By: Cory Butzin, Digital Content Provider
SAGINAW, MI — Upgrading speed and skill on the offensive end of the ice has been a priority for Saginaw Spirit General Manager Dave Drinkill.
The Spirit have made significant gains this week addressing those needs, including Thursday, May 4 when the organization announced 2016 first round pick Blade Jenkins had agreed to a contract.
“The future is extremely bright,” Drinkill said. “I can tell you that.”
A lot of Ontario Hockey League teams were scared off from drafting Jenkins last year because he’d already committed to a season with the United States National Team Development Program, but Saginaw pulled the trigger and couldn’t be happier.
“Absolutely, it’s worth it,” Drinkill said. “Even last year when we took Blade early in the draft, No. 4 overall, it was worth it to me. I’ve been a big fan of his ever since I saw him play as an underager at the OHL Cup.”
A native of Jackson, Mich., Jenkins graduated from the Detroit Compuware Hockey Program where he tallied 56 goals and 75 assists in 65 games heading into his OHL draft year.
“It’s an unbelievable day, especially coming to an organization like this,” Jenkins said. “The Saginaw Spirit are a young, growing team, and I think next year is going to be an unbelievable year.”
It marks the second such signing in the last 48 hours after the Spirit announced that 2017 first round pick Nicholas Porco had agreed to terms.
“Offense is something we wanted to address, and goal scoring,” Drinkill said. “I think both of them have the ability to make plays with their speed, skill and vision.”
Adding both provides a big boost to the Spirit who are experienced and deep on the back end and in goal, but are looking for a boost offensively.
Jenkins, in particular, has a jump over most rookies after gaining experience playing against top-flight and older talent last season with the national team, and the 6-foot, 173-pound forward is going to push for big minutes the moment he steps onto the ice.
He’ll also be going into his NHL draft year next season.
Current Spirit forward D.J. Busdeker is already familiar with what Spirit fans can expect from Saginaw’s newest addition as a longtime friend.
“I got a little insight from him,” Jenkins said. “I thought it came down to, I really liked the managerial staff and the owners here. The guys make you feel like you’re part of the family.”