in the OHL Cup afterwards. The team won 19 games in a row before falling in the last game of the regular season, 5-4 to Guelph. With an overall record of 28-5-3, it’s fair to say the Bulldogs got hot at the right time after some early changes in philosophy.
“We went more to a man-to-man system,” Weaver said. “There was some buying in, but our play in our own zone really improved.”
For Maidens, it was all about the team gelling.
“We had a lot of new kids this year,” he said. “It took us a while to get used to each other.”
Ironically, Maidens was one of those kids. Originally from Niagara Falls, Ont., the big pivot played for the Toronto Young Nats last year, putting him far away from his family at a young age (Maidens turned 16 earlier this month). He billeted while playing in Toronto and his family made the two-hour drive a couple times a week to see him play, but it wasn’t an ideal off-ice situation.
“It was tough on the family,” Weaver noted.
For this season, the Maidens clan moved to Grimsby, Ont., just outside Hamilton, where their hockey-playing son could attend a high school affiliated with Hockey Canada’s Skills Academy program. Back in ‘The Hammer,’ Maidens was welcomed by his new teammates with open arms.
“It couldn’t have been better,” he said. “They took me in and the coaching staff has been great.”
And Maidens wasn’t exactly on an island with the Bulldogs. Hamilton already had some pretty good players, so the addition of a prospect expected to go high in the Ontario League draft this summer only made the team more of a force. Maidens likes to watch Alex Ovechkin play the game and has some elite skills of his own, listing his best attributes as “my speed and my shot, getting in the corners.” He knows what to work on, too.
“I’d say my play away from the puck,” Maidens added. “That’s a whole different game.”
Weaver did his research when Maidens became available and was pleasantly surprised to find his ex-teammates heap nothing but praise on the prospect, even if it would have been easy to get a dig in after he had left.
“I got none of that,” Weaver said. “He’s a quality kid and a great leader.”
The next big decision for Maidens will be where he lands in the future. The OHL will certainly come calling, but the NCAA isn’t completely out of the equation.
“I don’t want to close any doors,” Maidens revealed.
In the meantime, the goal is simple: Win a league championship, then set out to take the OHL Cup, which features teams from across Ontario and the U.S.
“All the guys have to be skating hard,” Maidens said of Hamilton’s mission. “When you work hard, the best is yet to come.”
Prep Watch, which features minor hockey players destined to become big names in major junior or the NCAA, appears every second Thursday throughout the season.
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