It’s not often that a 7th-round pick becomes one of the most talked-about members of an NHL team’s brand new draft class, but that was certainly the case with Dallas Stars prospect Jermaine Loewen this past June.
There were plenty of reasons to like and talk about Loewen based off of his on-ice play. The 6-foot-4 winger was coming off of an impressive 36-goal, 64-point season with the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, leading his team in both categories.
But it was his off-ice story that caught the minds, and the hearts, of Stars fans.
Dropped off at a Jamaican hospital as a baby by his biological parents and then sent to live at an orphanage, Loewen was adopted at the age of five by a couple from Manitoba, who brought him back to live in Canada. He received his first pair of ice skates at the age of six and played his first organized hockey game at the age of 10, a later introduction to the sport than most prospects.
Being something of a late bloomer played into Loewen’s appeal as a potential draft choice for NHL teams, including Dallas, who elected to take him 199th overall in 2018 in the organization’s home arena. Loewen didn’t make the trip down to American Airlines Center that weekend, but was following the results intently from afar.
“I was in Kelowna, training out there with my trainer, and we were just down by the lake with my billets, they came down from Kamloops just to come celebrate with me because my parents were back home,” Loewen said on Sunday at the Saddledome in Calgary, where the Blazers played that afternoon. “It was a pretty surreal moment, being at the lake and getting the call from my agent. I was watching the draft on my phone, going through the rounds. I thought I was going to get picked in the fourth or fifth round, and then the sixth round went through, and finally got picked in the seventh round, so it just felt good to get picked up by a good organization like Dallas.”
The surreal feeling wasn’t about to go away any time soon. The second day of the draft, which featured rounds two through seven, was June 23rd, and the Stars’ development camp kicked off on the 25th in Frisco and ran to the 29th. It was a whirlwind experience, but Loewen said that he was able to take a lot from it.
“It was eye-opening, learning about being a pro and what it takes to get to the next level with your nutrition, hydration... it was very educational,” Loewen said. “But I had a good time, just kind of gauged where I was at as far as my development (in relation to) the players that they had drafted in earlier rounds. I just had fun with it and worked hard.”
Loewen had a chance to catch up with a lot of the people he met during his time in Frisco a few months later for another valuable learning experience, joining the Stars as a member of their roster at the Traverse City Prospect Tournament, where he suited up for three of the team’s four games.
“The speed and intensity of the games were pretty good, the checking... it was definitely a man’s game,” he said of the event. “I thought the pace and tempo were fairly good throughout the tournament. We lost in the shootout that one game, but we would have made it to the finals (if we had won).”
Building off of the positives of those experiences and carrying them into his fifth and final WHL season, however, has proven to be more of a challenge than expected. Loewen, who was named the captain of his team in October, has 11 goals and 15 points in 20 games thus far for Kamloops, but has missed time due to two suspensions, the latter of which occurred Friday, an automatic suspension for a check from behind. He was prohibited from playing in Saturday’s game, but as of this writing, the official length of the suspension has yet to be determined by the WHL.
Loewen knows how to score goals, as evidenced by his totals from last season, but he also knows that his physical game is a valuable, difference-making attribute that has to be utilized. Learning to walk that fine line is a process that all budding power forwards go through, something that Loewen says is on his mind as he continues to evolve.
“I’m thinking about just getting back out there and playing again,” he said, when asked about what he’s focusing on right now in his development. “Before I got suspended, just trying to continue to play a solid game and try to be a point-per-game player if I can be that, just chip in offensively when I need to. Just being a physical presence on the ice helps my team more than maybe just scoring goals... if I do both that’s awesome, but being physical is a part of my game, that helps me have success and helps my linemates.”
Like everything else in life, though, it’s not a path that one can take completely alone.
Loewen will gladly take the instruction and the advice from his junior coaches, his trainers and the Stars, when it comes time for them to check in with one of their newest prospects. After all, being open and receptive to the assistance of those who have your best interest at heart is something that Loewen says helped him get to where he is today — as his history can attest.
When told that the story of his upbringing and path to hockey became something of an inspiration to many of those who heard it, he made sure to stress the importance of all the help he received along the way.
“It’s good that people can look at my story (and feel inspired). You come from the bottom, so to speak, and you just work hard and you never know, with the will and drive, what things you can overcome. I’ve had to overcome some things this season already that have been helping me to grow as an individual and as a hockey player. It’s not just about the game of hockey.”
“Through all the things that were thrown my way, all the people that have helped me get to this point, I wouldn’t be here (without them). I wouldn’t say I’m here just because of my own strength — I’ve had other people helping me out.”
Stars prospect Jermaine Loewen's story is one of perseverance and love. His journey is nothing short of amazing, detailed in this episode of "The Franchise" presented by @mrcooper. pic.twitter.com/UL0zGC0FYQ— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) August 13, 2018
North American Juniors
Brett Davis must feel pretty good right now following his recent trade from the basement-dwelling Kootenay Ice to a pretty strong Red Deer Rebels club. He had one assist and scored the game-winning shootout goal in a win on Friday before picking up a goal and three assists in another win on Saturday. He now has eight points in four games since the trade to Red Deer. Video highlights of his four-point performance can be found at this link.
Another week, another heaping of points that you can add to Jason Robertson’s season total. He picked up three goals and two assists in Thursday’s game and then two more points on Saturday, bringing his total with his new team, the Niagara IceDogs, to a jaw-dropping 21 points in seven games. He is currently riding a six-game goal streak and a 15-game point streak, and his 59 points in 31 games currently leads the entire OHL. Unsurprisingly, he was named to the USA Hockey’s World Junior camp roster and will almost assuredly make the team.
Riley Damiani missed three weeks of action due to injury but wasted no time getting up to speed in his return on Friday, scoring a goal and two assists. However, he might be out of the lineup again soon because of an OHL rule that he probably didn’t even know existed. He accidentally flipped a puck over the mesh netting around the ice after an opposing goal, which the league has strong rules about.
This is what Damiani will likely be suspended 5 games for.— caitlin berry (@caitlinsports) December 9, 2018
Boston University goaltender Jake Oettinger split a pair of games over the weekend against UMass Lowell, allowing four goals on 27 shots in a 5-3 loss on Friday before rebounding with 40 saves on 42 shots on Saturday. He rebounded from a slow start to his season and is currently sporting a .920 save percentage through 15 appearances.
2018 3rd-rounder Oskar Back has been named to Sweden’s World Juniors camp roster. The 18-year-old center hasn’t made the team yet, but he has been a staple for the Swedes at international events over the past few seasons, so his odds of making the team are pretty good. Jacob Peterson and Albin Eriksson, the Stars’ two other eligible Swedish forwards, were not invited to the camp.
The Texas Stars breezed through a light week in their 2018-19 schedule, beating the Milwaukee Admirals 5-1 on Wednesday and then again 3-2 on Friday.
Denis Gurianov had one goal and three assists split between the two games, while Joel L’Esperance had two goals, Adam Mascherin had a goal and two helpers and Roope Hintz scored in his return to the AHL on Friday. Landon Bow started and was sharp in both games, stopping 29 of 30 shots in the first and 31 of 33 in the second.