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FUTURE WATCH
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Future Watch: Jesse Gimblett

U of A alum brings physical game to Oilers ECHL affiliate in Stockton

Thursday, 28.10.2010 / 12:25 PM / Future Watch
By Mike Benton  - Stockton Thunder
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Future Watch: Jesse Gimblett
Jesse Gimblett showcases his significant black eye during warm-up before a Stockton Thunder game. (Photo by Sean Blair/Stockton Thunder)
Just two weeks into his first full professional season, Jesse Gimblett didn't take long to earn a battle scar that not every player would be willing carry.

A black eye, earned in his ECHL debut with the Stockton Thunder, which evolved through the course of two fights in a game capped off by a power-play goal in the team's season opener against the Ontario Reign.

Needless to say, he's made his mark.

Video Interview: Mike Benton chats with Jesse Gimblett

“It's part of the game,” said Gimblett, when asked about facing physical challenges every night. “You have to understand that (fighting) might happen night to night, and it might not happen for a few games. You just have to be ready at any time.”

Ironic that a lumbering 6-foot-3, 215-pound frame is countered by his soft-spoken presence, Gimblett,  a left winger originally signed into the Edmonton Oilers farm system as a free agent, is one of many hopefuls looking to climb the Oilers farm system ladder on the way to an NHL career.

With many young, promising blue chip talent being leaned on to fill the scoring void like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Sam Gagner and Magnus Paajarvi, big league applications are still being accepted for proverbial “big man” role with a young and developing Oilers squad. 

“I'm quite comfortable playing the big man's game,” said Gimblett. “I'm trying just to get to the net, create pressure and play physical – night in, night out.”

The environment is an appropriate launching pad for Gimblett, who joins the farm system of a team not too far away from his college stomping grounds. He earned the admiration of many Edmontonians over the last four years with the University of Alberta, playing in a hockey program separated by just a 15 minute drive away from Rexall Place.

Now, his career takes the next step in Stockton, where the Thunder have helped seven players make their NHL debut in the last four seasons, including Devan Dubnyk. With limited time in Oilers training camp and several days in AHL camp with the Oklahoma City Barons, he's already hard at work with adapting to a professional learning curve, where the schedule is longer and the playing pace is quicker.

“Being (in camp with Edmonton and Oklahoma City) gave me a good gauge at where my speed and tempo is, what I need to work on and where I need to be to get to the next level,” said Gimblett. “It's something I have to work on every day and you won't develop just overnight.”

Ontario-native Jesse Gimblett played four season with the Univeristy of Alberta's Golden Bears before starting the 2010-11 campaign with the ECHL's Stockton Thunder. (Photo by Sean Blair/Stockton Thunder)
Last season, Gimblett used his size, hands and fearlessness in a top six role with the Golden Bears to rank second in the program with 17 goals in just 25 games, finishing one goal behind and ranking second in the league to teammate and Canada West MVP Chad Klassen.

In what helped to seal the deal for his professional future, eventually leading to an AHL tryout contract with Springfield, Gimblett continued to torture opposing goaltenders with his skill set and willingness to crowd the crease while imposing his physical stature in physical battles helping guide the University of Alberta to the University Cup championship game against the St. Mary's Huskies.

Only an overtime goal by the opposing Huskies separated Gimblett from championship glory. Yet, he admitted a refined poise and mental preparation that is often a character trait of those who break through the NHL doors and grind their way through an 82-game regular season schedule.

“When you get into those big games and get through with your first one, it's just a game of hockey,” said Gimblett. “You start to realize getting too hyped up isn't the best thing. You need to find a fine line of where you play your best and do whatever it takes for the team to win.”

Simply put, he's best defined by no superstitions and  a “meat and potatoes” approach.

“I think if you're able to create good habits and you're able to stay consistent with them, that's the key,” said Gimblett. “I don't have a big superstition. I just try to come to the rink, try to give same effort every day, I just try to do everything to the best of my abilities.”

That approach has helped Gimblett settle in with a Stockton team that eyes a Kelly Cup championship, one season after falling six wins shy of a title in Game 6 of the Conference Final. He joins nine returning players from that team and has experienced no problem with fitting in with Head Coach Matt Thomas' physical forecheck game, where he already has a pair of goals and 12 penalty minutes in four games.

You can tell off the bat that Jesse has the tools to go far in this game. - Matt Thomas, Stockton Thunder Head Coach
"You can tell off the bat that Jesse has the tools to go far in this game,” said Thomas. “I've been impressed with his hands, fearlessness and hockey sense. As he continues to refine his skill set, increase his speed and apply it consistently, he's going to present a very strong case to continue moving up the hockey ladder."

His first ever pro goal came at Stockton Arena on the same night where he dropped the mitts with Ontario's Luke Beaverson and David Walker and scored on a play that goaltender Kellen Briggs, maybe, never saw coming. Gimblett squared his body up in front of the goaltender's line of sight and a left circle shot by teammate Fraser Clair, deflecting the puck past Briggs.

He then put up his second goal last Saturday at Ontario in the second period, scoring the first marker for the Thunder in a 3-2 shootout win when he picked up a rebound at the side of the net and darted behind it, eventually slipping in a wrap-around that was too quick for Briggs' glove.

“His goal last Saturday was a play that not too many big men can make at the pro level,” said Thomas. “He's been involved on the forecheck consistently, isn't afraid to throw around his body and as he continues to apply himself, his hockey sense and will is going to put him in the middle of high-quality chances to score.”

At the end of next summer, Gimblett will have at least completed the following in a calendar year: play in a college championship game, skate in NHL training camp, score his first pro goal, and earn his college degree (to be completed next summer).

It's a weight of obligations. But as hockey has proven, it's nothing too heavy for a sizable player geared on making a career by way of sheer force.

Click here for past Future Watch articles


2010-11 OILERS PROSPECT STATS

Forwards
Name Age GP G A PTS PIM Team
Cameron Abney   19 14 3 1 4 11 Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
Alexander Bumagin   23 7 1 2 3 0 Novokuznetsk (KHL)
Philippe Cornet   20 9 0 2 2 0 Oklahoma city barons (AHL)
Drew Czerwonka   18 14 4 3 7 13 kootenay ice (WHL)
Alexandre Giroux   29 10 6 5 11 20 oklahoma city barons (ahl)
Curtis Hamilton   19 13 6 10 16 6 saskatoon blades (whl)
Teemu Hartikainen   20 10 3 0 3 7 oklahoma city barons (ahl)
Kellen Jones   20 4 2 3 5 4 quinnipiac university (ecac)
Milan Kytnar   21 9 0 2 2 2 oklahoma city barons (ahl)
Anton Lander   19 14 3 3 6 12 timra ik (sel)
Matt Marquardt   23 6 0 1 1 4 oklahoma city barons (ahl)
Ryan Martindale   18 13 6 8 14 10 ottawa 67's (ohl)
Brad Moran   31 10 3 5 8 2 oklahoma city barons (ahl)
Ryan O'Marra   23 10 0 2 2 15 oklahoma city barons (ahl)
Linus Omark   23 10 3 5 8 20 oklahoma city barons (ahl)
Ben Ondrus   28 10 0 1 1 12 oklahoma city barons (ahl)
Kristians Pelss   18 13 1 1 2 8 edmonton oil kings
Tyler Pitlick   19 9 3 7 10 7 medicine hat tigets (whl)
Toni Rajala   19 11 2 4 6 0 ilves tampere (fnl)
Liam Reddox   24 10 5 2 7 2 oklahoma city barons (ahl)
Gregory Stewart   24 6 0 0 0 13 oklahoma city barons (ahl)
Chris Vande Velde   23 9 1 1 2 4 oklahoma city barons (ahl)
Defencemen
Name Age GP G A PTS PIM Team
Shawn Belle   25 10 1 9 10 17 oklahoma city barons (ahl)
Jordan Bendfeld   22 1 0 0 0 0 Stockton thunder (echl)
Kyle Bigos   21 3 0 1 1 4 merrimack college (h-east)
Jeremie Blain   18 2 0 1 1 2 acadie-bathurst titan (qmjhl)
Taylor Chorney   23 10 0 3 3 8 oklahoma city barons (ahl)
Brandon Davidson   19 14 1 8 9 9 regina pats (whl)
Troy Hesketh   19 8 0 0 0 20 chicago steel (ushl)
Martin Marincin   18 14 6 9 15 21 prince george cougars (whl)
Johan Motin   21 7 0 0 0 7 oklahoma city barons (ahl)
Richard Petiot   28 10 0 4 4 6 oklahoma city barons (ahl)
Jeff Petry   23 10 2 4 6 4 oklahoma city barons (ahl)
Alex Plante   21 10 0 1 1 28 oklahoma city barons (ahl)
Goalies
Name Age GP W L T SO GAA PCT Team
Tyler Bunz   18 7 3 4 0 0 2.99 .897 medicine hat tigers (whl)
Martin Gerber   36 8 4 4 0 0 2.46 .916 oklahoma city barons (ahl)
Bryan Pitton   22 2 1 1 0 0 3.52 .891 oklahoma city barons (ahl)
Olivier Roy   19 9 6 3 0 0 2.38 .922 acadie-bathhurst titan (qmjhl)
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