Ashland native Weatherby becomes an NHL prospect after big year
Before he was an NHL prospect, Jasper Weatherby was just a curious 7-year-old kid living in Ashland.
“My best friend down the street from me asked if I wanted to go to The RRRink with him to skate and play hockey,” recalls the 20-year-old Weatherby. “I said, ‘Sure, I’d love to do that.’”
His friend turned was Paiute Morrison, who went on to play for the Southern Oregon Spartans and who is now with the University of Arkansas.
After that trip, Weatherby constantly sought out the ice as a youth in the Rogue Valley before moving to Canada to attend a high school hockey boarding school.
After his time with the Canadian International Hockey Academy Voyageurs, Weatherby made 16U and 18U squads in Omaha, Nebraska, before earning a spot with the Wenatchee Wild of the British Columbia Hockey League in 2016.
A role player on a deep team last season, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound center has been nothing short of dominant this year. He claimed the BCHL MVP and the league’s Brett Hull Trophy for most points and was named a conference first-team all-star. Weatherby has signed with the University of North Dakota, one of the most storied programs in NCAA history, and recently surfaced on the NHL Central Scouting’s Entry Draft rankings list.
“He had a big summer and came back and I think we all expected him to be one of the better players in the league,” Wild head coach Bliss Littler says. “But I don’t know that anyone expected him to lead the league in scoring. Being committed to North Dakota speaks volumes. ... I’ll be shocked if he’s not drafted.”
Wenatchee, which went 37-20-1 during the regular season, is 16-4 overall in the playoffs after capturing the Fred Page Cup last week. Washington’s Junior A squad will next take on the Spruce Grove Saints in a best-of-seven Doyle Cup series. From there, the winner gets a berth in the Royal Bank Cup tournament, held in May in Chilliwack, British Columbia.
Game 1 against Spruce Grove is Friday at the 4,300-seat Town Toyota Center in Wenatchee.
Weatherby was born in Portland before his family moved to Ashland when he was 1. His dad, Richard Weatherby, originally from England, is a naturopathic physician who owns his own medical software company, and his mom, Lucinda, is a therapist and grief counselor.
As soon as Morrison exposed Weatherby to hockey, he was hooked.
“We would always drive to The RRRink,” recalls Weatherby, who also participated in soccer and Pop Warner football as a child. “That is where it all started. It’s where some of my best memories are and where I learned to love the game.”
After playing at the youth level in the Rogue Valley, Weatherby was accepted into Canadian International Hockey Academy before his freshman year of high school.
“That was a big adjustment,” he says. “It’s pretty tough being away from family. The school I was going to all revolved around hockey. We’d skate five days a week. It was just what I was looking for (and it) gave me a look at the best hockey.”
After two years in Canada playing at the Bantam AAA, Minor Midget AAA and Midget AAA levels, Weatherby accepted an offer to wrap up his junior and senior years with the Omaha AAA Lancers 16U and 18U programs.
During the 2014-15 season in Nebraska, Weatherby broke a femur and missed much of the year.
“That was pretty tough,” he says. “Looking back at it, doing the 5 a.m. rehabbing and then doing it again after school, it helped me build my foundation.”
Weatherby recorded nine goals and 14 assists in 25 games during the 18U season before agreeing to play for the Wild. In 46 regular-season games last season in Wenatchee, he tallied 12 goals and 20 assists.
Then came his magnificent 2017-18 campaign, when Weatherby amassed 74 points (37 goals and 27 assists) in 58 regular-season games. He’s collected 15 goals and 23 assists so far this postseason.
“I’m having a pretty good year,” says the humble Weatherby, who is an assistant captain. “I think it was putting in a lot of work this offseason. I’d say I’m a late bloomer. So playing with more confidence and having more opportunity helped.”
Mike Rust, the Southern Oregon Spartans’ strength and conditioning coach, is familiar with Weatherby’s offseason habits. He’s known Weatherby since Weatherby was 14 and has worked with him during several summers between hockey.
“Nobody works harder than Jasper,” Rust says. “He mentally and physically puts 100 percent into being the best hockey player he can be. I’m very proud of him. He deserves everything he’s gotten. He’s worked for everything.”
The effort is paying off.
Weatherby committed to North Dakota in November of 2017, choosing the Fighting Hawks over Boston University, Colorado College, Michigan Tech and Nebraska Omaha.
Weatherby is ranked No. 198 by NHL Central Scouting. The draft is June 22-23 in Dallas. Last year, 217 players were selected in the seven-round draft.
It’s exciting, Weatherby says, but there’s still plenty left on his own to-do list.
“It was really humbling” he says of seeing his name on the list. “You look at the draft rankings as a kid and dream to see your name on there. To be drafted would be super cool. But you’ve got to keep working.”
Reach writer Dan Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org