Looking back, maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that Tristan Jarry didn’t get off to a great start with the Edmonton Oil Kings early this season.
In addition to being his first year as a No.1 goaltender in the Western Hockey League, the 18-year-old was coming off a whirlwind summer that saw him picked 44th in the NHL Draft and signed to a three-year, entry-level contract by the Pittsburgh Penguins, who not only invited him to rookie camp, but also kept him around for main training camp.
So coming back to junior was an adjustment, one he’s clearly made now.
Jarry was named the Vaughn Canadian Hockey League Goalie of the Week Tuesday after going 2-1-0 last week with two shutout wins, a 0.67 goals-against average and .977 save percentage. The Vancouver-area native followed that up by being selected Wednesday to represent the WHL against Russia in the Subway Super Series later this month.
If some found it tough to see this coming after three wins in his first eight games, a goals-against over four and a save percentage of .856, maybe they weren’t giving enough consideration to the adjustments Jarry faced coming back from Penguins camp.
“Basically going from having some of the top shooters in the world, like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang shooting on you, and then you come down and it’s a little bit different speed and a little different with the plays and how the players think, so it was a little bit of a transition for me and I had to settle in coming back to the Oil Kings,” Jarry told InGoal Magazine late Wednesday night, refusing to offer any excuses until pushed on that transition. “But it was a great challenge to see what I could do.”
It’s not the only challenge Jarry has faced this season, his first as the Oil Kings undisputed No.1 after backing up Laurent Brossoit the last two seasons.
Jarry played 27 games last season, going 18-7 with six shutouts, a 1.61 goals-against average and .936 save percentage. But as any goalie can tell you, being counted on to play every night can be a big adjustment, especially when it comes to finding practice time to stay sharp, something that is rarely a problem for the backup goalie. Cory Schneider struggled with that early last season with the Vancouver Canucks, but Jarry seems to have gotten a handle on it after a month.
“Obviously it’s a lot harder when you know you are going most nights, so the biggest thing is rest and eating properly and making sure my nutrition is good,” said Jarry, who admits to getting a kick out of being a Vaughn CHL Goalie of the Week after always wearing their equipment growing up. “So you have to find a balance and then come to practice and have a couple set things that you need to work on and should be focusing on. That’s my biggest focus this year is just keying in on certain areas in practice and making sure I follow through with them.”
Jarry isn’t taking anything for granted, despite his draft status and time in Pittsburgh.
“I’m very fortunate to be the No.1 goalie here this year, but I still have to earn my spot, earn my games and I think that comes with practice and having good practice habits,” Jarry said. “That’s been my main focus this year: hard work in practice and attention to detail in practice, and I believe that’s where my success has come from.”
As for the details he is focused on improving in those practices, Jarry said it varies.
“If my last game I felt my glove was a little shaky I will work more on my glove, or more on my blocker, just key areas like that I like to focus in on,” he said. “Or if am feeling good just making sure I keep tracking the puck well in practice, things like that.”
Hearing Jarry talk about tracking the puck is no surprise. Brossoit, who was recently acquired by the Edmonton Oilers form the Calgary Flames, said similar things when InGoal caught up with him at last year’s Subway Super Series against Russia.
It’s a big part of the work both have done with Oil Kings goalie coach Dustin Schwartz, who works with OR (Optimal Reaction) Sports, a program designed to improve how goalies track the puck by changing how they move their head to do so.
That’s an overly simplistic overview of a puck tracking system that is also quickly cited as a key to success by fellow high NHL pick and Super Series selection Eric Comrie, who works on it with its founder, Tri-City Americans goalie coach Lyle Mast.
“The biggest thing is making sure I am focusing on the puck. It sets up my body and my movements for my next positioning and my next save,” Jarry said when asked to explain what the head trajectory work means for him. “We work on it as much as we can.”
Jarry also made it clear his work with Schwartz goes beyond that.
“The relationship I have grown with Dustin has been great,” he continued. “We have a great understanding for one another and that’s one of the keys to this year is being able to be open and if I can say ‘hey I wasn’t feeling that great last night,’ he knows and he knows what we should work on in practice. And I think head trajectory has been a great thing for me, it sets me up for so much with my positioning and everything.”
The Penguins didn’t ask him to change much in his game this summer, but that doesn’t mean Jarry didn’t leave camp in Pittsburgh without learning a few things.
“Just to be able to see the caliber of the shooters and where you want to be and what you are looking out for, it was great that they kept me around for that long so I was able to see what I am looking at and working for,” Jarry said. “You see how the older guys and NHL players carry themselves in practice and public and it’s something you don’t really notice when you are watching a hockey game from a fan’s perspective, so I think just keep on growing as a person and a player and hopefully one day I can make it to that level.”
Not that Jarry plans to stray too far from his roots to get there. Ask him to describe his own game, and it’s immediately evident he’s not a stereotypical butterfly goalie.
“I like to think I am a goalie that likes to be in position and uses my bigger body frame,” said Jarry, who is listed at 6-foot-1. “I get in position but I am not always one to go into the butterfly. I might even stand up sometimes or do something a little more old school, but I think that’s one of my advantages as a goalie, is that I am able to read the play and read the puck and where it is going so I can make those kind of moves.”
He credits those skills to his goalie coach growing up, Angelo Maggio of Magic Hockey.
“I trained with Angelo nine-plus years and the foundation of my game comes from him,” Jarry said. “My skating and how I move around the crease all comes from Angelo.”
Not that his first memories of goaltending were quite as fun.
“No I still remember being six years old and one of his co-workers hit me in the knee and I probably laid on the ice and cried for a good 15 minutes,” Jarry says with a laugh. “And I still remember going out to my first goalie camp and I don’t think I saw a puck for the first hour, but I kept going back and stuck with it and all that is what has allowed me to be so successful, just training with Angelo and all the things he worked on.”
These days the work with Schwartz is more focused on tactics, especially around the net.
“A lot of post play and behind the net stuff right now – and obviously head trajectory,” Jarry said. “Obviously the position has changed quite a bit and you see all these different movements against the post and behind the net but you have to realize what the player is doing and most of the goals are scored within three to five feet of your net and I think that being in position and trying to get your body frame in front of the puck is the biggest thing these days. But skating is always a huge factor still. You have to skate with every movement and to every position. I still think it’s a huge foundation to my game.”
It’s a game that has impressed a lot of people lately, one that Penguins fans hope to see a lot of in the future, and one the Oil Kings crowds are appreciating again.
Here are the rest of the 2013-14 Vaughn CHL Goaltenders of the Week:
Oct. 28 – Nov. 3: Spencer Martin (Mississauga Steelheads)
Oct. 21 – Oct. 27: Jordon Cooke (Kelowna Rockets)
Oct. 14 – Oct. 20: Philippe Cadorette (Baie-Comeau Drakkar)
Oct. 7 – Oct. 13: Brandon Whitney (Victoriaville Tigres)
Sept. 30 – Oct. 6: Ty Edmonds (Prince George Cougars); read the InGoal interview with Edmonds
Sept. 23 – Sept. 29: Alex Nedeljkovic (Plymouth Whalers); read the InGoal interview with Nedeljkovic
Sept. 19 – Sept. 22: Sebastien Auger (Saint John Sea Dogs)