Jonathan Aspirot is one step closer to his dream of playing in the National Hockey League.
The undrafted hard-nosed defender has earned every opportunity that has ever come his way in the game of hockey.
Aspirot’s character, determination, persistence and perseverance continue to define his ascension in the game. Those lessons were all learned during his junior days playing for the Moncton Wildcats. The 21-year-old was recalled by the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday and placed on their taxi squad.
The Senators have no doubt lead the National Hockey League in “Rookie Laps” this season with a plethora of their young prospects making their NHL debut. The next “Rookie Lap” could be reserved for Jonathan Aspirot.
Aspirot is no stranger to the taxi squad having broke camp with the Sens in that capacity. After only a few weeks up with the big club he was loaned back to Belleville. Unfortunately, Aspirot was hit hard by the injury bug in mid-March. The upper body injury he sustained could have derailed or in fact ended his sophomore season prematurely. He rebounded quickly from that mid-season set back and has played some of his best hockey as of late.
Moncton Wildcats Director of Hockey Operations Ritchie Thibeau remembers the day Aspirot got the call from the Ottawa Senators like it was yesterday.
“It was close to not happening,” Thibeau recalled.
“Aspy was one of those guys that they were looking for as an extra player for their summer development camp. A spot became available and he was able to secure it.”
“That’s how Aspy got his first look,” Thibeau said proudly.
Right place, right time, but an incredibly well-earned opportunity nonetheless.
“I remember calling he and his agent that day saying to expect a call and an invite to a dev camp. Jonathan was really excited, he was more than ready for that call.”
“He was ready to go on short notice and he was ready when got there. His preparation was always so good, that he had prepared for that chance and if it had ever came he wasn’t going to miss it. Jonathan deserved that chance, we wanted to do anything we could to provide him with an opportunity,” Thibeau said.
“Jonathan was on our radar in that year,” said Senators Chief Amateur Scout Trent Mann.
“We wanted to monitor his progress as a defenceman because he had played as a forward quite a bit the year before. We liked his approach to the game. We liked the compete level and we liked how he continued to improve throughout the year,” added Mann.
“I was in touch with his agent Paul Hamel throughout the second half of the year,” explained Mann.
Aspirot would climb the ladder pretty quickly from that point on. From Dev. Camp to Sens Rookie Camp and onward he turned a lot of heads with his compete level and underrated skill set. Some young players would have quit and packed their bags having faced what Aspirot went through two years earlier as a rookie in the QMJHL.
The product of Mascouche, Quebec chose the team over his own personal role of preference. The hard-nosed, strong skating defenceman had to adjust to the harsh reality of being moved to the forward position and assume a role on the teams fourth line.
Clearly not an ideal way to start your “Q” career, but the quiet soft-spoken handled it like a true pro and by years end was playing in the Cats Top 6. Resiliency, adaptability, character and an unwavering work ethic, that’s Jonathan Aspirot.
“Jonathan is kind of player that flies under the radar. He’s not going to get noticed because of talking or anything like that as a leader, he’s going to get noticed by his hard work on the ice every shift and hard work in the gym,” Thibeau said.
“He’s not a guy that’s going to stand up in the dressing room or in a group and say a lot, he lets his actions lead.”
“When Aspy moved to forward it showed that he was the ultimate team guy,” stressed Thibeau.
“It showed when he became our captain later on, that he would do anything that the coaches asked of him, wherever he was going to get a chance to play.”
“His first chance was at forward and then eventually he got the chance to go back and play defence, but he’s one of those guys that could have played either position and would have been equally successful.”
Thibeau believes Aspirot’s determination and will to compete are the contributing factors that has to his success.
“I think he was determined to be the best player possible with his skill set.”
“He wasn’t necessarily the most gifted or skilled, but through his hard work he was very successful.”
“His determination is what got him initially in the lineup, it’s his determination that got him to the top of his game and the captain of our team.”
“All he ever needed was a chance. Somebody to believe in him, somebody to get him to a camp, he would take care of it from there, because his heart and work ethic would definitely shine through. All Jonathan needed was a small crack in the door of opportunity, you just knew he would push that door wide open,” Thibeau said.
What does it mean to Mann and the Senators to have high character players like Aspirot as part of the organization moving forward?
“It helps the organization when you have players like Jonathan involved,” said Mann.
“He approaches each day like a pro. He improved and so too does the environment around the team. It is hard not to work and compete when players like Jonathan are working and competing daily to get better.”
“I like the progression of Jonathan’s game,” Mann said.
“Jonathan will get a chance to play some NHL games if he continues to improve like he has been,” stressed Mann.
One step closer to the “Rookie Lap”, one step closer to his dream, Jonathan Aspirot’s unconventional path to the NHL is almost complete.