The Wolverine

December 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 55 of 67

56 THE WOLVERINE DECEMBER 2018 BY BOB MILLER T raditionally, coaches en- gaged in college hockey recruiting have found their most fertile territory in Min- nesota, Michigan, Massachu- setts, New York and the Ca- nadian provinces. As the National Hockey League has expanded into more non-traditional areas of the western and southern United States, there have been an ever-growing number of youth hockey players from non-traditional areas make their way to college hockey rosters, inspired by watching the top professionals in their home areas. Michigan junior forward Jake Slaker, one of two native Californians on the Michigan roster, has followed a path with numerous stops along the way since leaving his na- tive California. Slaker 's path to Michigan had its roots in California, but also in- cluded stopovers in Arizona, Illi- nois, Michigan, North Dakota and Indiana. In addition to blazing a jag- ged geographical path, Slaker had to make the transition from being a roller hockey player to an ice hockey player. "I originally started playing roller hockey," Slaker explained. "My brothers played, and my dad was a coach. Eventually, I made the jump to ice hockey when I moved to San Diego, when I was 8. "I played a few years locally and then played a season in Scottsdale, Ariz. After that, I spent four years in Chicago, which put me into my junior year in high school. My se- nior year, I moved to Michigan and played for the Belle Tire U-18s. Fol- lowing that season, I played two years in Bloomington, Ind., in the USHL." With a winding path like that, Slaker can be forgiven for leaving out a short stint he served in Fargo, N.D., also in the USHL. Slaker's development as a hockey player was not hindered at all by the diverse geography involved. "A lot of coaches I had in California and Arizona had a huge impact on the development in my early years of ice hockey," Slaker said. "I basically had to learn how to ice skate com- ing from roller hockey, which had a completely different stride. "I played at all levels in Califor- nia starting with house league all the way to AAA. I continued to play AAA when I was in Arizona as well." Some of Slaker's moves were made for hockey reasons and some were simply due to family situations. "My dad had a job opportunity in Chicago and spoke with friends that had kids playing in the Midwest," Slaker explained. "He heard it was the best place to play, to develop and to not have to travel as much to play like you do in California. "I wanted to play the best competi- tion I could and felt that was in the Midwest." Proof that Slaker 's development was top notch can be found in his success during his tenure at Michi- gan. Slaker has advanced from scoring seven goals in 35 games his freshman season to scoring 15 in 40 games as a sophomore. As a junior this season, Slaker has been even more potent, scoring five goals and adding four assists in just nine games, a point-per-game pace. Additionally, Slaker 's contribution off the ice has been acknowledged by being named an assistant captain for the second straight year. "Jake's got a big role on this team," head coach Mel Pear- son said. "It's multi-faceted. He plays in all situations, kills penalties, plays on the power play and, obviously, plays his regular shift. He's earned the opportunity and the right to play in all different situations. "We expect him to have a big year for us, being one of the leaders on the team." Slaker attributes much of his cur- rent success to the two years he spent in Bloomington of the USHL directly before joining the Michigan pro- gram in the fall of 2016, but the 5-10, 184-pounder saves the highest praise for the family support he got at home. "The USHL was two really impor- tant years for me," Slaker said. "I re- ally got to develop my game and take it to the next level to become a college hockey player. I had a great coaching staff in Bloomington and they pushed me to be the best player I could be and put me in every situation. "If it wasn't for Bloomington, I don't think I would be the same player I am today. I also had the op- portunity to be a captain at a high level my second year there. I think that was a great learning experience. "My parents played the biggest roles for me and my development. They made major sacrifices in their lives for me to play hockey. My dad always pushed me and taught me how to work hard. My mom played her part in the support role. Every ac- complishment I have ever achieved,   MICHIGAN HOCKEY Jake Slaker Takes Unusual Path To Become A Key Contributor For Wolverines Slaker ranked second on the Wolverines with five goals and was tied for second with nine points through nine games. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Wolverine - December 2018