by Lisa Brown on 03/27/15 at 03:35 PM ET
The WHL season is over for most players, and this means tremendous opportunity for some including Jackson Houck. His Vancouver Giants team came in dead last in the WHL but now Houck’s season is not over. Instead of getting an early summer, Houck is being given the opportunity to play with a playoff team in the Oklahoma City Barons. Even if Houck doesn’t see ice team, the opportunity of practising with the Edmonton Oilers’ AHL affiliate and getting more attention, and working closer to the NHL team that drafted him will be a tremendous boost to his development.
Signed to an amateur try out with the Barons Wednesday, fourth round, 2013 draft pick Houck has made the journey to OKC along with three older, veteran players in David Ling a 40 year old right winger with 93 NHL games, Brett Lyon a 24 year old left winger with 14 AHL games and Jason Pitton a 28 year old left winger with 188 AHL games.
Houck, a Vancouver native saw his team struggle through the season, a season that included a coaching change, two if you count the recent parting of ways with Claude Noel on Wednesday but through it all, Houck led his team in points with 51. While not his career best, looking at his team’s results and point totals, it is something to be proud of.
Despite the fact that his WHL team was struggling, and his NHL team wasn’t doing much better, Houck said in his exclusive interview with me on November 28th, 2014:
“I watch [The Oilers]. I mean obviously they are in a tough stretch, but they have a first class organization that I’ve been a part of. You see it from the top down. So I’m happy to be a part of it and I’m just going to keep working here and try to get better and better and hopefully make an impact with that organization one day.”
While most of the Oilers fan base have struggled to make it through games on TV and are struggling to fill the building, apparently due to inclemate weather, Houck was making the time to watch Oilers games, to see where they were struggling and perhaps to see where their biggest weaknesses were and where Houck would need to focus his game.
Houck was extremely grateful for the Oilers’ prospect development system saying the contact between the team and the player is very frequent “It’s close to [a phone call after every game]. Every couple of weeks they get you online and talk to you about things, how things are going, practise and all that stuff.
“Their player development program is unbelievable, it’s probably the top one in the league from what I’ve been hearing from other guys that I’ve talked to that have been drafted and are part of programs like that. I was very lucky to be drafted by them and be a part of such a good program where they want to develop their players from the base up. “
It’s not just checking in to say ‘good game kid’, no the development team is giving feedback and tracking improvements. “They’ve been noticing things that I need to work on like my foot speed, my power and my lower body skating, stuff like that. So they’ve really handled me well and talked to my trainers here. They’ve really helped me a lot and I think that my game just keeps improving and I think it’s uphill right now.”
There have been a number of improvements to Houck’s game that will be noticeable from the year of his draft until now. While Houck still needs to work on his foot speed, there have been improvements. There also appears to be added confidence to his game. This season, Houck could often be found in the thick of things, parked in front of the net. “I like to play the net front because that’s where I get the majority of my scoring chances and my points but right now my team is in a tough stretch right now. So it’s up to me and other leading scorers on the team to step up and give that ten percent more than what we’re giving right now. I like to be a part of the net and it’s just a part of my game.”
And that’s why he led his team in points.
Houck has also increased the physical interaction in his game with 6 fights this past season and bigger, more frequent checks.
In the game against the Edmonton Oil Kings, Houck dropped the gloves trying to be a leader to his team on the ice:
“We’re down 2-0 in the second [period] and I thought we were going good and I thought that maybe a little spark would help, maybe put that first one in, get a lucky bounce. So I thought being shut out two games in a row isn’t what we really want.”
While the spark didn’t help his team that night, that attitude that he can control the outcome of the game, that he can try to get his team going is just the sort of character the Oilers sorely need.
While with the Barons, Houck will continue to work on his goals “Just to keep getting better in every aspect of my game; my foot speed, my leg power, everything that I can work on to try to get me to the next level is what I’m going to try to do and that’s my mindset.”
Houck finished his WHL season with 65 games played, 22 goals and 51 points. While Houck may not be the player that will make and impact with the Oilers next season, this is a prospect of note and given a couple of years in the AHL Oilers fans may be taking note of.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
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