EDMONTON — Playing with that struggling Hamilton Bulldogs team probably means that an impressive rookie season has been lost in the mix for Jean-Francois Jacques, who somehow could not even muster an invitation to the AHL All-Star Classic in Winnipeg.
Then again, as long as the parent club takes notice, what else really matters?
With a Saturday night Oilers-Canucks tilt on Hockey Night in Canada on the docket, no wonder that Jacques had his own little cheering section making their way to Rexall Place early Saturday morning on Edmonton’s light-rail system to take in an Oilers morning skate that had some family ties.
Jacques’ family made the trip into Edmonton from Quebec to sample for themselves the first taste of NHL life for Jacques, whom the Oilers recalled this past Thursday after Ethan Moreau‘s injury. After the Oilers’ morning skate, father and brother Jacques waited patiently outside the Edmonton dressing room for the family’s NHL’er to emerge.
"I’m very proud," Jacques said of his recall. "Every time you put on that jersey, there are five Stanley Cups behind it. It’s an honor."
Jacques is a big, raw left wing who is still only 20 years old and emerged as one of the brighter spots from a team in Hamilton that does not appear to be going anywhere fast. A 6-foot-4, 217- pound Montrealer, Jacques spent the past four seasons in the QMJHL with Baie-Comeau and captained the Drakkar his final two seasons there.
Jacques wrapped up his Baie-Comeau career with 36 goals and 42 assists in 69 contests in 2004-05 before heading west to Edmonton at the end of last season for a brief spin with the now-departed Road Runners.
Since leaving Baie-Comeau and subsequently the Road Runners, Jacques has stepped right into the AHL game, popping in 14 goals in 42 games with the Bulldogs this season. His 83 penalty minutes tie him with fellow Edmonton farmhand Brad Winchester on the Bulldogs, second only to Peter Vandermeer.
Having made his debut this past Thursday at Rexall Place against Columbus, Saturday night against the Canucks saw Jacques on the Oilers’ Marty Reasoner-centered fourth line with Fernando Pisani.
The scouting report on Jacques is simple one.
"I like the physical play," Jacques said. "That is my first asset. I like to get my nose dirty and go in the corners. And play a really hard game. I can bring a lot of speed down the wall."
Does captaining a team in distant Baie-Comeau require a different mindset than that needed for a spot in the Edmonton line-up, even if it is for fourth-line duty?
"It’s not that hard," Jacques replied. "Being captain, I tried to bring a little bit of leadership to the room. I know that I’m a rookie in the NHL, but leadership is not always (just) in the dressing room. I try to show it on the ice."