Every year, at the World Junior Championship Under-18, there are prospects who help up their draft stock with memorable performances. Sometimes the change of scenery, new teammates, or a different role sparks their play and they come out flying to take on the world. For Team Canada, that prospect was Jamieson Rees.
Birthplace: Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Date of birth: February 26, 2001
Weight: 172 lbs.
Team: Sarnia Sting (OHL)
After a shortened, and somewhat disappointing, season with the Sarnia Sting, Rees went on to tally eight points in seven games for Canada at the U-18 event. He picked up three points in three games for the Sting to start the year, but was injured soon after. When he returned at the end of November, he was left playing catch-up. He wasn’t always getting first power-play and top-line minutes, playing behind pivot Ryan McGregor, and only managed to record 32 points in 37 games.
But to say that Rees was a victim of circumstances wouldn’t be the whole truth. His fiery character led him to dangerous decisions. The length of his OHL season was further reduced after he blindsided an opponent in February with a high hit, which turned into sitting on the sidelines for eight games. After returning from suspension, Rees didn’t contribute to the scoresheet as Sarnia got swept by Saginaw in the first round of the playoffs.
Considering how Rees’s season ended, the U-18 was the perfect opportunity to showcase how he could turn this flaming energy into a positive for his team. He was the motor behind many of their plays, especially early in the tournament when the team was still gelling.
With intense pressure away from the puck, he forced the opposing team into rushing their plays and created turnovers. His physicality also helped wear down defenders as he laid his share of big — but clean — hits. One of those even directly led to a goal for Canada as Brandon Tracey retrieved the puck that sprung loose from an opponent on the receiving end of a Rees blow, to setup Connor Zary for a tap-in.
The Sarnia forward might only be 5’10, but he relentlessly plays above his size without, but also with, possession. Along with his buzz-saw style of play, he is also a skilled handler with puck-protection mechanics that, if refined, could see him be effective against the big defenders at the next levels.
The most common characteristic of Rees’s play is that he invites opponents to get on him. He knows that with his edge work and superior stickhandling, he has a chance to escape from the skirmish to face the play and either find an open teammate for a shot on net, or attack inside the dots himself.
When he plays against back pressure, the forward switches from two hands on his stick to one as he looks to shield the puck. He is explosive enough, but mostly aims to conserve his momentum with tight turns. He feels the position of the defence behind him well and knows the right moment to change directions to create separation.
He has strong balance and strength for his smaller stature (and those aspects will only improve) and can get creative with the use of his edges. The first sequence in the video above is a great example of his knack for using the force of bigger defenders to his advantage by digging his blades in the ice and sliding away with the momentum of the pushes he receives. Rees gets lower on his skates in a battle along the boards and manages to bring himself on top of the puck by leaning against a defenceman, switching his hips, and turning the force of the defenceman against him.
Rees can also use his smaller size to his advantage when in close quarters. Like the time he faked a reverse hit on an opponent (that would have been quite ineffective), turned his body and skates at the last second, and slipped from under the opposing grip with the puck.
Being able to extend possession time is a very important aspect of the game in the NHL. Rees doesn’t always turn his puck protection sequences into dangerous shots, but he is more advanced in this art than many of his counterparts, especially of similar stature. With time and physical maturity, he could find offence from the boards and the front of the net — which he rushes to quite often — with his abilities and competitiveness.
Even attacking off the rush, Rees showcases the same tendencies. He doesn’t use shifty cross-overs to open space around the defence. Instead, he gains momentum, charges at the defence head-on, and challenges them.
Great dangles come from baiting the opponent and from the usage of subtle fakes. They have to be set up in the right way, and they require a certain boldness that Rees certainly doesn’t lack. While he could attempt those in more moderation, his success rate is high. He presents the puck to force pokechecks out of the defence, holds his movement until the last millisecond, and toe-drags — his preferred move — around or through the skates of the opponents. He also creatively uses the boards to keep the puck out of reach of opposing sticks.
Deception is a part of his game. Not to the same extent as some of the best playmakers in the draft, but enough to boost his setup ability and suggest that he could further push his offensive game as he develops in the OHL, and naturally add speed to his skating to go along with his edge work and quickness.
The advanced stats for Rees are already pretty encouraging. He is above average in almost every category, even excelling in many offensive grads (notably passing and the ability to get the puck in the offensive zone while retaining possession for his team). The tracking project also presents Rees as having two-way potential for a team as he matures. But that will come with a more developed awareness and consistency in his hard work.
Rankings (not all rankings are final)
Elite Prospects: #86
Future Considerations: #73
NHL Central Scouting: #30 (NA skaters)
Jamieson Rees will probably go somewhere in the second round of the 2019 NHL Draft due to his lower production, smaller stature, and concerns about his fiery nature. On the second day of selections, he represents a chance to add an impactful forward due to the combination of his tools and competitiveness. It wouldn’t be surprising to see his numbers explode next season with the Sting in a full campaign.