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Brandon Sun - PRINT EDITION

Wheat Kings' Gabrielle grows into regular role

Sixteen-year-old rookie Jesse Gabrielle has provided some scoring and toughness for the Wheat Kings this year.

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Sixteen-year-old rookie Jesse Gabrielle has provided some scoring and toughness for the Wheat Kings this year. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)

Jesse Gabrielle

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Jesse Gabrielle

Jesse Gabrielle has shown plenty of his rough-and-tumble side during his short time as a Brandon Wheat King.

Now the 16-year-old rookie is starting to put his scoring touch on display as well.

A fifth-round pick in the 2012 Western Hockey League bantam draft, Gabrielle produced 43 points in only 25 games in Minnesota’s top level of high school hockey last winter, joining the Wheat Kings for a two-game call-up at the end of the season before cracking the roster as a regular this fall.

Not shy about throwing his 5-foot-11, 201-pound frame around, Gabrielle had only two assists in his first 11 contests this season, but has broken out lately by scoring his first four WHL goals and adding three assists in his past eight games. Gabrielle credits his recent stint on a line with the Wheat Kings’ top two scorers, 17-year-old snipers Jayce Hawryluk and John Quenneville.

"I think I’m definitely getting used to the speed," Gabrielle said. "Getting to play with top-end players like Jayce and Johnny definitely helps get pace and tempo into your game, and to be successful out there, when you have two guys like that moving the puck around it definitely helps you get some points out there."

Gabrielle is still a work in progress, but Wheat Kings head coach and general manager Kelly McCrimmon is pleased with his development so far.

"He’s a Canadian player that’s played in the U.S. system for a few years, so it probably means a little more transition than a player who played Midget AAA in Western Canada for instance, and the other thing (is) he’s 16 years old, so those guys always take a little more time," McCrimmon said. " … He’s continued to get better, he’s a very good skater, he’s powerful and he’s playing the game the right way and getting rewarded as a result."

Gabrielle also logged a few games with 20-year-olds Chad Robinson and Jens Meilleur, learning to play the Wheat Kings’ systems alongside the two veterans. He said his biggest adjustment has been adapting to the team’s structure, and as he’s done that, he’s had more success.

"Definitely the game is teaching me to be a lot more structured than what I was before," he said. "I think before I came in here, it was more kind of individual or more do-it-yourself, not a team game, but now it’s a lot of systems. You have to stay consistent to stay in the lineup … and now I get a little more ice time and I hope that I’m making the adjustment to get into the top six (forwards) as much as possible."

While he’s had to wait for and earn his chances, Gabrielle believes the patience he’s needed to navigate the bumps along the road will make him a better player in the long run.

"I think a lot of guys who get thrown into the top six take it for granted," he said. "The guys who have to start at the bottom are the ones who are going to make it to the pro level more legitimately. … I think it gives you a feel for how it’s going to be when you’re 19, 20, 25, whatever you are, playing pro. I think it’s just a great league to get you adjusted to that."

ONE-TIMERS: Quenneville didn’t practise on Wednesday after blocking a shot in Tuesday’s 5-2 win over the Kamloops Blazers, but is expected to return to practice today and play on Friday when the Wheat Kings host the Kelowna Rockets … G Curtis Honey (illness) and D Eric Roy (lower body, day-to-day) did not practise Wednesday after missing Tuesday’s game … LW Tyler Coulter skated with C Tim McGauley and RW Peter Quenneville, filling the spot vacated by LW Richard Nejezchleb, who has gone to Europe to try out for the Czech national junior team … Calgary and Victoria swapped 17-year-old forwards Wednesday, with the Hitmen sending LW Braden Oleksyn to the Royals for C Landon Welykholowa.

» rhenders@brandonsun.com

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 12, 2013

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Jesse Gabrielle has shown plenty of his rough-and-tumble side during his short time as a Brandon Wheat King.

Now the 16-year-old rookie is starting to put his scoring touch on display as well.

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Jesse Gabrielle has shown plenty of his rough-and-tumble side during his short time as a Brandon Wheat King.

Now the 16-year-old rookie is starting to put his scoring touch on display as well.

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