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Top 25U25: Blade Jenkins has time to grow at #22

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Saginaw Spirit forward Blade Jenkins was one of the youngest players picked at the 2018 NHL Draft, and will have plenty of time to grow as a player.

Saginaw Spirit v Peterborough Petes
First overall in the 2018 Best Hockey Names Draft.
Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Blade Jenkins is the youngest player on this list; his 18th birthday isn’t until August 11. He had bounced around the US National Team Development system until he found a home with the Saginaw Spirit in the OHL. With the Spirit, he switched from center to left wing, and his production increased, where he posted 44 points in 68 games played.

Jenkins is a good skater but is often cited as lacking that extra acceleration that truly elite skaters have. He also struggles defensively, but his offensive game has constantly improved. It’s his age and 6’1”, 195-pound frame that make him an intriguing prospect as well, since he’ll have plenty of time to get stronger as he continues to develop. At left wing, he’s become a much more interesting player than at center, and his 20 goal season is extremely promising.

Jenny Spizzwolf Noel Fogelman Travis Flynn CIL Mike B LHH HockeyGoalieEh garik16 Dominik Steve
25 19 21 22 18 19 25 22 17 20 21

Despite only putting up 44 points, Jenkins was fourth on his team in scoring, and one of two players on his team to hit 20 goals. The Saginaw Spirit lacked a true young superstar talent, but Jenkins’ play as a left wing was extremely encouraging for the OHL rookie. He’ll be one to watch going forward.

Rationales

Jenny:

I worry about wingers on teams without strong centers, because it's hard to get a real read on them. Is Jenkins a good talent or just not as bad as the rest of his bad team? It's hard to tell. But his move to left wing seems to have boosted his production and he's really young for this draft class so there's a lot to like there. I could see both the player and the Isles org trying to push for a trade away from Saginaw to continue his development and get him with better players.

CIL:

For starters, he scored 20 goals! Jenkins is one of a small number of Islander prospects who could turn out to be a draft sleeper. Jenkins has a late birthday. He won't turn 18 until August 11th. Had he been born after September 15, he wouldn't have been draft eligible until 2019. He also has size (6'1, 195), is likely to still grow a bit more, is known for being a a pain to play against, enjoys the physical side of the game, and is both a goal scorer and a play maker, especially down low. Scouts claim he has a high hockey I.Q., though his skating needs to continue to improve, as does his defensive positioning. What stands out in my mind is that last season was Jenkins' first in the OHL, after coming over from the U.S. National Under 17 program. Originally a centre, Jenkins struggled and had a slow start. After being moved to the LW where he's more naturally suited and has much less defensive responsibilities, his production took off. Taken into consideration, his offensive production as a LWer was much closer to a point per game.

Previously:

#23 Switzerland’s Yannick Rathgeb

#24 Young Finn Robin Salo

#25 Solid defenseman Kyle Burroughs

The Roster Cuts