If the Niagara IceDogs and Pavel Jenys have one thing in common (other than the obvious fact that the Czech forward plays for the IceDogs), it’s that both had fairly underwhelming 2015-16 regular-season campaigns.
The mantra in their locker room throughout these 2016 Ontario Hockey League playoffs has been about erasing the regular season and focusing on the postseason — to start from scratch and almost act as if it is a brand new season.
The IceDogs finished third in the Central Division and fourth overall in the Eastern Conference. However, their record and team statistics, when compared with those of the better teams in the league, prove that the 2015-16 season was a bit of a disappointment.
Likewise, Jenys, acquired by Niagara in late November, had a down year in 2015-16. Selected 31st overall in the 2014 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft by the Sudbury Wolves, the power forward was expected to be an integral part of the Wolves’ immediate future at the time.
He scored 15 goals and added 30 assists in his rookie season before joining the Minnesota Wild’s AHL affiliate, the Iowa Wild, for the final stretch of their regular season in which he tallied three assists in eight games.
It was a positive first year in North America for Jenys, but he experienced a dip in production this season when he only put up 12 points in 24 games for Sudbury. Granted, the Wolves are in the midst of a full rebuild at the moment, so a change of scenery was believed to be necessary for Jenys to find his game again. Things didn’t get much better, though, as the highly-talented forward only managed 25 points in 42 games with the struggling IceDogs.
But instead of getting frustrated and letting his troubles consume him, Jenys has been on a tear in the playoffs, scoring seven goals and six assists for a total of 13 points in 12 games. He has effectively erased the negative connotations previously associated with his overall sophomore OHL campaign and is now cemented on one of the hottest top scoring lines in junior hockey, playing alongside New York Islanders prospect Josh Ho-Sang and center Stephen Harper.
In fact, that top line combined for 12 points in Niagara’s 6-3 Game 3 victory over the Barrie Colts on Monday, with Jenys tallying a goal and two assists, including the game-winning goal, which came on the power-play.
Aside from that most recent performance, he’s been a bit quiet in this Eastern Conference Final series, but all postseason long he has been a key contributor to the team’s efforts as they have continuously surprised fans and critics alike, especially when they swept the first-seed Kingston Frontenacs in the second round.
“It’s my first playoff in Canada, so I’m really excited,” Jenys told Sportsnet at the start of the playoffs. “The game is a little different. It’s a good chance to show what you can do at the next level.”
A fairly large forward at 6-foot-3 and 203 lbs., it’s a wonder that he fell so far in the 2014 NHL Draft, when Minnesota picked him 199th overall in the seventh and final round of the draft. Some have previously criticized him for not bringing full effort to every game, among other things, which may have influenced prospective teams to take a pass on him.
But two years removed from almost being left undrafted after seven rounds, Jenys is now the surging Niagara IceDogs’ leading goal-scorer and second-highest point-scorer, as well as a top-10 goal-scorer and top-15 point-scorer among all skaters, in the playoffs.
All doubters are essentially being proven wrong. And if the parallel redemption stories between Jenys and his team are not intriguing enough for you, check out Game 4 of the IceDogs-Colts series Wednesday night — Niagara is expected to move on to the OHL Championship where they would face the London Knights.