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Keeping Up With The Pups: Jake McGrew is making a comeback

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After missing last season, this Sharks prospect needs to make a splash.

When the Sharks drafted Jake McGrew in the sixth round of the 2017 draft, the first thing to come to mind was “Who?” The 18-year-old right winger hadn’t played a day in major juniors yet.

Jake McGrew probably isn’t a name you’re familiar with. This year, he’s hoping to change that.

A native of Orange, California, the Sharks have been watching McGrew’s development. He played two years with the Los Angeles Junior Kings program, putting up 29 goals and 18 assists in 32 games his second year. That grabbed the attention of the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League, who had selected him in the eighth round of the 2014 Bantam Draft. Last year, he looked ready to join their ranks and share the ice with players such as Kailer Yamamoto and Jaret Anderson-Dolan.

Unfortunately, a knee injury in the Chiefs preseason would keep him from playing at all last year. Despite that, the Sharks still saw his potential, drafting him this summer with a pick acquired from the Arizona Coyotes, 159th overall. Due to the rehab on his knee, he wasn’t able to participate in the Sharks’ development camp.

There’s a lot of pressure on McGrew coming into this season. He seems to be handling it just fine.

“It was a rough few months after it first happened, after surgery and stuff. You play head games with yourself, obviously,” McGrew told Chris Bayee this summer. “But now that I’m back on the ice, you know that it’s gonna be better than before. My knee’s stronger, rehab’s going great, on schedule.”

With Kailer Yamamoto still on his nine-game trial run with the Edmonton Oilers, the Chiefs have room for players to make some noise. In his first ever WHL game, McGrew opened scoring with his first goal for the Chiefs.

But that might have just been McGrew finding his footing. In the next game, McGrew scored a hat trick, leading the Chiefs to 5-1 victory over the Prince George Cougars.

The Sharks prospect is known for his work ethic. He built a training regimen with his dad to help elevate his play before his stint with the LA Junior Kings.

“He knows his way around the gym,” Jake said. “I ran every day and worked out every night with him after hockey practice. As I got bigger, strong and faster, the game got easier.”

The difference was obvious.

“Jake’s really come into his own,” said Jack Bowkus, his Los Angeles Jr. Kings Midget 16U AAA coach. “He really turned it up a notch. He’s fast, has a cannon of a shot and plays with energy. He gets his nose dirty.”

Added fellow Jr. Kings coach Shawn Pitcher, who coached Jake with the Selects: “He’s solid and strong, just like his dad. And Jake likes to finish his hits. When he’s moving his feet, he’s a lot to handle.”

Being off the ice for over a year might just be extra motivation, then.

McGrew could end up being a breakout star in the WHL this year. In seven games so far, he’s tallied four goals and one assist. He’ll be one to watch this season and at next year’s development camp.