October 21, 2020

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These Point-like players can play

Manitobans Jarvis, Robins don't mind comparisons to star Tampa Bay forward

Seth Jarvis was the hottest player in major junior hockey after the Christmas break.

KEITH DWIGGINS / PORTLAND WINTERHAWKS

Seth Jarvis was the hottest player in major junior hockey after the Christmas break.

It's the trendy comparison and Seth Jarvis and Tristen Robins are getting used to it. 

In fact, most of the tenacious but undersized forward prospects for next week's NHL Draft probably get the treatment: Could (insert name here) be the next Brayden Point?

"Yeah, I get that a lot," says Jarvis, the 18-year-old Winnipegger who tore up the WHL with a sensational post-Christmas burst last season. "That's who I compare myself to. I think with the success he had in the playoffs and what he's done, he's only helped people and their view of me...

"He's someone that I look up to and I think a lot a lot of smaller players should look up to him, just the way he plays the game, the way he's always able to dominate like that at his size."

Point, a major figure in Tampa Bay's recent run to a Stanley Cup title, wasn't always a can't-miss prospect.

Chosen in the third round of the 2014 draft, the 5-11, 166-pounder's rise to stardom has helped to change the perception of how the game should be played and by whom.

It's also paved the way for those who follow in his footsteps and Jarvis, a 5-10, 175-pound right-winger, and Robins, a 5-11 1/2, 184-pound centre from Clear Lake, are members of the club.

Jarvis, a sure-fire first-round pick who plays with the WHL's Portland Winterhawks, and Robins, who went from a fourth-line role as a rookie to the become the leading scorer of the Saskatoon Blades in 2019-20, has been pegged as a third-round prospect but has been trending higher on recent draft boards.

Jarvis works out at the RINK Training Centre in Winnipeg in June.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Jarvis works out at the RINK Training Centre in Winnipeg in June.

While both are among the best prospects available and likely the first two Manitoba-born players to drafted, they also have a shared history. In 2017-18, they were linemates with Winnipeg's Rink Hockey Academy midget prep team.

No defence was safe when the dynamic duo was on the ice. Jarvis led the club in scoring with 35 goals and 65 points in 37 games while Robins chipped in with 20 goals and 60 points in 36 games.

"We kinda had chemistry right from the jump," says the right-handed Jarvis, who played on Robins' left side that season. "He was obviously a great passer and has great vision. I was he able to kind of finish off those passes and I think that we kind of went hand in hand and had a really successful year."

The adjustment to playing his off wing was troublesome only at the start.

"Once you get the hang of it, it became something I'm super comfortable with," says Jarvis. "I can see its value in my game now, just being able to make tougher plays under pressure with my backhand."

Jarvis' dexterity with his backhand and his ability to exploit a defence with his speed off the rush was a lasting memory for Rob Smith, the Rink's midget prep coach.

"I will say he's probably one of the better players I've seen at this level with his edge work," says Smith. "The speed that he creates  out of not skating, not striding is awesome. He beat so many guys just using his edges -- it was incredible."

Robins' skillset was different but made him similarly difficult to track.  

"We had him on the wing to start but very quickly put him in the middle," says Smith. "Because when you get the puck in the middle, he can fly No. 1, but he also distributed the puck to the left or the right very well. And so you just find yourself getting out of the zone very easily."

Robins says he has no position preference, admitting he's better in the middle. But where does that put Jarvis? Could his versatility become a curse?

Portland head coach Mike Johnston experimented with Jarvis as a centre during his rookie season but eventually moved him to right wing in 2019-20, a tactic that became wildly successful for the counter-attacking Winterhawks.

Saskatoon Blades forward Tristen Robins of Clear Lake, MB.

(STEVE HISCOCK/SASKATOON BLADES)

Saskatoon Blades forward Tristen Robins of Clear Lake, MB.

During the pandemic-extended lull, where Jarvis fits best has been a favourite question in pre-draft calls with NHL teams. Does he believe he's a centre?

"I think they just want to see where my head's at in terms of what position I need to play to be successful," says Jarvis. "But my answer never changes. I just say I'm a forward. I can play -- whether it's right wing, left wing, centre -- whatever they kind of need. I'm comfortable in any kind of position."

Robins, who turns 19 on Nov. 15 and by virtue of a late birthday is draft eligible for the first time, a slower development arc meant less attention as a younger prospect.

A breakout sophomore season with the Blades has changed all of that.

"I wasn't given a whole lot opportunity when I was 17," says Robins. "I was playing fourth-line minutes, less than 10 minutes a game. And I didn't get a whole lot of room to kind of show what I could do. Didn't get any power play or penalty-killing time.

"I think the more opportunity that I got this year opened up a lot more room, not only for development, but just so that I could show what I could do."

Early in their development, the one-time linemates were on a different paths. Jarvis' father Raymond, the founder of the football program at Dakota Collegiate, had no formal hockey training while Robins' father Trevor was a two-time all-star goaltender in the WHL who went on to a lengthy pro career in North America and Europe.

Trevor served as Tristan's coach through minor hockey until his 14-year-old season.

"You don't think about it when you're playing with a goalie or against a goalie but I guess they kind of see everything (unfold) in front of their eyes," says Tristen. "That's probably why my dad was such a good coach for me when I was younger and I think that's why he knows so much about the game. Not only did he live it but he also studied and watched it."

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Sports Reporter

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

   Read full biography

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History

Updated on Friday, October 2, 2020 at 10:07 PM CDT: Fixes typo.

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