Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Jenks hoping for Team USA spot

Courtesy Plymouth Whalers

Plymouth Whalers veteran AJ Jenks has a lot to play for this season.

Selected by the Florida Panthers in the fourth round (100th overall) in the 2008 National Hockey league Entry Draft, Jenks is in his signing year with Florida. If the Panthers don’t sign him before the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Jenks could go back into the upcoming draft or become a free agent.

Jenks also has a chance to play for his country. He is one of the 29 players named to the preliminary roster for the 2010 U.S. National Junior Team that will participate in a three-day pre-tournament training camp December 17-19 in Grand Forks, N.D.

“I’m definitely excited about it,” Jenks said. “It’s going to be a good opportunity for me. It’s been a goal of mine to play on that team for many years, so I’m going to go there and give it everything I have. Hopefully, I get a chance to represent our country.”

Jenks is no stranger to international competition. He has played for Team USA before at the 2007 Under-18 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka Tournament in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, recording a goal and an assist with 16 penalty minutes. He has also attended Team USA's 2008 National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, New York, as well as the 2009 National Junior Evaluation Camp.

Jenks wants to play well for Plymouth before going to Grand Forks.

“It (the selection) definitely gives you a little more motivation,” he said. “I want to make sure my game is staying where it should be. I want to be in good shape going into the camp.”

Jenks has been watched all season, whether it’s by officials from USA Hockey, Panthers’ scouting director Scott Luce or other Florida scouts. Jenks takes a logical approach to the scrutiny.

“Obviously, it’s there in your mind, but I just try to put it behind me,” he explained. “I’m not playing for USA Hockey now, or Florida – I’m playing for the Whalers. And if I do well here, that will carry me to do well in other places, too.”

Jenks saw that in 2006-07 as a rookie on the Whalers championship team. Seven players signed NHL contracts from that team.

The Whalers continue to battle injuries and haven’t had a set roster all year long.

“I think our team is going to surprise a lot of people once we get fully healthy and on the same page again," Jenks said. "Once that happens, I think we’re going to shock some teams.”

Photo by Walt Dmoch

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