Red Deer Rebels forward Jace Isley has taken his game to another level.
He’s been strong.
And downright lethal in front of the net if you gave him an opportunity with the puck on his stick.
The 20-year-old has already tied his goal total from last season with 15 notches in just 27 games and is one away from tying his career-best 11 assists.
However, one statistic that sticks out more than the rest this season is his ability to draw and bury penalty shots.
As we near the halfway point to the Western Hockey League season, Isley has converted on not one, but two shorthanded penalty shot opportunities.
“I’m 20 now, so it’s a big role for me to play this year, I’ve got to be consistent, I’ve got to play a full 60 minutes, I’ve got to finish checks, and I’ve got to do whatever it takes,” Isley said.
The first penalty shot goal came on Oct. 8 when Isley capitalized on a penalty shot chance in overtime to beat the Calgary Hitmen 3-2 but most recently, notched his second opportunity Wednesday night against the Medicine Hat Tigers on a 5-2 win.
After he was hooked, Isley fired home a beautiful goal on the penalty shot, faking his first shot and beating the goaltender on the backhand. Isley had a big game against the Tigers contributing a goal and an assist.
“We played a full 60 minutes, we needed to get back after those two losses we had, so it was a good bounce back,” Isley said.
“My feet were moving so it felt pretty good to get some points for the guys. I just saw their team was kind of sleeping in the defensive zone so I decided to drive wide and I had Grubbe by my side to put in for me.”
Standing six feet two inches tall and approximately 200 pounds, Isley relies on his strong shot but also uses his physical strength, especially in front of the net.
His diverse two-way abilities have helped propel the Rebels into first place in the Central Division and second in the Eastern Conference.
The Grande Prairie, Alta. product said his off-season training was huge for his overall development. He worked out with his agent focusing on strength training.
“I’ve worked out with him in prior years but this summer we decided to dial in and buckle down,” Isley explained. “My body changed over the years so I just got stronger this summer than I have in the past.”
Among other attributes on his to-do list in the offseason were skating, shooting, core strength, and explosiveness.
All of this has led to Isley taking that next step in his development where he is currently second on the team in goal scoring.
“It’s paid off a lot,” he added. “It was a tough start last season until November when I started scoring but by the end of the year, I started to pick it up. I started feeding off that to start this year.”
Assistant coach Ryan Colville can certainly attest to that and has watched Isley take a massive step in his junior hockey career.
“I think he came into this year in good shape and he looks physically bigger,” Colville said. “He’s always been a good skater and quick but this year he’s added to that quite a bit.”
As the season progresses, Isley has seen the results on the scoreboard, which Colville said has done nothing but good things for Isley’s confidence.
In turn, it’s led to a fury of goals from the fourth-year sniper.
“We always knew it was there. I think sometimes when you get older in this league, you start figuring it out and learn how to score,” he added.
“He’s learned to take it to the net… If you look at a lot of his goals, it’s been driving the net and he’s got a couple of penalty shot goals.
“As a 20-year-old you need that. You only have so many spots and there is pressure that comes with that being able to help out on both ends of the ice and being a complete 200-foot player for us… The expectations were high and I think his expectations were really high too. He’s has done a really good job this season to meet those expectations.”