When Matt Erredge is asked where hockey could possibly take Jayden Veney, he sums it up like this:
Junior hockey coaches and college coaches are constantly adding names to lists and removing names. They have rosters of players they want to see grow, rosters of players to pursue for future seasons, and rosters of must-have players who could make a difference.
Veney, a standout second-year defenseman at John Marshall, will never have to play on those rosters himself.
“He aspires to continue in hockey and he’s one of those guys who, he should play off a roster,” said Erredge, John Marshall’s head coach. “I had to play on a roster myself. Some guys never get on a roster. He should literally play himself.
Judging by his development over the past two seasons, Veney has every intention of continuing on those rosters. At 6-foot-7 and 190 pounds, the 2005-born left-handed defenseman is a fluid skater with a powerful shot and game-playing abilities few high school players of his stature possess.
“I think his teammates are just starting to understand how good he can be,” Erredge said. “We see it, just his consistency in scoring. I think he scored in 14 out of 21 games – as a “D”. He did it all the way. He did it on breakaways, from the point, from the top of the circle, on wraps. He scores in every possible way, and for a defender this is a special attribute. It’s hard to teach that.
Veney’s most notable attribute — aside from being an NFL tight end — is his personality. Naturally outgoing, he has a constant smile on his face and an obvious passion for the sport and for helping his team and teammates succeed, especially this season when JM has only had around 14 skaters on his roster all season.
It doesn’t matter to Veney or his teammates, though. They enjoyed playing with each other and to build an 8-16-0 record which they will take to the Section 1AA playoffs this week – the Rockets will play Dodge County in a 19-man first-round game a.m. Tuesday. .
“It’s been fun,” Veney said of her sophomore season. “We don’t have a lot of guys, but we work every game and try to surprise the other team. … I’m just enjoying it, having fun with my friends.
While Erredge and JM’s coaches appreciate Veney’s infectious enthusiasm, they’d like to see some of those smooth edges of his game become a little more numb.
“That’s one of the ways he can keep himself on those rosters, bringing that element of physicality,” Erredge said. “It’s not natural for him. He’s a super nice boy, very easy to get off the ice, a super boy. It’s not an easy thing for him to flip the switch, but when he does it, he dominates.
“It’s crazy when it lights up and it’s like ‘boom! That’s it, we can see it, he’s a dominant player!
Bringing that consistency every night is important to him.
Veney comes from a family of athletes. His brother Deontae, a 2020 JM graduate, is a 6-foot-6, 275-pound offensive lineman for the Minnesota State University powerhouse NCAA Division II Mankato football team.
Jayden will stick to hockey, however, and some who know him well believe the sky is the limit for him.
“I don’t think there’s ‘a limit to where he can go,’ said Rochester Grizzlies coach Chris Ratzloff, who coached Veney in the summer and fall leagues. “He absolutely can be a Division I player. With his size, he can be a pro if he keeps developing and working on the little things – his speed, his skating. He moves well for a big guy and he can shoot the puck.
Veney got off to a good start this high school season playing midget hockey for the Des Moines Buccaneers AAA U16 team last fall. He excelled there, scoring eight goals and adding 11 assists in 26 games before returning to JM for his second season. Among his teammates were Cayden Monson of Northfield and TJ Gibson of Century.
“It was really good competition there, lots of talented youngsters,” Veney said. “It seemed like every team we played against had a few D1 guys, so it was a lot of talented guys.”
His time in Des Moines also helped him get seen regularly by junior hockey coaches, especially teams in the North American Hockey League.
“He was down (in Missouri) at the NAHL Combine last (in the spring), so I was kind of on the bench with him,” said Ratzloff, whose Grizzlies team is among the best in the NA3HL, one level below the NAHL. . “Obviously everyone noticed it right away. All the (NAHL) coaches would come and take a closer look and say ‘this kid is huge!’
“The most important thing for him will be to work hard on the little details. If he does that, the sky is the limit for him because he has those things that a coach can’t help a kid get.
His high school coach agrees.
“I think he has everything in front of him for hockey, really,” Erredge said. “His grades are good, his teachers love him. I don’t know anyone who would say anything bad about him or his whole family. Just a big family, great people.
“He knows the future is kind of up to him. He trains at least 4-5 days a week, at ETS (Performance Training). He has transformed his body; he is transforming into a young man right in front of us. He is only 16 years old, he is still young.
“He has work ahead of him, but he’s not at all afraid to do it. His future really depends on him.