Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Plymouth's Jenner developing into solid D-man

Courtesy Plymouth Whalers

Different players progress at different rates in the Ontario Hockey League.

Tyler Seguin didn’t score his first goal until the 18th game of the season when he snapped a shot from the high slot past Thomas McCollum in a 4-2 loss in Guelph. Since that goal, Seguin has scored 15 more.

It’s obvious that Seguin – taken by Plymouth ninth overall in the OHL draft last spring – is on a fast track in the OHL.

It took Whalers defenseman Leo Jenner three-and-a-half years and over 150 games to score his first OHL goal. It came in Mississauga on December 19 in a 6-5 overtime loss to the Majors. Jenner wired a shot from the left point that seemed to pinball off a couple of players and into the net.

Since that time, Jenner has added a couple of more goals to go with 10 assists as one of the most improved players in the OHL over the past two seasons.

Originally selected by Plymouth in the fourth round (69th overall) of the 2005 draft, Jenner didn’t play much during his first two seasons. But he’s made up for lost time and has developed into a steady member of the Whalers defense.

“It feels great to get that (first) goal,” Jenner said. “My first couple of years, I played more of the tough role. Coming into my fourth year now, I want to help out a little more offensively and keep the younger guys going.”

We can all appreciate Jenner’s approach to his game.

“I think when I keep my game simple and play the way I need to play is when I’m at my best,” Jenner said.

After establishing himself as a willing fighter during his first two seasons with Plymouth, Jenner has developed into an excellent penalty killer and along with his size, he has a very active stick. He currently stays at home while defensive partner Beau Schmitz often joins the rush.

Whalers associate coach Joe Stefan appreciates Jenner’s contribution.

“Obviously, his size stands out among everyone else,” Stefan said. “Leo’s a big, strong body out there and he gets in the way a lot. He’s probably not the prettiest player in the league to watch, but he’s very effective. I know guys on the other team don’t like playing against him. When he’s got his confidence up and he’s handling the puck well, that means the rest of his game is going well.

"He’s doing a real good job for us this year.”

Stefan has a theory why it took a little longer for Jenner to develop.

“Leo didn’t play a lot his first two years,” Stefan said. “It probably took him a little longer to advance than some other people, but he has got the ice time over the last couple of years. We put a lot of responsibility on him, to be a leader off and on the ice. He’s done that real well. I think his game has been elevated to another level and I hope he continues to do that.”

In return, Jenner appreciates working with Stefan

“Joe’s been a good coach here for the last year-and-a-half,” he said. ”I enjoy working with him.”

Jenner was a reserve on the Whalers’ 2007 championship team. He uses his experience with that team to help explain the Whalers turnaround this year since November.

“I think it was a big attitude change in the locker room with all of our guys,” Jenner said. “We know we can win and we finally decided to.”

Leo Jenner is a big part of the Whalers current success.

Photo by Walt Dmoch

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