The NY Islanders prospect pool is regarded as one of the weakest in the NHL today, and it recently got thinner after trading forward Aatu Raty, their 2nd-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft to the Vancouver Canucks in the Bo Horvat deal. However, this does not mean their remaining pipeline of forwards is void of talented playmakers. Today, we'll focus on Alex Jefferies, a junior left winger who can do it all that's currently playing for the NCAA's Merrimack College Warriors.
Jefferies, 21, was recently named a Hockey East First team All-Star for the 2022-23 season and was a runner-up for the conference's Player of the Year award that Buffalo Sabres' prospect Devon Levi won. The Lunenburg, MA native is coming off a breakout season that saw him increase his sophomore point total of 23 up to 41, putting up 14 goals and 27 assists in 36 games. He has become one of the offensive leaders on a Merrimack team that also improved their record from last season, going from 19-15-1 to 23-13-1 this season (including playoffs). The Warriors finished in second place in the Hockey East Association this year with 50 conference points after being projected to finish 8th in the Hockey East preseason poll. They are ranked as the 14th-best team in the country according to the USCHO National Polls.
The Islanders selected Jefferies with the 121st overall pick in the 4th round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. His passing ability and wicked release have been on display for college hockey fans all season, something the Islanders can always use out of their prospects. He has taken the most shots on his team by a country mile with 136, with the next highest taking 39 less than him. He also adds great skating ability with his powerful strides, lateral movement, and is good at finding ways to get open.
"I think the Islanders made a tremendous pick, taking him. I really feel like they got a steal in the 4th round. He’s aggressive about improving."- Head coach Scott Borak in 2020
Jefferies' leadership doesn't only show on the scoresheet. Over his time playing in college, he developed a sound two-way game while still improving on offense. He can be seen on Merrimack's first PK unit and is a big reason the team finished with the second-lowest goals against in the conference this past season. Jefferies made an immediate jump from prep school to the NCAA, skipping the junior hockey step in between where coaches sometimes prefer their players to develop their skills before adjusting to the fast pace of college hockey, but head coach Scott Borak felt he would fit right in.
"When I was growing in U16 hockey, all I cared about was scoring goals or getting assists, believing that’s how you win games, but last year was a big step for me. I looked at the game differently, all 200 feet. I got to play on the penalty kill, which I loved. You can do so many things to help your team win."- Alex Jefferies
Clearly, winning means a lot for the young winger. Before the season, his goal as an individual was to play a full season without injury problems but emphasized that he wanted to bring championship hardware back to campus most of all. Along with both team and individual success in the regular season, the Warriors advanced to the Hockey East Championship Game for the first time since 2011 on Saturday, which they ended up losing in overtime to first-place Boston University. Merrimack came up short looking for their first-ever title but likely will be selected to play in the upcoming NCAA Tournament for a chance at a national championship.
Loyalty is also important to Jefferies. Before fully committing to MC, he got a scholarship offer from legendary Boston College head coach Jerry York right in front of Merrimack scouts after watching him play. To play for a program as renowned as the Eagles was a tough offer to turn down, but Jefferies reaffirmed his loyalty to the smaller school in North Andover, MA because they always showed their strong desire to have him join the program. Isles GM Lou Lamoriello values these personality traits combined with talent in players that he drafts, so it's easy to see why he used their pick on him.
"When I left the rink today, about a half-hour after practice, I see Alex working on his one-timers. He does that all the time. His passion to get better and his drive to be not only a great player here but at the next level is special."- Scott Borek
The jury is out on if he will sign his entry-level contract following his junior campaign. It is possible that he could be a 4-year player in college despite coming off a highly productive season, and part of the reasoning could be a drive to help his already strong program bounce back from a heartbreaking loss to win its first conference title next year. If he were to sign now or later, Jefferies would likely start out in Bridgeport, as we know Lamoriello prefers not to rush young talent into the NHL if they are not clearly ready. When Jefferies is ready, however, the blue and orange will be getting a mature, talented, and driven player to add to the mix of players that are hungry in their search for the franchise's first Stanley Cup win in over 40 years.
A perfect fit to be a future NY Islander.