Young centre’s goal to play Major Jr. ‘A’ hockey

Jack Piper averaged almost a goal a game last season as a Minor Midget

By Pat Payton

Jack Piper wants to play Major Jr. ‘A’ hockey.

And the 16-year-old centre from Schomberg (east of Orangeville) hopes a season with the St. Marys Lincolns will be a stepping stone towards that goal. Piper was selected in the fifth round, 90th overall, by the Owen Sound Attack in the 2020 Ontario Hockey League draft.

Piper, who played for the York-Simcoe Minor Midget Express a year ago, contacted Lincs’ Director of Hockey Operations/GM Greg Smale this past summer and expressed an interest in coming to St. Marys.

“I think St. Marys is definitely the best team for me,” he told the Independent in a recent interview.

“Owen Sound said St. Marys is a great organization and that I should look into it. I heard (the Lincolns) were a great development team, and they want to help me get to where I want to be in the future. It’s definitely looking like it’s going to turn out really well for me, and I want to help St. Marys win this year.”

Piper is one of three 16-year-old players the Lincs have signed this season. Forward Owen Van Steensel and defenceman Ethan Coups are the others.

Led York-Simcoe in scoring

Piper, who possesses a great shot, led York-Simcoe in scoring a year ago and finished tied for seventh in ETAHL scoring. He clicked for almost a goal a game, collecting 32 goals and 46 points in 33 league games, and then added four goals in seven playoff games.

Piper says he’s not the biggest player in stature (5 ft. 9 inches, 165 lbs.), but he isn’t afraid to play a physical style.

“I think goals come with the way I play,” he said. “I’m not a very big guy, but I definitely play high-contact, high-pace, hard-working hockey. I play more like a winger than a centre, even though I am a centreman. I like to get in the corners and battle for the puck.”

Looking ahead to the GOJHL season, Piper sees the Lincolns as a team with strong potential. “This is probably the highest-paced hockey that I’ve ever played,” he said. “There’s not a single weak link on our team.”

Other than achieving his goal of getting to the OHL, Piper hasn’t set any other personal goals for the upcoming season. “It’s kind of tough at this point in the year, especially with the season being delayed, but personally the main goal right now is to develop and become the best player that I can.”

Rare combination

Head coach Trent McClement describes Piper as a natural goal-scorer, who also plays a physical brand of hockey. It’s a rare combination in a player.

“At any level of hockey, natural goal scorers are hard to come by; they’re few and far between,” McClement said. “To me, I think Jack plays like an (Alexander) Ovechkin (the Washington Capitals’ star). He brings that physical presence, where he will run you over, but he can also put the puck in the net. He’s got a quick release and it doesn’t take him long before the puck is off his stick. I think he’s going to be something special, and a kid you may only have for one season. And that’s what we want for him, too, is to get to the next level.”

During workouts this fall, McClement says Piper and Van Steensel have formed an instant chemistry on the ice.

“We would love to play those two kids together,” the coach said. “But as the season goes on, you don’t know if young guys like that are going to get pushed around or bullied. It’s something that we’ll have to see if it happens in games.

“I already see where they mesh together well. They know where each other is on the ice, and they’re being creative with the puck once they come over that blue line.”

His favourite NHLer

Piper’s favourite NHL player, meanwhile, is Pittsburgh Penguins’ captain Sidney Crosby.

“He’s not a huge guy, but he’s always working in the corners and battling,” Piper said. “He’s the hardest-working guy on the ice. He’s similar in size to me, and Pittsburgh has always been my favourite team growing up.”