Jordan Spence had a year to remember. Actually make that two.
The highly skilled transitional defenceman burst onto the scene a season ago making a monumental first impression on the QMJHL.
Leaving scouts of all eighteen QMJHL organizations wondering how could they have ever missed him.
Passed over in his draft year, Spence carved out an exceptional season under the watchful eyes of Billy McGuigan and the Summerside Western Captials of the Maritime Hockey League in 2017-2018.
It didn’t take too long for the hockey world to take notice after the diminutive sixteen year old dominated the Maritime Jr. A ranks.
There wasn’t a question of if Spence would be selected into the Q the following year, it was when.
The Moncton Wildcats hit a homerun when they drafted the ultra talented, smooth skating competitive rearguard in the second round 20th overall in the 2018 QMJHL Draft.
Spence was driven to prove he could be an impact player at the major junior ranks.
You see that’s what makes Jordan Spence’s journey in the game and winning the Emile Bouchard Trophy for Defenceman of the Year so special.
Jordan Spence never lost hope.
He never let the rejection of going undrafted derail his dreams of playing in the QMJHL or reaching hockey’s highest level.
Spence channeled that rejection and used it as extra motivation.
“That year with the Caps really helped my confidence,” confessed Spence.
“It was an honour to get drafted by Moncton and I tried to just keep things going.”
“It was a roller coaster ride, but I’m really proud to be in Moncton which is such a great organization and couldn’t be any happier.”
Spence and Wildcats were a match made in heaven.
Spence was just what the Wildcats needed a bonafide offensive transitional D-man, a quarterback for the power play and a player that could log massive minutes in all situations.
Spence turned in a record setting rookie season with the Cats and claimed rookie of the year honours in the QMJHL a year ago.
The LA Kings saw Spence’s full potential and drafted him in the 4th round, 95th overall in last June’s NHL Entry Draft.
His childhood dream had finally come true, but he realized the bar was going to be set even higher come this season.
The 19-year-old blueliner’s unconventional path to the QMJHL is very well documented, but there’s one person Spence credits for the bulk of his success with the Cats.
“It’s been unreal,” Spence said of Wildcats former Director of Player Development and current Asst Coach Darryl Boyce’s impact on his career.
“I knew Boycer before I came to Moncton so that’s why we still had that connection.”
“Obviously, my first year with the Cats, he wasn’t in the coaching role, unlike this year, but I think he really helped me a lot of the things I really had to work on,” confessed Spence.
“It’s an unreal feeling to have a coach that wants you to improve, without Darryl and my teammates, I couldn’t have won this trophy,” admitted Spence.
“Jordan is such a great kid,” said Boyce.
“He shows up to the rink with such a great attitude, it has been a pleasure to witness his development over the past two seasons,” Boyce said proudly.
“Jordan has been a leader on the backend since his arrival with his on ice play, and the impact he has had with our group has been huge.”
“He makes guys better,” confessed Boyce.
Spence and the Wildcats were well on their way to a long playoff run at at the President Cup and Memorial Cup before the horrific COVID-19 pandemic cancelled the season.
“We had such a great team this year. Obviously, we were going for it.”
“This is more than hockey,” Spence said of the brutal pandemic.
“It was really a special group and we were really going to go for it.”
“It’s really disappointing,” Spence added.
Spence entered his sophomore season wanting to become a more complete player.
“I had set a goal with Boycer that in order for me to play in the NHL and get to that next level that I would really have to improve on my defensive game and that’s where I wanted to focus on more this season.”
The offensively gifted two-way defender wanted to be an impact player in all three zones this season for the championship caliber Wildcats.
“I wanted to learn new things and get tips from Boycer and Daniel Lacroix.”
For the first time in Jordan Spence’s brief Q career, he had faltered.
“My first ten games I really to adjust because I went to NHL camp it was faster, stronger and better.”
“When I came down I thought I could do some of the stuff that I couldn’t do in the showcase I had at main camp.”
Wildcats Director of Hockey Operations Ritchie Thibeau believes Spence’s early struggles were to be expected.
“It’s pretty normal there’s a bit of adjustment period after they go to their first NHL Camp when they come back to junior and I think
Jordan is no different than anyone else, he just had to find his game and be sure on the role he wanted to play and work load and focus on both ends,” explained Thibeau.
“After that ten game mark Jordan had a steady incline all year and he was a guy we depended on heavily.”
Thibeau and the Wildcats scouting staff knew the player they were drafting in 2018 was going to have an impact on the franchise moving forward.
“When we drafted Jordan two years ago we knew he was ready to play in the league and contribute,” Thibeau said.
“After the first ten games, I just wanted to go back to myself and find my groove again,” explained Spence.
“I didn’t want to start like that, but after the tenth game I just kept things going and really focused on becoming a better player and keep doing what I was doing last season.”
The numbers don’t lie.
Spence was dominant racking up 9 goals and 43 assists in 60 games for the Cats.
The one purely staggering stat is his plus/minus.
Spence was a spectacular + 49 on the season.
That number alone is astonishing given his ice time and massive role he had on the team.
“Jordan came in this season with a goal to be better on both sides of the puck while not losing his offensive side of the game,” Thibeau said.
“You’ve seen with his plus/minus and the role he played on the team, he really accomplished that.”
“Jordan really set his mind to that and worked hard on video and with the coaching staff to really get better at both ends of the rink.”
Work ethic and unrelenting desire to conquer any adversity continues to fuel Jordan Spence’s path in the game.
Thibeau knew the Wildcats number one defenceman was destined to win this honour.
“Watching Jordan day in day out, you really appreciate what he brings to your team and how he makes your team better. From his puck skills and ability to move the puck up to the forwards and how he jumps into the play, but in my mind on the defensive side of the game, Jordan is very underrated by some people.”
“You focus on his offensive game and power play time, but we really depended on him on the PK and other situations.”
“Jordan was always dependable and the coaches really trusted him.”
Jordan Spence is another perfect example of a late bloomer coming into his own.
An exceptionally skilled player with incredible hockey IQ that just needed an opportunity, someone that believed in his full potential.
“I feel Jordan has only scratched the surface,” said Boyce.
“Great things lie ahead for him, I can’t wait to see what he has in store for next season.”
With the current uncertainty revolving the game and life, Spence is committed to putting in the work it takes to get to the next level.
“As of right now I’m very fortunate to have gym equipment and all the workout stuff here at home.”
“I’ve been staying in shape and trying to gain a few pounds for next season.”
“As for next season, I hoping hockey will be back by September as normal, but if it’s not I think we just have to adapt to that and keep training.”
“I just want to become a better player.”
“I’m going to do as much as I possibly can on and off the ice.”
“My goal for next year is to be an impact player and to have another good NHL Main Camp and just go from there.
Jordan Spence’s inspirational journey continues.