LEFT: Shields skates with the puck in his Bruins debut on January 29th, 2016 at Riverside Arena against the Minnesota Magicians. Photo credit: Don Boesen, Boesen Photography
Having been born on December 30th, 1999, Jaden Shields was one of the youngest players to suit up in the NAHL this season. At the tail end of January, after being added as an affiliate plater, he skated on the Bruins blue line for one week of practice and then played in both ends of a home-and-home series with the Minnesota Magicians. That was all the coaches needed to see. Shields signed a tender agreement soon after.
“It all started with on affiliate deadline day where my advisor talked to Keenan [Kelly] and Kyle [Grabowski] and they decided to affiliate me,” Shields said. “We were just looking for a time to get me out there for a practice and I was fortunate enough to play in two games and I liked what the coaching staff had to offer. I liked the Bruins organization and they liked me.”
Unlike his fellow tenders coming from the high school ranks, Shields is finishing up his third year in the well-known Little Caesars HPHL program (based in Michigan), where he’s spent time in the U16 and U18 circuit. The jump to the NAHL, especially as a 5’10 sixteen-year-old, was a significant one.
“Juniors is a lot faster. A lot more bigger bodies out there,” Shields said. “You’ve got to move the puck quick and you just got to have your head up at all times.”
The Royal Oak, Michigan native doesn’t use his size an excuse, either. Shields was physical and willing to put his body in front of shots in the two games he played with Austin. To Shields, it’s not how big you are, but how big you play.
“I like to play like I’m a 6’2 player,” he said. “I know I’m 5’10 but playing bigger just gives you a little bit more confidence on the ice. Blocking a shot is just as important as scoring a goal.”
Although his time in Austin was brief, the week that Shields spent in Southeast Minnesota was more than enough for him to know that the Bruins were a good fit for him.
“It’s an amazing rink. It’s a small town so it’s great,” he said. “All the fans are amazing. It’s just seemed like a good place to start my junior career.”
Shields will finish the 2015-16 hockey season with the Little Caesars U16s in sunny San Jose, California at the USA Hockey U16 National Championships next week. Much like the confidence in his own game, he’s confidence in his team’s chances.
“I expect to win it,” he said. “We have a good bracket here coming into the round robin and there’s no reason we won’t win the national tournament. We’re ready, we’re prepared so I think we should get the job done.”
Although he’ll still be eligible to return to Little Caesars next season, Shields’ focus for the summer is on making the 2016-17 Bruins roster.
“My main goal is to try to get bigger, stronger, and faster so that I can come out and be ready to play with the big boys.”