If this is to be a year of development for the Spokane Chiefs, then Reed Jacobson is making the most of it.
Ten games into their Western Hockey League season – which continues Tuesday when the Chiefs visit the division-leading Everett Silvertips – the 2002-born Jacobson is tied with Adam Beckman for the team points lead with 10. Jacobson is second in goal-scoring with five markers, just behind Beckman, who has six.
That’s already one more goal than the young winger scored in 50 games last season.
“I expected my role to be a bit bigger than last year, and I wanted to do my best and accept my role on the team and produce a bit more,” Jacobson said. “I think I’ve been doing that so far. I give a lot of credit to my teammates and linemates. They make good passes.”
Lately those linemates have been rookie Blake Swetlikoff (two goals, three assists) and Erik Atchison (three and five), who like Jacobson was a Chiefs bantam draft selection in 2017. The line scored two goals in Spokane’s 7-6 loss to the Portland Winterhawks on Saturday, which ended the Chiefs’ two-game winning streak and dropped them to 2-5-2-1 on the season.
They were the sorts of goals that earlier in the season coach Adam Maglio said the team needed to score more of: ones that come from players getting closer to the net.
On Saturday, positioning contributed to a goal Atchison scored when the puck deflected off his skate, and it also was a factor less than a minute later, when Atchison crossed the puck from behind the net through the crease to a waiting Jacobson, who one-timed it in.
“(Maglio) kinda preached that getting to the net and getting to those hard areas,” Jacobson said, “and I think the team has definitely done a better job and put in some rebounds.”
Jacobson also leads the team in plus-minus at plus-4, and Maglio praised the forward’s two-way game.
“Jakes (Jacobson) is a real good 200-foot player,” Maglio said last week. “I think Reed made strides at the end of last year, where he bumped up a little bit near the end for us there with Bear (Hughes) and Michael King. He’s progressed now into a top-six role.
“I’ve been happy with his play. I’ve always admired how he thinks the game, his 200-foot game, seeing that offense that he has is a pleasant surprise for us.”
Last season, Jacobson said, he was more concerned with ensuring his defensive game was solid because, “as a rookie, you don’t wanna give much up.”
This year has been different. With Hughes playing in the United States Hockey League this season along with 19-year-old forward Luke Toporowski, there’s been room up front for Jacobson to play more minutes.
That ability to “think” the game, as Maglio said, has been noticed by defenseman Bobby Russell.
“I think just with Reed, he’s always in a good spot on the ice,” Russell said last week.
“It makes it easy on us to make a play out of the zone.”
With 14 games remaining on their schedule – which this season includes only the other four teams from the U.S. Division – the Chiefs play their next three on the road, starting Tuesday at Everett, followed by Wednesday at Portland and Saturday against the Tri-City Americans.
Jacobson said the team needs to find a way to play its best hockey more consistently.
“Sometimes we’re up and down when we need to play a full 60 minutes,” he said. “When we’ve done that, we’ve shown we can play with any team.”
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