The fact he wasn’t selected in the WHL bantam draft didn’t bother D-Jay Jerome.
“It was fine I was a pretty small guy and small guys don’t get drafted,” said the 17-year-old Lethbridge native.
But he had talent, something the Red Deer Rebels saw. He was invited to the Rebels rookie camp as a 15-year-old and offered a contract.
“I was still only 145-pounds when I first attended the Rebels camp, but they saw something in me. They told me that I had a future I just needed to get bigger and stronger. They said I had the scoring touch and not to worry about that just concentrate on everything else and it would come.”
Today he’s listed at six-foot-one, 175-pounds is in his rookie season with the Rebels.
He still has that scoring touch, having connected for four goals and two assists in his first six games.
“I obviously wanted to come in and score, but even then it’s happening more than I thought it would with me being so young. I do hope it keeps going.”
Rebels coaching staff likes what they’ve seen so far.
“In think his production so far has been a bit of a surprise, but without a doubt he has the skill set,” said Rebels assistant coach Pierre-Paul Lamoureux. “The strength of his game is the ability to make something out of nothing.”
Still the 17-year-old has room to improve.
“They talked to me about working on my defence and once they said that I started to think more about it,” he said. “I’ve worked on it as you definitely need that to play in this league no matter how old you are.”
Lamoureux agrees, adding “there are a few areas he needs to keep working on. He has to be heavier on the puck and smarter with the puck. That’s not a negative, but just learning to play at this level.
“There’s a time and place to make plays and he will have the freedom to do just that as long as he picks his spots and when to do it. We tell our guys to have a good baseline game. To learn when to beat someone one-on-one or when to chip in the puck and retrieve it. There’s a time and place for both.
“D-Jay is receptive to that, but a lot of stuff we talk to him about he’s never been introduced to. It’s work in progress to develop that baseline game. But he’s slowly understanding it and implementing it into his game, which is exciting for us.”
Jerome came up through the Lethbridge minor hockey system, which is turning into one of the better programs in the province.
He played two years of bantam, scoring 24 goals and adding 15 assists in 33 games his second season. In his year of minor midget, he scored 17 goals and 27 assists in 36 games and one year of midget AAA, finished with 15 goals and 20 assists in 34 games.
While he’s off to a quick start with the Rebels in the goal-scoring department he looks at himself as a playmaker as well.
“Coming up I did a little of both … I like scoring, but like to make plays as well.”
Lamoureux feels he will be strong in both areas.
“At the end of the day he will have both in his game. He’s skilled one-on-one with goaltenders and skilled one-on-one with defencemen and sees the ice well. He has to keep working on his strength and power. It will take time, but there’s a lot to be excited about.”
Jordan Roy, who was picked up in a trade with the Tri-City Americans, has been a perfect addition to Jerome’s line. In fact he’s assisted on three of his goals.
“Jordan (from Lethbridge) is a good friend of mine and we seem to click,” said Jerome.
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter, who can be reached at email@example.com. His work can also be seen at Danny’s blog at rdcathletics.ca