Jackson Blake plays hockey like a master chess player plays chess: he’s always thinking three moves ahead.
That’s what makes what happened to Blake so ironic. He never saw it coming.
Last winter, Blake transferred from the Shattuck Saint Mary’s School to Eden Prairie High School.
He finished his freshman year at Eden Prairie High School, the hockey season on Eden Prairie’s Bantam AA team.
The hockey experience was a good fit, as he had been playing with the same players since he was a squirt (third grade).
In the summer, he worked out with his high school buddies.
In July, he’d play on the U.S. Under-17 Men’s Select Team that would compete in the Five Nations Tournament in Füssen, Germany.
In the fall, he’d play in the Elite League.
The logical next step would be to play high school hockey, right?
Blake was declared ineligible before Eden Prairie played its first game. He appealed and lost.
The Minnesota State High School League ruled that because of the transfer, he had to sit out a full calendar year (Blake started his first Eden Prairie High School class in January of 2019).
He’s eligible to make his varsity debut on Thursday, Jan. 30 (Eden Prairie hosts Buffalo).
“I’m jacked,” said Blake. “I’ve never been more excited in my life.”
During his wait, Blake played junior varsity games. He was allowed to practice with the varsity team.
“I looked into going to Chicago and playing in the USHL,” he said, “but if I did, I couldn’t come back.
“I wanted to stay and play with my buddies,” he added.
Blake is expected to play on Eden Prairie’s top line with Ben Steeves and John Mittelstadt.
He’ll also see time on the power play as well as Eden Prairie’s penalty kill.
Question: Won’t there be an adjustment period?
“I played with Ben and John during our scrimmages,” said Blake. “It felt like we’d been playing together for a long time.”
When asked about sky-high expectations — “Tourney Time” author Loren Nelson called Blake’s debut the “most anticipated varsity debut in high school hockey history” — Blake said he’ll do what he does.
“I’m going to play my game,” he said, “and I’m going to do what’s best for the team. Hopefully, that will help us get to where we want to go.”
You can’t do more than that.