Antigonish, Nova Scotia’s own Jake Stewart understands the value of hard work. Growing up in that part of the province and country it’s just a given, but like in anything there’s no guarantees.
Stewart understands the importance of this off-season and he understands the clock is ticking when it comes to his Major Junior career.
There’s no question the rugged honest hard working forward is willing to do whatever it takes to advantage of his last shot with the Moncton Wildcats.
“Last season even with all its struggles was a lot of fun,” said Stewart is looking to land one of the Cats three overage roster spots.
“We were able to get a lot of practice time in with all the pauses, and we were able to see the results right away when we were able to play games.”
“All the challenges we faced I found really brought us together as a team,” stressed Stewart.
Playing as a 20 in the QMJHL is an exciting and extremely difficult thing to accomplish.
Overagers have to have an impact on and off the ice, they have to be difference makers. Every organization has their own unique perspective and philosophy when it comes to their 20’s. The prospect of finishing out his junior career with the same that drafted him is special.
“It would mean a lot to me and that’s been my goal since being drafted,” Stewart said.
“You never know what could happen, but I wouldn’t want to finish my junior career anywhere else.”
Stewart is a heart and soul player, willing to do just about anything to help the team win, but also protect his teammates.
Hard work and dedication to the craft has defined his role on teams and place within the game.
“I’ve been working a lot on my speed and explosiveness. I’m a big body and I got strength that comes with that so I’m trying to maintain my strength while getting quicker at the same time.”
“Of course I’m still working on the skill parts of my game as well,” Stewart added when asked what the focus of his off season workouts looked like.
The hockey world talks about character and heart all the time. Everyone talks about it, but very few bring night in, night out.
That’s where Jake Stewart can contribute the most when it comes to Moncton’s young core group of players.
“It’s a very good core group, we were able to see last year we had a ton of rookies playing a lot of hockey and I thought they proved extremely capable.”
“It didn’t matter where they were in the lineup, they did well everywhere and I think it’ll only get better as they gain experience.”
Experience is another valuable asset that Stewart brings to the game and the dressing room. There’s no question the gritty forward has lived it all throughout his career. The three year veteran is the type of leader and player that is always there to lift a teammate up, always there as a positive influence.
“I want to continue to prove that I belong in this league even at this age.”
“I want to be a leader on this team and play my game just at a higher level then before.”
“No team has it easy with their 20 year old situation, but that’s my goal, to be a leader and prove I belong.”
The sacrifices over the years have only strengthened his resiliency and drive to be at his best.
“My summers have been pretty hard since coming into this league. It takes a lot for me to get to the speed I need to succeed,” admitted Stewart.
“I travel a lot to get ice time especially with COVID the past two off seasons and I have to watch what I eat and can’t go out too much.”
“At the end of the day the physical and social sacrifices that I make lead to a very fun season.”
Stewart will be lacing them up without his longtime teammate and friend Jacob Hudson for the first time in a long time this season. Hudson had his struggles as an overager last season due to the organization electing to carrying four until the midway point of the season. Hudson excelled after Christmas when he finally had the opportunity to play, he put up career numbers from that point on.
“It’s going to feel weird I’m sure without playing with Huddy. He’s been a leader and a good friend since I’ve known him.”
“Huddy is a guy that’s hard to replace on a team and myself as well as others will have to step up that part of our game to help our young core.”
Jake Stewart approaches every shift and every game like it’s his last. You can win a lot of hockey games with that type of player and person in your line up, but you win the games that matter most with a player like that.
This is Stewart’s last shot at the QMJHL, you better damn well believe he’s doing everything in his power to make the best of it.
That’s character, that’s integrity, that’s heart, that’s Jake Stewart and that’s an incredibly valuable asset to have as an overager.