Merrimack head coach Scott Borek lays out a glowing review of New York Islanders 2020 fourth-round pick Alex Jefferies.
The New York Islanders left the 2020 draft with poor reviews. Their draft class was widely regarded as relatively weak. The Atheltic’s Corey Pronman gave the Islanders a D (subscription required) for their five selections at the draft.
But as the 2020-21 season has begun for these prospects, the more we’re finding out about them and the more there is to like. Such is the case with fourth-round pick Alex Jefferies.
Jefferies had great numbers coming out of prep school. In 19-20, he had 69 points (33 goals) in 32 games. But because that was in prep school, and not the OHL or in some top European league, his stock was low entering the draft. That’s why the Islanders were able to nab him in the fourth round.
Now Jefferies is playing Div 1 hockey for Merrimack and is shinning. In his first four games, Jefferies has five points to his name and has everyone paying attention. That’s why I got in touch with his head coach Scott Borek.
Islanders Got a Steal in Fourth Round
Again, Jefferies’s start to the season for Merrimack has been nothing short of spectacular. The freshman is scoring 1.25 points-per-game so far. When I spoke to Raimo Helminen a week ago he mentioned that young players tend to start out with a ton of confidence, but once the games get tougher these young kids have a tougher time having the same impact they once did.
Naturally, I asked coach Borek what’s been the secret to Jefferies’s success at the start of the year?
"One thing that helped him and probably every team in college hockey [is] this interrupted start. We basically had 2 1/2 where we just practiced. I think that allowed him to get a head start on his first game. Most years we’d be practicing for two weeks and would start playing right away. This year with the extended preseason he got a lot of training and a lot of competition against older men, he got a lot of reps in some situations that allowed him to get off to a fast start."
Of course, production has its way of building confidence. But the start Jefferies is having isn’t some fluke. He’s worked hard to get to where he is right now. And that work doesn’t stop. According to Borek, Jefferies has a top-notch work rate that could turn him into a dominant player at the collegiate level. Something that certainly pleased the Islanders scouts enough to convince management to draft him in the fourth round.
"I think the Islanders made a tremendous pick, taking him. I really fell like they got a steal in the fourth round. He’s aggressive about improving. I think we’ll continue to see him improve and some day he could be dominant as a college player."
We’ve all seen the scouting reports on Jefferies. He’s a smart player with good speed and the ability to make a good pass. But we don’t hear enough about his shot. Pronman did indicate after the draft that Jefferies shoots as well as he passes. And we saw that over the weekend.
Against UConn, Jefferies scored a pair of power-play goals in the first period. But this one here (the first of his pair) highlights just how well he shoots the puck
I asked Borek if Jefferies shot is an underrated part of his game, to which coach Borek absolutely agreed with, even going so far as to compare Jefferies shot to a current NHL’er.
"Oh for sure. He has an incredible release. I think he has a pro release right now. I had the pleasure of coaching James Van Riemsdyk when he was in college. I remember JVR coming back from an all-star break and we were doing some stuff just n the ice. His release was insane, and he always had a good one, James give me a drill what have you worked on to take you release to the net level. It’s not what I worked on, it’s just the act that if my release isn’t this quick the pucks going to be in the stands because guy’s sticks are so good defensively. And i took that and were always talking about those this. Alex’s release at this point is like James’s when he came back from Philly that time."
A smart player, a good passer, and a pro release. That’s high praise for a true freshman. But Borek was quick to manage expectations as well. Merrimack has a number of key injuries right now. Their first, second, and third-line centers are out. Meaning Alex will have to play with guys he’s not necessarily used to playing with and that could impact his overall production on paper but not his productivity for the team.
"We’ve lost some punch in our lineup His production will be difficult because he won’t have the same players he was playing with. But I’m confident he will still be productive but I don’t know the level he’s at right now if he’ll be able to maintain that."
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As with any prospect, expectations have to be tempered so early on. Alex Jefferies has only played a handful of games, and while they’ve gone very well so far for the young man, he’s still got a while to go before he might impact the Islanders roster.
For now though, with this glowing review from his head coach and with that incredible early-season production, it seems the Islanders, like Borek said, got a steal in the fourth round.
You’ll be able to watch Jefferies yourself with Merrimack’s next game being broadcast on NESN (Saturday at 1:00pm).