By Warren Rappleyea
At just 16 years old, Kyle Jackson has displayed the promise throughout this season that brought him to the attention of the OHL’s North Bay Battalion, as well as several Division I college hockey programs.
The 6-1 center has pumped in 21 goals and posted 29 assists in 50 matches and is a top-six forward for the Junior Senators, playing on a line with veterans Elie Boulerice and Darcy Walsh, two of the top scorers in the Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL). Jackson also recorded back-to-back four-point games earlier in the season against Nepean and Kanata, respectively.
“It was a big transition at the start,” said the Ottawa resident, who spent last year with the Toronto Red Wings. “The players are all older, bigger and stronger; it’s just a much faster, more physical game and the players are all skilled. It took me seven or eight games to adjust.”
It did not take long, however, for Jackson to establish himself as one of GM/Coach Martin Dagenais’ go-to guys. Soon, Jackson became a fixture on the power play and regularly found himself on the ice in key situations. The youngster also worked hard to upgrade the defensive side of his play, which was much appreciated by Dagenais.
“For the coaching staff, the fun thing about this season is to see the progress that some of our players have made since day one,” the GM/Coach explained. “Kyle is definitely one of these players. He is not the same player he was back in September, not even close. He’s way more confident now, but also way more engaged. His compete level is also higher, and that’s going to be important for him in the playoffs. We have been pretty hard on him this season, and that won’t change. We really want him to prove us he can score goals when it really counts. We’ll know for sure in a few weeks from now.”
Jackson credited his teammates with helping him progress, especially his linemates: Boulerice and Walsh. Playing for a team with a winning tradition has been another positive for the local product who tries to pattern is play after that of Toronto Maple Leafs Forward Auston Matthews.
“Our team expects to win games and that confidence is good for everyone,” Jackson said. “Being on a top team is fun and the talent here has really enabled me to use my playmaking skills and put up some points. It’s been a great development year for me to prepare for the OHL.”
Jackson sees the ice well and his ability to anticipate how a play will develop has resulted in some nifty passes. He’s a strong skater with good size and an accurate shot, which he acknowledges he needs to use more often.
The only son in a family with three older sisters, Jackson learned how to play under the tutelage of his dad, Charles. He eventually played for the Upper Canada Cyclones before joining the Toronto Red Wings last season. In addition to playing for the Junior Senators, he has appeared in 12 OHL games for the Battalion, scoring twice and adding an assist.