Among the players who spent the 2021-22 season bouncing between the AHL and NHL clubs in San Jose, forward Jasper Weatherby quickly became a fan favorite. Between scoring his first NHL goal in his first NHL game and being one of many Sharks rookies to debut in the last couple of years, Weatherby is ready for more. Going into this season, he feels he has something to prove.
It all started at development camp.
Compared to last year’s camp, Weatherby already felt more prepared — in 2021, he found out he was invited only a few weeks in advance. He also noted that there was a shift in the way he approached everything after a full season of professional hockey under his belt.
Perhaps one of the more notable changes came from San Jose Barracuda head coach John McCarthy, who named the 24-year-old Weatherby as one of the leaders in the room coming into camp, as well as coming out of it. In response, Weatherby made his message perfectly simple:
“For myself, it’s more about what are the little things I can help a guy out with. At the end of the day, these guys are unbelievable hockey players, so it’s just about the little details — being on time, cleaning out your stall goes a long way. The trainers and the staff are the hardest-working guys here, so whatever we can do to help them out is worth doing. Just the little details around the game.”
Overall, development camp was a valuable stepping stone in Weatherby’s off-season preparation. While a greater portion of camp was spent working on the bigger pieces of the game itself — stick handling, speed, footwork, passing — Weatherby placed a lot of value in the little details he was able to fine tune over those four days at Sharks Ice.
“Two full days of shooting is amazing — the stuff they’re teaching us is really high-end. [McCarthy] did a really, really good job with that,” Weatherby praised. “It was awesome to be out there and working on that stuff and see it translate a little bit towards the three-on-three game was nice to see.”
Looking back on his first season outside NCAA hockey, the young center caught on to the challenges pretty quickly. A heavier schedule takes a toll on both the body and mind, making it easy to get caught up in the chaos of the season. Nonetheless, he learned to manage the highs and lows in a matter of time, especially with a little guidance from veteran players like Brent Burns.
“Being around some of the bigger pros, guys who have done it for 10 years, it’s like they’re always consistently doing the same thing, you know? Whether they’re scoring three goals a night, they’re still riding the bike and in a good mood. If they lose, they’re still riding the bike, even if spirits aren’t as high.”
Throughout his entire hockey career, Weatherby remains confident that his biggest strength lies in being able to continue to compete, night in and night out.
“I’ve been through a lot of adversity in the game, ups and downs to my hockey career. I just always kind of trust myself and continue to work hard, and hopefully good things happen from that.”
Maintaining his on-ice battle level into the off-season, Weatherby noted that he’s already noticed progress in other parts of his game, namely his first three strides. As one of the bigger guys on the ice — standing at 6-foot-4 and 223 pounds — consistency in his ability to stay on the puck is a welcome addition to his playing style. Weatherby also placed equal significance in his ability to take shots when given the puck and creating more opportunities for himself in the slot.
Above all else, the little details are what he considers most important in setting himself up for success at training camp and beyond.
With a number of new faces joining the San Jose Sharks, both on and off the ice, a question looming over every player is how they’ll handle those changes. Weatherby’s answer is simple:
“New environments show the best in people and get them to work harder, be more dedicated and focused — at least for me. I think it seems like something cool is happening here, and I’m just excited to be a part of it.”
While there may indeed be pressure to be among the hardest workers in the room come training camp, Weatherby prefers to use that pressure as a motivator to continue making progress. Nothing is promised, especially in a league where a roster can vary day-by-day, so how do players find reasons to keep giving it their all?
“You just realize that you’re going to need to compete at training camp and compete throughout the whole season. That’s kind of what you want as a player, to be challenged and more competitive.”
Continuing to Show Up
Of course, showing up every night and putting it all on the ice isn’t just Weatherby showing up for himself. What makes hockey special to Jasper Weatherby — what’s his why? Well, it’s for the love of hockey, but also the ability to inspire.
Perhaps it’s just best to hear it from him:
“I think it’s two parts for me. One part is I simply love to play, I love to compete. You know, they always say ‘find something that you lose track of time in’ and that’s when I’m on the ice.
“The second part is — I’m from a small hockey town, I didn’t really have anyone I could really look up to. For me, it’s about how I can be that trailblazer and lead the way and show that if you’re from a really small mountain town with no rink for half the summer and just rollerblades, that if you really want to make it, follow your dreams and work hard.
“It’s a big reason for me to continue to play — a lot of young kids out there who aren’t from Toronto or Minneapolis or Boston, if you work hard, you can make it.”