Ohio Blue Jackets youth players were already aware of and, for the most part, following the career of Jack Roslovic.
However, they never expected to get to know Roslovic and see first-hand what has made him into a National Hockey League player.
The area’s youth players can now follow one of their alumni much more closely with Roslovic’s trade from the Winnipeg Jets to their hometown Blue Jackets.
While training in the offseason and early season, Roslovic kept active by skating with the youth program players in Columbus, rather than reporting to Winnipeg training camp in the final days of 2020 and the start of this year.
“He needed some ice and he was doing some skills with one of our coaches in the morning,” said Ed Gingher, the president and 16U head coach of the Tier I Elite Hockey League member club. “He wanted some team practice time, so he jumped on with our 16s and 18s.
“The boys loved it. How could you not?”
Now, the players who shared ice with a professional who is an alum of the same program, get to follow Roslovic’s career even more closely.
While he was working out with the youth Blue Jackets players, Roslovic wound up being traded from Winnipeg, along with Patrik Laine, for Pierre-Luc Dubois. The trade brought Roslovic, 24, back home to continue his professional career.
“It’s kind of a lot of what you hear,” said Dale Jordan, an assistant coach and coordinator in the youth program, pointing out the buzz at the rink after a recent highlight-reel goal by Roslovic. “Him being here locally now, it’s kind of exciting. There’s a lot of chatter at the rink in regard to him and him having such a strong connection with our program.”
That connection grew stronger while Roslovic was waiting to see what turn his NHL career would take early this season.
“Jack had that opportunity and it wasn’t a selfish, ‘I’m going to get this ice time and I’m going to practice and I’m going to work on my game,’” Gingher said. “He wanted to do all those things, but he realized the responsibility and the opportunity, more importantly, there to help.
“We’re working on the power play and he’s there helping guys on the side. We want that out of him. It’s the opportunity of someone who’s at the highest level to share insights that maybe coaches don’t see. I think it was fun for Jack, too. And, the kids, when a guy like Jack pulls him aside and is giving tips or pointers, they’re going to take it to heart and they’re going to try it.”
Roslovic helped Team USA to the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship gold medal.
Gingher said Roslovic continued a trend to which he proudly points.
“The one thing that’s nice with our alumni, whether NHL, college or in the working world, the pride they have in wearing that logo and the paths they’ve been able to pave for a lot of kids,” he said.
Todd Ehrie, an assistant with the 16U team, saw that up close.
“He does a really good job of interacting with all the kids,” Ehrie said. “He’s done that for years. I think that’s an admirable quality for us as coaches.”
During Roslovic’s youth days, Ehrie was one of his coaches for four seasons.
“We have always kind of talked about giving back, paying it forward, that type of thing,” Ehrie said. “He’s always sort of done that, even when he was in the NHL in other places.
“He’s done a really good job of giving kids input. I have a son [Trevin] that age. He’s done a good job, even away from the rink, talking with him about making yourself better. He really interacts with them well.”
The coaches praised Roslovic’s willingness to share ideas with the players. They also said his effort in workouts were a great example for aspiring younger players.
“Obviously, he’s not going up against NHL guys, but he’s giving 100 percent effort out there, which I think is good for the kids to see,” Ehrie said. “He’s an amazingly skilled player; an amazingly talented player, but a lot of the input he’s given them just has to do with work, on the defensive side of the puck and how to create more offensive situations, depending on the circumstances. And, the kids love it. To have a kid who’s from Columbus, who’s playing in the NHL, out there skating around with them, they were very excited about it.”
Knowing they were getting advice from a player who graduated from the same youth program to USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program, then to college and now professional hockey helped make the current youth Blue Jackets a very attentive group.
“In a drill that we’re doing with our kids, when he steps in, seeing how he plays and how he reacts to certain situations is important,” Ehrie said. “Them being able to emulate that is valuable because I think a lot of hockey players are visual players.
“You can communicate things to them, but if they can also visually see what you’re talking about, I think it sinks in very well for them.”
It was also a valuable experience for the coaching staff.
“You’re always learning. Even just talking, being able to spend time with Jack off the ice and talking hockey, you realize what he’s seeing on the ice and what he’s doing to try to improve his game,” said Gingher, who has coached more than 70 future college players along with 11 who have been drafted or signed by NHL teams. “There are ways we can try to infuse some of that knowledge into our players.
“I was picking his brain more on power plays, and different sets and different positioning and why he is looking for certain things at particular times.”
Roslovic still stops in at times to check on the youth players, particularly the 16U team with which he spent the most time.
“By the time he was done, I think he felt like a part of the team — and 16Us sure aren’t going to shy away from that either,” Gingher said.
Back with his current professional team, Roslovic is thriving. With four goals and six assists in 10 games heading into the final week of February, he was already up to third on the Blue Jackets in points scored despite the late start. He was the only Columbus player, among the 17 who have appeared in at least 10 games, to average a point per game.
“I’ve tried to take a few moments to step back and realize how neat it is and how special it is,” Gingher said. “Jack stepping in and having the success that he has, has only added to the magnitude and the exposure to the program and the kids.
“Everybody in our program is a huge Blue Jackets fan, but it’s extra special when it’s one of your own.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.