Jason Blake was never picked in the NHL Draft, but his son, Jackson, will have that chance this weekend

·4 min read

Jul. 24—Jason Blake was a two-time Hobey Baker Award finalist at UND. He played in 871 NHL games, an NHL All-Star Game and an Olympics.

But his son, Jackson, will soon nab a distinction his father never did.

Jackson will be selected in the NHL Draft.

"No matter where I go, to have a dad that never got drafted and ended up having a nice career in the NHL is pretty cool," Jackson said. "It really doesn't matter where I go. I feel like the work really gets going from there. Nothing really changes except knowing now you have to work even harder."

The UND recruit, who will come to campus in the fall of 2022, is projected to be a mid-round pick. He also could sneak up the draft board after dazzling scouts with his skill level and smarts during an unforgettable 2020-21 season.

Blake played for Eden Prairie High School, leading the team to the Minnesota state Class AA hockey title. He scored the game-winning goal in overtime of the championship.

Then, Blake went to Chicago to join up with the United States Hockey League's Steel before their playoff push. He once again scored the game-winning goal in the Clark Cup-clincher.

Although he doesn't have a ton of size — he's 5-foot-10, 158 pounds — the NHL game has changed since his father was passed over in the NHL Draft during the mid-1990s. It has opened up to smaller, skilled players. Tampa Bay's Brayden Point, Calgary's Johnny Gaudreau and Montreal's Cole Caulfield are some examples of smaller players who were drafted and have excelled at the next level.

They've helped open the door for a player like Blake, who talked to roughly 20 NHL teams ahead of the draft.

"He's one of the smartest and most skilled players in the U.S. this year," an NHL scout told the Herald. "He processes the play so quick and has the skill to execute. He makes plays through sticks and scores goals in the home plate area that will translate to the next level. He's pretty gritty and courageous in the offensive zone and really good in tight areas with the puck. He needs to grow stronger, improve his speed and be more consistent on the defensive side of the game. He will benefit from another full year in the USHL and should be a big point producer, top power-play guy for North Dakota."

Blake, who is entering his senior year in high school, will play next season for Chicago before coming to campus.

"He's such a dynamic, skilled player," Chicago Steel coach Brock Sheahan said. "He has great vision. He might be the most skilled player we've had at our program in a lot of ways. It's just making sure he's not playing a one-on-one style. When he plays a team game, he's an unbelievable player."

Rounds 2-7 of the NHL Draft will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday on NHL Network.

UND expects to see two or three players selected. Freshman defenseman Brent Johnson is projected to go in the second or third rounds. Blake will soon follow. And defenseman commit Nate Benoit is a potential late-round pick.

The UND coaching staff cannot comment on Blake or Benoit because they have not signed National Letters of Intent yet, but Blake said he's already looking forward to his arrival in Grand Forks.

"I'm super excited," he said. "North Dakota is such a good program. They've bred a lot of good hockey players and have a lot of good hockey players right now. That's going to be super exciting."

Jackson Blake

Arrival at UND: Fall 2022.

Position: Forward.

Size: 5-foot-10, 158 pounds.

Hometown: Eden Prairie, Minn.

2020-21 teams: Eden Prairie High School and Chicago (USHL).

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 52 North American skater.

Draft projection: Third, fourth or fifth round.

An NHL scout says: "He's one of the smartest and most skilled players in the U.S. this year. He processes the play so quick and has the skill to execute. He makes plays through sticks and scores goals in the home plate area that will translate to the next level. He's pretty gritty and courageous in the offensive zone and really good in tight areas with the puck. He needs to grow stronger, improve his speed and be more consistent on the defensive side of the game. He will benefit from another full year in the USHL and should be a big point producer, top power-play guy for North Dakota."

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