Teenagers age, after all. So that extra seasoning might come in handy for Jenner, the 19-year-old Oshawa Generals captain who's finally getting a crack at making the Columbus Blue Jackets now that the NHL lockout is over. His Oshawa teammate Laughton is at the Philadelphia Flyers camp on more of a look-see basis, but it applies to him, too.
"I would have been ready for a camp in September," Jenner, who squeezed in two games with Oshawa in between returning from the world junior championship and joining the Jackets, said prior to leaving for Columbus. "Throughout the year, you always have it in the back of your mind that they [the NHL] might start up at any time. It's good to have it, finally ... Having 3-4 months of OHL hockey under your belt helps ... your game is a little farther along than it is coming off the summer when you haven't played much."
Laughton, 18, whom the Flyers took in the first round last June, isn't pegged as being on the fast track to the NHL. But the gritty centre, who's probably first in line to wear the captain's 'C' in Oshawa after Jenner moves on to bigger and brighter things, hopes he'll at least have an extended run with the Flyers.
"I'm in game shape right now," he said last week. "It's tough for the guys who haven't played yet. So I feel pretty good right now and hopefully I go into camp confident."
"It's big," he said of being invited to a compressed training camp as an 18-year-old, "I didn't really think the NHL was going to come back at first. Just getting this opportunity is huge and I want to make the most of it.
"It's huge, being the only junior guy to go," added Laughton, who has 13 goals and 33 points in 32 games for the Generals.
For Jenner, the last few weeks have been "a bit of a whirlwind." The Dorchester, Ont., native was suspended for the first three games of the world junior as a punishment for a late hit during a Canada-Sweden precompetition game. In his second game of the tournament, Canada's gold-medal hopes were dashed with a loss to the United States and his Generals linemate, Toronto Maple Leafs pick Tyler Biggs. Then came the bronze-medal game overtime loss to Russia and a long trip home to southern Ontario.
In other words, the chance to turn the page is welcome.
"It was lots of time in airports, lots of time in the air," said Jenner, who leads Oshawa in scoring with 30 goals and 50 points in 34 games. "It's good to get back, get settled and get into a normal routine again.
"I've just tried to take the experience from the year before [when he was in Columbus' camp] and get better in every aspect, I think I've done that."
In major junior, it's understood that players are there to develop, so there's no crying over split talent whether it's temporary or permanent. The Generals (24-16-1-2, .593 point pct.) are currently third in the OHL's Eastern Conference even though coach D.J. Smith has seldom had his full lineup. Their entire first line — Jenner, Biggs and rookie Michael Dal Colle, who played for Team Ontario in the world under-17 challenge — was absent for the start of the second half. Speedy Lucas Lessio has not played since October due to torn tendons in his left hand, although he is travelling with the team and should be back before the end of January.
So as much as getting the call from Columbus and Philadelphia is a goal fulfilled, neither is leaving without thinking of the Generals' situation. Suffice to say, it will be Christmas in January for Oshawa if both return quickly.
"It's tough," Laughton says. "We've had 11 guys out and been without our captain [Jenner]. It's going to be a tough stretch, we'll see what happens in Philly and if not, we'll come back here and try to win a Memorial Cup."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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