Jackson Desouza, a Revelstoke Grizzlies alum, recently returned to the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets after joining the Detroit Red Wings for their rookie prospects tournament and training camp.
Desouza made his Rockets debut on Oct. 1, scoring a goal in a win over the Wenatchee Wild. DeSouza talked about his experience at the Red Wings camp.
KIJHL: What was the experience like playing with the Red Wings at the rookie tournament?
JD: It was amazing. The guys are next level and the pace of play is so much faster, so you try to take everything in you can from the coaches and guys that have been there before to carry it on to the season.
KIJHL: How do you feel you performed?
JD: I thought I performed pretty well. There are some things I have to work on, and just pay attention to what the coaches are telling me.
KIJHL: How many games did you play in the tournament?
JD: I played in two of the three and it was more comfortable sitting out the first game so I can see what the pace of play was like. I was able to adjust from there. As the games went on, and going into the second game against Toronto, I felt more comfortable because there is a learning curve. In any league you play in, there are different guys and tendencies that people do. You have to learn on the go.
KIJHL:How important was it for you to make sure you played your game?
JD: The whole goal was to go in and play my game. If you try to be a player that you’re not, you’re going to stick out like a sore thumb. Everything I did, leading up to the prospects tournament, and going to the main camp, was going off of how I play. It was being confident in my game and knowing that I don’t need to do anything more.
KIJHL: What was the training camp experience like?
JD: It was awesome. You see the big guys come in and how they prepare, even practices. They are in the gym hours before practice to make sure they are warmed up properly. The nutrition, how they conduct themselves on and off the ice, it’s their job and you are playing against guys who are trying to make a living from doing this. The competitiveness goes up and practice is all out.
I felt like I was 15 again going into Rockets camp for the first time. You don’t really know what to expect. I just trusted myself and controlled what I could control.
KIJHL: What kind of feedback did you get from the Red Wings?
JD: It was to keep working hard, and competing, doing what I do. They emphasized that it’s not always about the points and flashy play, but being really good at the stuff that people don’t see. I need to take the experience I had at camp and everything that the coaching staff told me and apply it to next season and hopefully move on.
KIJHL: With the feedback, did it give you the confidence knowing that there is a good chance to reach the AHL?
JD: Yeah, absolutely. My goal is to keep playing hockey at the highest level. Just to hear the feedback from an NHL team, it always feels good. If you told me when I was 16 that I would be going to a prospects game and then staying for an NHL main camp, I wouldn’t believe you.