Shortly after the Spokane Chiefs’ three-day camp in August they sent young forward Jarid Hauptman back to his Junior A team.
Maybe the 17-year-old rookie they expected to challenge for one of the few roster spots wasn’t quite ready to make the jump to the Western Hockey League season.
Six weeks later, the Chiefs brought him back.
Maybe one of the other rookies was struggling to adjust.
What- ever it was, two games into the season the 5-foot-10, 195-pounder from Morinville, Alberta, was in the lineup. In his third game he had an assist, and in the Chiefs’ last home game he notched his first goal.
That’s when the truth about the transactions came to light.
“I actually left on my own terms,” Hauptman said. “Really, I didn’t have the heart to play here.”
Although the Chiefs thought highly of their fifth-round pick from the 2009 Bantam Draft, they didn’t beg him to stay.
“We’re probably as passive as they come when it comes to recruiting,” general manager Tim Speltz said. “I don’t want to talk kids into coming here. If they’re not sure, they’re not sure. I don’t want them coming because (they were pressured). We want guys that want to be here.”
It didn’t take Hauptman too many games back with Drayton Valley of the Alberta Junior Hockey League – where he had 30 points in 60 games last season – to realize where he should be.
“I don’t know what happened. I wanted to play a better level of hockey,” he said. “I just regretted it.”
When head scout Chris Moulton swung by a game to watch, Hauptman asked for another chance.
“I knew I screwed up,” he said.
“He has some real skill. He has some untapped talent there,” Spokane coach Don Nachbaur said. “We saw that in training camp. We all make decisions. We never slam the door shut on any of the kids.”
Nachbaur has shown a lot of confidence in Hauptman, who has responded with a goal and six assists in 12 games, heading into tonight’s matchup with Kamloops at the Arena.
Hauptman is on a high-energy line with center Mike Aviani and Marek Kalus. Aviani has four goals and seven helpers in 15 games, Kalus five goals and four assists in 16.
“They’ve been real good,” Nachbaur said. “They complement each other real well.”
By attending camp and then leaving, Hauptman said he learned a little about himself and a lot about the Chiefs.
“I was a little bit intimidated,” he said. “Tim was really good about it. He said, ‘Look, we won’t burn any bridges here.’”
“We said all along, he was a kid that just didn’t understand what was here and if he was ready to be here,” Speltz said. “When he was, we were ready to have him.”
The coach and GM are on the same page in assessing Hauptman’s talent.
“His upside is on the offensive side,” Speltz said. “We think he’s going to be able to score. We think he’s going to make plays. We he’s going to be able to run a power play. He was incredible at camp.
“The things he has to do better – his skating has to improve, like all these guys, and compete better on a more regular basis. All those things he’s taken steps with so far.”
Which proves the second time is a charm.
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