You know Jagr. You’ve likely heard of Yager. Now it’s time to meet Jagger.
Moose Jaw Warriors forward Jagger Firkus, that is.
And boy does he have the moves like Jagger.
Firkus is a crafty 16-year-old rookie, possessing of skill AND the moxie to rock a bright ginger mustache; sign me up!
— The WHL (@TheWHL) April 7, 2021
As the Warriors’ Regina Hub campaign closes in on its end, questions to head coach Mark O’Leary surrounding the club’s place in the league standings are regularly met with what accounts to not much more than a shrug.
Far more pressing has been the need to give valuable development minutes to the young corps of those born in 2003 and sooner, especially given the Western Hockey League’s recent decision to have no playoffs past the conclusion of the 24-game regular season. While super No. 3 overall pick and 2005-born Brayden Yager, and perhaps to a slightly lesser extent 2019 first-rounder Denton Mateychuk have impressively met their expected hype, there is arguably no Warrior who has exceeded expectations than Firkus.
— Moose Jaw Warriors (@MJWARRIORS) April 6, 2021
With the plethora of touted young guns floating around the Hub, and the league as a whole, Firkus is happy to cruise under the pressure radar.
“(That all these guys get a lot of attention) isn’t a bad thing for me at all,” said Firkus, “it helps me, in fact.
“Those guys have to deal with it, I get to sneak my way in and just play my game. I don’t see a need to have a chip on my shoulder, I am more happy for them, especially for Yager (and Mateychuk), they are my teammates, so it’s great for them to get all that attention.”
Firkus, who like Mateychuk is a 2004 birth-year, is set to turn 17 three days after the season ends, was ‘only’ a fourth-round pick in that 2019 draft, although he was the Warriors’ second draft selection that year due to the plethora of deals the club had made in their 2018 attempt at a Memorial Cup.
A native of the tiny Albertan village of Irma, he elected to play his minor hockey in nearby Lloydminster for the Heat and Bobcats, and although his origins compared to the Connor Bedards and Yagers of this world could be considered of the humbler variety (though no THAT humble…the fourth round is nothing to sniff at), he has grown steadily as a reliable and productive presence up front for Moose Jaw this campaign.
“I just think that even though he’s only 16,” said O’Leary, “he’s flat out one of our most offensively gifted players.
“His skillset with the puck (is very good), but even more than that, it’s his thinking that is really impressive. He is in great spots and even in traffic he is able to put pucks in places that his line mates can get it, he’s really crafty, sneaky in the offensive zone to find those little spots, so he has a head for the game.”
Look at how quick his hands are here:
— Moose Jaw Warriors (@MJWARRIORS) April 22, 2021
Consider this: he started the year on the fourth line, but by the end, he is a guaranteed Top 6 forward and has been masterful in playing the right point on what has been a very good Warriors’ power play this season.
Look at this rocket on an MJ man advantage:
Through 20 games in the 2021 WHL season Firkus had five goals and nine points on a Warriors team short on experienced skill, and was considered by many to be the most dominant U18 AAA player in Alberta to start the campaign back in the fall, with 11 points in four games for his Lloydminster Bobcats.
Firkus made his Moose Jaw debut in the 2019-2020 season as a call-up and scored his first in the WHL on this neat tip vs. the Swift Current Broncos Jan. 24, 2020:
— Moose Jaw Warriors (@MJWARRIORS) January 25, 2020
“It has been a great situation for us, young guys, this year (at the Hub),” Firkus said.
“There is such a focus on development this year, so I’m getting lots of chances on the ice, on the power play and overtime, etc. so it’s just been a great year.”
The biggest question scouts had was whether he was a one-way player, only interested in offence, according to one coach very familiar with the Alberta U18 loop.
While offence certainly projects to be his calling card, it does not seem like O’Leary agrees with that scouts’ assessment.
“(Firkus) is a guy who can play in big situations,” O’Leary said.
“He can play the middle and the right side, and you don’t get worried about putting him out in D-zone faceoffs as well. He is a smart kid, he understands the game well, and he has earned everything that he has gotten. He’s a good story for sure.”
Listed generously at 5-foot-10, and 150 pounds, Jagger clearly has room to grow in the area of his physical strength, but that he has been this effective working with what he has already is incredible news for the Warriors.
That potential is enormous.
“Jagger will get opportunities to use his skill and contribute offensively. More opportunities come with more trust from the coaching staff in with effort, compete and paying attention to details,” O’Leary said to James Gallo of Discover Moose Jaw before the season started.
I’d say for Firkus’ 2021 Hub, it’s mission accomplished.