Thursday, August 25, 2011

Three Year Vet - Jeff Earnest

The season opener may still be a month away for the Prince George Spruce Kings, but the work has just begun. As of Wednesday a large number of returning players, recent acquisitions and prospects took to the ice for a pre-camp skate. This was still a high tempo session with assistant coach, Jason Garneau, putting the boys through their paces with a few complex drills that used the entire ice surface.

The boys seemed to eat it up and wanted more which is a good indication that the players have been working hard in the off-season to prepare for the Spruce Kings 40th Anniversary season. Although many of the players stood out and showed that they were ready to go, it was Jeff Earnest that caught my early attention and held it to the end scoring a pair of hard one-timers from the side of the net in the game scrimmage.

Jeff Earnest picks up the puck with speed through
the middle during a skate Wednesday night
Jeff Earnest has his school papers in his back pocket for the University of Alaska Fairbanks to study and play with the Nanooks beginning next season. For Jeff, this is his twenty year old season, his third in a Spruce Kings jersey and really his fifth with the team. Jeff is one of those players that was scouted and recruited early on and has skated in a few Spring and Main Camps with the team.

From Anchorage Alaska, Jeff's hockey career includes playing for the the San Jose Jr. Sharks for two seasons before joining the Spruce Kings as an 18 year old rookie. In his rookie and sophomore years the fiesty, hard hitting yet offensively gifted right handed forward tallied 18 goals, setup 30 more and served 101 minutes in penalties in 108 games.

The interesting thing about Jeff was that he proved himself as a very versatile player that could play both an offensive role and a defensive role filling in on the back end when the Spruce Kings had some manpower issues on the blue line throughout the season. Jeff himself missed a few games last year and at times felt he could have been better.

This year, Jeff's focus will be to further develop his game especially in the offensive zone as he prepares to make the leap from Junior hockey to University hockey. After that first pre-camp skate, I was able to catch up with Jeff and talk to him a little bit about his thoughts heading in to his third and final season with the Spruce Kings.

"We have a lot of fresh faces and younger lineup," said Jeff Earnest via a Skype conversation. "But we are bigger and stronger especially on the back end and I see a lot of depth this year. I felt good out there, like I have purpose and I felt stronger as a player. It feels right coming back for another season with the Spruce Kings."

"I want a full complete season where I can put it all out there," continued Earnest. "I missed a few games because of being sick and I also spent some time on the back end as a defenceman which helped to round out my game. It improved my game by allowing me to recognize more things on the ice. My scholarship is as a forward and I want to put in a full season up front and become a player that will be ready to make the jump to university hockey. I want to end my junior career on a high note and help to push this team as far as it can go. I want to be a leader and show the younger guys what they need to be doing out there on and off the ice."

If what I saw from Jeff during his first skate back in Prince George is any indication, I can see this veteran player being a very productive one and causing a lot of grief for the opposition. Jeff will be that power forward that won't be afraid to put on his hard hard and get to work in the dirty areas and bury some goals through grit and skill.

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