When it comes to professional bargaining leverage, WCHA rookie of the year Jake Jaremko is sitting squarely in the catbird seat. He turns 22 before his first game as a sophomore for WCHA powerhouse Minnesota State and is no longer NHL draft eligible due to his advanced years.
So while he garners headlines and honors in the WCHA, his value to NHL teams keeps rising and he is available to the highest bidder.
Jaremko does have an affiliation with an NHL club, however, as he attended the Predators NHL development camp this summer. His trip down to Nashville was part of a natural progression. During his two gap years between high school and college, Jaremko played for the USHL’s Chicago Steel under head coach Dan Muse. The Minnesota native’s scoring helped power the Steel to the 2017 USHL championship.
When Jaremko moved up a rung to the NCAA in 2017-18, Muse jumped to the NHL as the Predators the assistant coach. Once their respective seasons were over, Muse reached out to his former sniper to introduce him to Nashville at their development camp this July. Muse was ubiquitous during camp week.
“He was handing out pointers like usual,” Jaremko said. “But it was cool just to catch up with him, too. It wasn’t all about hockey.”
This is hockey logic 101: guys who help you win championships aren’t soon forgotten.
Had a great opportunity to catch-up with fellow @MNSUMankato Maverick, and current @MavHockey forward Jake Jaremko this week at the @PredsNHL development camp! Read about it here! @msumavericks https://t.co/A8mCvTM5BT— aaron fitzner (@AaronFitzner) June 29, 2018
When it comes to evaluating suitors, there’s no substitute for first impressions. Based on Jake’s accounts after attending his first NHL development camp, Jaremko was clearly smitten. His initial response contained the word “awesome” and "cool” three times each, and a very direct “I love the city.”
Asked whether there was one episode in particular that seared his long-term memory, Jaremko did not hesitate: “Looking at Bridgestone Arena for the first time.”
And who can blame him? Bridgestone resembles hockey’s version of the Emerald City palace. Stepping into the mecca that hosted the 2017 Stanley Cup Finals only made his heart grow fonder.
“You see it on TV, you experience it, see the locker room, the weight room, the lounge, the rink, all of that, I thought it was really cool,” he said.
This from a guy who plays home games in the Verizon Wireless Center in Mankato, one of the supreme facilities in college hockey.
Let it be said that the romance between Jaremko and the Preds was not one dimensional. The left-shooting centerman who averaged a point a game in his first go-round in the WCHA badlands who was given ample opportunity to show his talent on the ice.
“I felt like it went really well,” Jaremko said. “I was able to showcase my skill set out there.”
And then the Preds upped the ante when Jake stepped off the ice, tossing him an official Predators jersey and directing him toward a waiting lens.
“It’s always a cool experience to put on an NHL team jersey for the first time,” Jaremko said. “We wore a Preds jersey for a headshot for NHL.com.”
#5 Jake Jaremko
Minnesota St. Mavericks
2017-18 Point Scoring
The Nashville prospects even had a formal scrimmage on the Bridgestone ice: three 17-minute periods of running time, playing 4-on-4 and then 3-on-3. Jaremko capped his experience on the ice by getting onto the scoresheet in a 5-3 victory.
“I had an assist in that one," he said. "We ended up winning the game—it was pretty cool.”
Jaremko sampled a taste of Nashville away from the rink as well, as he and his mates took in a pro soccer game and also went “target shooting” at a slick triple-decker driving range called Top Golf. Although it appears that every piece is in place for a happy marriage between Jaremko and the Predators a year or two from now, there could be one adjustment that might greatly improve the prospects for “happily ever after.”
Jaremko has a lifelong buddy that also shared that 2017 Clark Cup Championship in Chicago while playing for Muse—Reggie Lutz. He also played on Jaremko’s line in Mankato when they won the WCHA’s McNaughton Cup as regular season champs. Jaremko is a left-shooting center who has been passing to his trusted right wing Lutz for nearly two decades, not counting all the plays they’ve made in their respective dreams.
“I’ve been playing with him since I was about three years old,” Jaremko said. “We’re in Mankato, we work out together, skate together.”
Think of them as a Minneapolis metro version of the Sedin twins. Jaremko may not want to realize it, but he has an enormous negotiating hammer when he and his family decide it’s time to leave Mankato for the pro game. Insisting on a package deal that includes surrogate brother Lutz might make sense for all parties.
In the meantime, however, Jaremko and Lutz will take at least one more crack at helping Minnesota State become the first team in the new WCHA to reach the Frozen Four.
WCHA Prospect Check-Ins:
Brandon Kruse, Bowling Green — Vegas Golden Knights
Philip Beaulieu, Northern Michigan — Boston Bruins
Cooper Zech, Ferris State — Washington Capitals
Steven Ruggiero, Lake Superior State — Anaheim Ducks
Jake Jackson, Michigan Tech — San Jose Sharks