WATERFORD, Mich. – Jason Newel had a pretty good idea he’d be suiting up for the Metro Jets this season.
After all, during his senior season in 2013-14 at Plymouth Salem High School, the Jets scouted him pretty heavily and let him know they were planning to draft him in the 2014 North American 3 Hockey League draft, which was held on June 10.
Newel was selected by the Jets in the 10th round, had a great training camp and is now a key piece in the Metro lineup.
“I didn't know very much about the NA3 except that a few players on my high school team played in the league,” said the 18-year-old forward and Canton, Mich., native. “It took me a few games to get used to playing with a new team and to adjust to the level of competition. I really like how close we are and all the good guys we have on our team.”
Newel has five points in his last three games, including three goals last weekend against Cleveland, and has posted 13 points and a plus-3 rating in 15 games so far for the Jets.
“Jason has done a great job of utilizing his size of late,” said Metro head coach Justin Quenneville. “It took him some time to adjust to the pace and strength of players at this level, but he has done a great job being a student of the game through development and attention to detail in practice.”
Coming from a high-end program at Salem (pictured) also helped with Newel’s learning curve when he joined the Jets.
“The locker room environment at Salem was set up just like a junior team,” Newel said. “We also skated every day and had great coaching from very experienced coaches.”
Having above-average size (6-foot-6, 190 pounds) is also a plus when it comes to the NA3HL style of game.
“I try to use my size to protect the puck and win battles on the boards and also to screen goalies, especially on the power play,” explained Newel. “I hope to keep getting points and winning games and with the skill on our team, I think we could go far in playoffs.”
Newel added that his long-term goals are to move up to the NAHL, USHL or even the OHL, and to play college hockey after his junior career is in the books.
LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD
Last weekend, the Jets split a staggered home-and-home with Cleveland, beating the Jr. Lumberjacks 7-2 Friday night at Lakeland Arena and then dropping a 5-2 decision on the road Sunday afternoon.
In the win, Newel had two goals and an assist, Max Vance a goal and two assists and Andrew Sawyer and captain David Chavis II each posted a goal and an assist.
Thomas Luzynski and Jake Sealy added single goals and Graham Day chipped in two assists to back Stephen Wroe’s 18-save outing for his first win of the season.
Sunday afternoon, Newel and Tyler Layle scored and Jake Stephan and Kam Limburg combined to make 25 saves between the pipes.
“Again, we have a difficult time producing consistent winning efforts on the road,” Quenneville said. “Young teams always struggle early on the road, but our issues have been finishing on the road. Naturally, the team played great Friday night at home, but in order to be a consistent threat, we will need to find more consistent efforts on the road. Cleveland only has one loss at home, and it is to us. We ran into a hot goalie on Sunday and outplayed them for 60 minutes. We just needed a few more saves to ensure the sweep.”
This weekend, the Jets (11-5-0) travel to play the West Michigan Wolves Friday night in Battle Creek and then come home to host the Pittsburgh Vengeance Saturday night at 7:50 p.m.
“This is a big weekend for us in terms of points,” added Quenneville. “We have an out-of-division game against West Michigan, whom we have not played in a long time, and a home game against Pittsburgh who is close to us in the standings. With only four games left before the big showcase in Blaine (Minn.), we are working to position ourselves as one of the top teams in the league in the standings. In order to do that, we need to be disciplined and play consistent on the road.”
The Jets traded 20-year-old forward Kyle Downey to the Toledo Cherokee prior to last weekend and then acquired forward Jacob Drinkard from the La Crosse Freeze.
Drinkard, an 18-year-old out of Lapeer, Mich., skated last season for the Flint Jr. Generals, who were sold and relocated to La Crosse, Wis., over the summer.
In addition, the 18-year-old Luzynski, a native of Commerce Township, Mich., was sent to Metro in a league transfer from the NAHL’s Soo Eagles.
“Trading Downey was difficult because he was a returning player from last year’s squad, but this move allows him to stay close to home and potentially see more ice time than he had here,” Quenneville explained. “’Drinks’ and Thomas were upgrades that make our lineup more competitive top to bottom. With the near future potentially holding a few more roster moves up to the NAHL, we will need all the depth to remain a top contender in our division that doesn’t see much movement.”
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic, the 2013-14 OHL Goaltender of the Year with the Plymouth Whalers, saw action in nine games for the Jets during the 2012-13 season.
Nedeljkovic, a native of Parma, Ohio, went 5-3-0 with the Jets with a 2.49 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage and was the NA3HL Goaltender of the Month for November 2012.
This past summer, Nedeljkovic was drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes in the second round (37th overall) of the NHL draft.