Jesse Gabrielle is seen reflected in the glass along the boards during a rookie camp practice on Wednesday. (COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)
Having sampled hockey north and south of the 49th parallel, Jesse Gabrielle said the way the game is played here suits him the best.
The 16-year-old Brandon Wheat Kings prospect was raised in Moosomin, Sask., before moving to Minnesota where he played high school hockey last year in the Twin Cities suburb of Eagan. The move south worked out just fine for Gabrielle, who produced 15 goals and 43 points in 25 games as a freshman last season with the Eagan Wildcats, but he’s eager to remain here and play the game the way he likes it the best.
"Canadian-style hockey, I think, is much better," said Gabrielle, a robust, 5-foot-11, 195-pound left-winger who played two late-season games with the Wheat Kings in the spring as a 15-year-old callup, getting in a fight with Moose Jaw Warriors rookie Josh Uhrich. "There’s a lot more checking, a lot more grinding it out here. It’s a lot different in that aspect.
"Not too many people liked the way I played (in Minnesota). It’s good to be here. This is how Canadians play and I like it much better."
It’s not only the style of play that has Gabrielle determined to spend the full season in Brandon. With his Moosomin roots, this is as close to home as it gets for him and he believes it would be the ideal place to play junior hockey.
"I’d get a lot of people from Moosomin, my family and friends can come watch me a lot," said Gabrielle, who skated against one of his old Moosomin friends, fellow 16-year-old Dakota Boutin, on Wednesday at Westman Place. "This is the organization that I want to be in, in the WHL, and I’m just proud to be in the league if I do make the team."
Chosen by Brandon in the fifth round of last year’s WHL bantam draft, Gabrielle turned heads in training camp last year, showing a good scoring touch and the rambunctious style of game that rankled his opponents south of the border. He picked up where he left off as the Wheat Kings opened rookie camp Wednesday at Westman Place, scoring twice in his team’s 10-6 loss in the first scrimmage.
Despite his stint with the Wheat Kings last season, Gabrielle said he’s not taking anything for granted. He said he worked hard over the off-season to improve his strength and quickness and he believes he’ll get better over the course of camp.
"I think I started off a little slow this game; I just tried to get my feet under me," he said. "You’ve just got to keep building on this. I thought it was a pretty decent start, but I’ve got to build up and show my best at the end."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 29, 2013