In a radio interview Wednesday night, veteran Rebels froward Evan Polei challenged the teams’ rookies to come up with better movie selections for the road.
On Thursday, 16-year-old rookie Jacob Herauf responded.
“That’s a good one,” he said, while pondering his answer. “Step Brothers, I like that movie a lot.”
With that challenge easily thwarted, the five-foot-11, 190-pound defenceman, is onto the next one – developing into a full-time WHL player.
“I just want to make sure I’m staying positive, and patient. I’ll get in the lineup when I get in,” he said about the big challenge in his rookie year. “For myself, it’s a year of developing and getting used to this league, so that way next year when I come back, I’m adjusted, and I can worry about my game.”
Herauf has been used sparingly this season, seeing action in just 10 games so far and registering one assist, but that’s not something he’s worried about yet.
The 16th overall pick of the Rebels in the 2015 WHL Bantam draft was sent down to the Sherwood Park Midget AAA Kings in October, and again after five games in November despite starting the season in Red Deer. Associate coach Jeff Truitt said, it was a confidence issue early on.
“He was very tentative. He wasn’t really quite the same player as we thought he was,” Truitt remembered.
“When he got recalled the first time, he really turned a corner. He was more himself, he was more engaging, he wasn’t intimated by the level. He was forcing plays, he was physical. He was making great plays, he was seeing the ice extremely well.”
Herauf agreed, saying he came back with a better understanding of what he needed to do.
“Have to be quicker, use your feet, use your speed. Not be afraid to be aggressive in the corners, and be chippy. Just because they are bigger than you, doesn’t mean they’re a lot stronger than you. You can still win those corner battles if you’re using your feet, and being gritty,” Herauf said about the adjustment between midget and the WHL.
“Definitely watching some of the games you notice things. Especially with the D-core we have, everyone on our d-core are great defencemen. You catch on to those little tips, and especially with Truy (associate coach Jeff Truitt), you catch onto those things and he shows me the ropes.”
Even with that understanding, there is a lot of learning that needs to take place for the young defender before he can be the next Josh Mahura, one Rebels player who Herauf has tried to shadow during his time with the Rebels.
“He’s a great defenceman, he got drafted last year, and barely played the whole season,” Herauf said.
“Watching guys like him, or even NHL guys like Duncan Kieth. I know it’s a different comparison but, you watch him in the Stanley Cup playoffs, he’s logging 40 minutes a game night in and night out. Playing consistent. I want to mimic him with my game.”
If there’s anything the Sherwood Park product should be good at, it’s learning on the fly. After being born and raised in Sherwood Park, Herauf’s dad was transferred to Montreal for work. With the family in tow, a young Jacob had to learn French rather quickly. After six years in the La Belle province, Herauf said he speaks fluent French, including a couple R-rated phrases he learned on the ice.
“It was difficult, I had to learn the French right away, but with the hockey came the French, and you kind of learn a few words, maybe not some good words,” he said with a chuckle.
Not only did he learn a new language, he said some of the most important hockey lessons he picked up in his young career came in Montreal, particularly from his bantam coach Eric Lecompte.
“He was my first coach in bantam, he was a great coach, probably the best coach I’ve had up until now. He’s helped me a lot. I still stay in touch with him,” Herauf said.
Truitt called Herauf a “dynamic personality” and in a short time, it was clear why the organization is so high on the young defender.
“Knowing that we don’t have the highs and lows, when you are called upon to do the job – practices are very important. Knowing you are going to be a reliable guy on the ice and getting our systems down pat and habitual. That’s going to really catapult his growth,” Truitt said going forward.
“He’s a confident player, right now, as a 16-year-old, there’s a lot to learn. He’s willing to put that time in. It’s a good combination. I think we’re just at the start of his growth potential.”