“Starting in goal for your Boston University Terriers, from Lakeville, Minnesota, the freshman, Jake Oettinger!” boomed throughout Agganis Arena. At the sound of his name, Jake Oettinger strutted toward the blue line in front of the Terrier faithfuls.
The Boston University netminder walks and skates with a swagger that is unlike most 17 year old people. The youngest player in college hockey, Oettinger has already brought a subtle confidence to the ice in the early going of the Terriers’ 2016-2017 campaign.
Jake Oettinger is off to a tremendous start as a freshman goaltender for the Boston University Men's Hockey Team.
Boston University was not always on the path that Jake Oettinger had envisioned for himself. The Minnesota native grew up idolizing the University of Minnesota hockey team, as he frequently attended their games. The one thought in his mind leaving Mariucci Arena after a Golden Gopher game was always, “This is where I want to play college hockey”.
Crediting his father for his constant support, Jake constantly chased his dream of making it to the highest levels of hockey. “Hockey in Minnesota is huge; everyone plays and everyone is always talking about it. It was something I fell in love with,” he recalled when talking about the environment he grew up in.
It was not until January 21, 2015 that this childhood dream of playing for the Minnesota Golden Gophers died. The Gophers committed an out-of-state teenager hailing from Anchorage, Alaska to fill their starting goalie spot. Historically, the Gophers had only committed kids from within state lines, as Minnesota was known as a hockey hotbed.
Jake Oettinger following the play as he plays in his first college hockey game
Even with University of Minnesota out of the mix, Oettinger still had a handful of other local college hockey programs vying for his services. After a successful season playing for the United States National Under-17 team, based out of Ann Arbor, Michigan, college coaches were extremely high on the young netminder. Minnesota Duluth, St. Cloud State, and Minnesota State all chased the Lakeville native through the winter and spring of 2015.
Then came the call that changed Oettinger’s recruiting process. David Quinn, head coach at BU, had become familiar with Oettinger’s game thanks to frequent recruiting trips out to Ann Arbor to watch other Terrier commits Clayton Keller and Kieffer Bellows. “He was just massive, and he looked so confident in the net. He is someone who we became enamored with,” Quinn recalls.
Much of the early success Oettinger enjoyed at the U-17 program was due to his goaltending counterpart for team USA, Joseph Woll. Woll, who now plays for the rival Boston College Eagles, is one of Oettinger’s best friends as well as a competitor. Oettinger said Woll is “someone who has helped me a lot as a goalie, as he constantly pushed me to be better throughout our time at the program”.
Oettinger makes a save during his first game at Agganis Arena
Oettinger’s physical abilities and size specifically made him an incredibly sought-after prize last year. Standing at 6 foot 4 inches and weighing in at 210 pounds, he posed a mature frame in goal at a very young age. Being labeled as a potential first or second round draft pick by the National Hockey League’s Central Scouting Services only adds to the pressure placed on the true freshman.
Central Scouting’s Al Jensen mirrored coach Quinn’s opinion on Oettinger, saying, “There is a lot to like about Jake’s game, he is a big goalie who is positionally very good. He has a phenomenal butterfly, and he has that NHL presence when you look at him”.
The hype that surrounds Oettinger and his play is something that the young goalie tries to block out as much as he possibly can. “I try not to think about it at all. Watching my friends go through the draft process last year, I realized that it is all so mental. I just control what I can control.”
Pregame National Anthem at the U18 World Championships as a member of the United States National Program team
It is easy for Oettinger to keep his mind away from next June’s NHL draft as he adapts to life in Boston. He credits his ability to get his feet wet to the summer school semester, during which he took classes and worked out at Boston University. Summer months for most 17-year-olds are filled with sun, fun and work; for Jake Oettinger, July and August were filled with workouts, homework and hockey.
“Being in Boston [since July] has allowed me to become comfortable this early in the season. Getting to know my teammates and the BU program months before the season started was huge for me,” says Oettinger.
The fall semester, notably, has been very kind to the freshman, as he was recently named to the United States evaluation camp for the World Junior hockey tournament.
This year the ten country tournament consists of: the United States, Canada, Russia, Latvia, Slovakia, Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic, Denmark, and Switzerland. These teams will compete in Montreal and Toronto December 26th-January 5th.
Oettinger celebrates with his teammates after winning bronze at the U18 World Championships
Making the evaluation camp roster itself is a high honor, as the tournament competitors will be comprised of the best under 20 year old players in the world representing their respective countries.
Fighting for the starting USA goaltending spot is going to be difficult for Oettinger, as his competition is off to a hot start as well. Tyler Parsons (of the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights) and friend and former teammate Joseph Woll (of Boston College) are his competition in net.
“I am excited to get to the evaluation camp and to hopefully be able to play a key role. One of my favorite things is wearing the USA logo on my jersey,” said Oettinger.
Whether he is the starting or backup goalie for team USA, one thing is for certain: Oettinger is poised to do special things for the Boston University Terriers in the second half of the season. Returning to the ice for Boston University in January will entail chasing championships whether there is a successful World Junior run or not.
“My goal this year is to win titles. I want to bring a Beanpot and National Championship back to Commonwealth Avenue,” Oettinger said when talking about his future as a Terrier. The Boston University hockey team is blessed and excited to have Jake Oettinger as their backbone as college hockey’s trophy season comes into full swing next semester.