Through the guidance of Abalan, the team’s associate head coach, and the experience of playing in the USHL, Jimenez said he now watches games differently. When he views games, particularly those in the National Hockey League, he notices how much the best players focus on the little details.
“That’s the biggest change for me from previous hockey I’ve played and playing in the USHL,” Jimenez said.
Jimenez has generally adjusted well to the switch from New England prep school hockey at the Taft School to the only Tier I junior hockey league in the United States. The Yorktown Heights, New York, resident, who celebrated his 18th birthday Sunday, finished the season leading all USHL rookie defensemen in scoring with seven goals and 21 assists in 42 games. Since mid-November, he had not gone more than two games without scoring.
“Being an offensive defenseman, one of the key things is you have to let the game come to you,” Jimenez said. “The minute you start forcing plays and trying to lead the rush when you have guys ahead of you that are open, that’s when you’re starting to force the game and the game doesn’t go your way.
“You just play a solid, sound game and then obviously be aggressive and join the rush, but you also have to pick and choose your moments.”
Jimenez describes the USHL experience as one in which he plays against players who are quicker, faster, bigger and smarter than past competition. While crediting Alaban, he says he has developed his mental game as much as the physical side.