Jackson Edward took a different path to the Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection than most players.
He is the first member of his family to play hockey. His mom, a huge Toronto Maple Leafs fan, signed him up for skating lessons and Timbits hockey when he was five.
When he was eight, he made the local York Simcoe Express AAA Minor Atom team but by the time he was in Peewee, he got cut and had to try out for the Richmond Hill Coyotes team, which also played in the Eastern AAA Hockey League. After four years of steady improvement and hard work in Richmond Hill, he rejoined the Express for his minor midget year.
This April, he was the first player off the board from his team, selected 22nd overall in the Priority Selection by the Knights.
His mom sat next to him on the couch. She doesn’t have as much time for the Leafs anymore, she’s more of a Jackson Edward fan now.
“It was pretty surreal. Not being from a hockey family none of us had ever experienced anything like it,” said Edward.
The draft, which is no doubt a special moment for all of those involved, was particularly rewarding for Edward. He hopes the same work ethic that got him this far will continue to help him develop at the major junior level.
With captain Alec Regula, as well as veterans Markus Phillips and Ryan Merkley, graduating to the pros, there will be room for the rookie on the blueline, but he will have to compete for a spot.
Starting the season with the London Nationals, he has been watching game tape of former captain Evan Bouchard.
He said he admires the Edmonton Oilers first-round pick’s complete game.
“I really like how he goes from offence to defence so quickly,” said Edward. “He can move the puck up and be the fourth forward right away.”
Known for his impressive mobility and offensive production for a 6’2” defenseman, the rookie has been working on the defensive side of his game with assistant coach Dylan Hunter. He says he feels he is compatible with the way the team likes to play.
“They are an offensively driven team, they like their defensemen to be able to walk the line but also play in a shutdown role, which I think suits me well,” he said.
Edward will wear number 92 with the Knights. Growing up watching Mitchell Marner wearing 93 with the Knights, he hopes to able to carve out his own legacy in London.
Now a highly touted prospect in an organization with lots of young talent, Jackson Edward was once an eleven-year-old worrying about if he would be able to make the AAA team. While he faced a fair share of adversity in his journey to the OHL, he says there isn’t anyone who paved the way for him.
“I’ve never had anyone who’s pushed me to play hockey,” he said. “I’m the one who wants to train and get better. I’ve set my own goals and I want to be the best player I can.”