CALGARY — Jake Paterson is getting comfortable with being the dark horse. He’s the goaltender that came into Team Canada’s camp and put his name out there as one of the country’s brightest junior hockey stars.
Unfortunately for Paterson, his name has also been the cause of much confusion. In the OHL, Paterson plays for the Saginaw Spirit. There’s a goalie for the Spirit’s Western Conference rival, the London Knights. His name is Jake Patterson.
Even with the slight variation in spelling, there’s still a lot of mistaken identity.
During the 2011 NHL entry draft, when Paterson was selected by the Detroit Red Wings in the third round (80th overall), the U.S. network broadcasting the event showed highlights of the other Jake.
“It’s pretty funny,” said Paterson of the two Jakes conundrum. “What are the odds there are two goalies the same age and have the same name of Jake Pat(t)erson? There have been a couple articles where we have been mixed up.”
Here, competing at Hockey Canada’s national junior team selection camp, Paterson shone. His stellar play over the course of the short selection process helped him beat out Edmonton Oil Kings goalie Laurent Brossoit for one of the three goaltending spots. Paterson will be in Ufa, Russia, with his Canadian teammates for the World Junior Hockey Championship, which begins Boxing Day.
“I think this week he was arguably the best goaltender here,” said Canadian head coach Spott. “That’s a credit to Jake, I thought he played extremely well … ultimately for me, he was a guy that stood up and just wouldn’t be denied.”
Despite the performance, and the praise, the 18-year-old was notified by Spott that he would be the team’s third-string goalie, behind Malcolm Subban and Jordan Binnington. Subban and Binnington are both 19 and a year older than Paterson.
Spott said Paterson took the news like a champ.
“He made it real easy on me as a coach when we had the meeting (Friday night),” said Spott on Saturday. “He handled it with class.”
Paterson really broke onto the scene during last year’s playoffs when he helped the Spirit upset the Sarnia Sting in six games during the opening round of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs. Saginaw, behind Paterson’s puck-stopping, took the eventual league champion Knights to six games before being eliminated.
This year Saginaw is in rebuilding mode with a young team. So, Paterson’s statistics - an 11-12-2-1 record, 3.49 goals against average and .901 save percentage – are rather pedantic. The numbers don’t lie, but they don’t tell the whole story either.
“We know how good he is,” said Spott, who sees Paterson often because his Kitchener Rangers also compete in the OHL Western Conference. “He’s a winner and I think he’s very competitive person.”
“We were in (Saginaw) this year when he beat us in a shootout, so I’ve seen it first-hand.”
Oddly enough, when Paterson first started playing hockey, goaltending was the farthest thing from his mind. He began his hockey life as a forward (Paterson said he was “pretty decent”), but was thrown between the pipes when he was eight after his team’s regular goalie was away at a wedding.
“The first game I played I was terrible,” said Paterson. “I probably let in 10 goals, but for whatever reason I enjoyed it and I was fortunate enough that my parents let me make the switch.”
Paterson grew up in Mississauga, with his parents Anne, a teacher, and Kevin, a dentist, along with his two older sisters, Kristy, a firefighter, and Jen, who is going to chiropractic college. As a kid, Paterson was a fan of the OHL’s now-defunct Mississauga IceDogs and their then-goalie David Shantz.
“He wore (number) 57 when he played for the IceDogs,” said Paterson. “That’s where I got my number from.”
Off the ice, the 6-foot-1, 183-pound goalie is your average teenager. In Saginaw, he drives his mom’s old, gold Nissan Murano which his teammates affectionately call the "Golden Nugget." He billets with teammate Eric Locke and the pair spends a lot of free time watching the television show, Entourage, and playing mini-sticks – a childhood pastime they haven’t outgrown just yet.
“Sometimes you need a break from all the crazy, serious hockey,” explained Paterson. “It’s nice just to have the guys over and just play a little mini-sticks in the basement.
“I don’t think we’ll ever outgrow that one.”
There won’t be much time for fun and games with Team Canada. The team arrived Sunday in Helsinki were they will play tune-up games against Finland and Sweden. Spott said there’s a possibility Paterson could see some pre-tournament action to stay battle-tested before the team travels to Ufa.
“We’ve seen in this tournament, things happen,” said Spott. “He has to be prepared both on the ice and off the ice mentally through video so he stays sharp and ready to go.”
At 18, this world junior experience for Paterson will be invaluable, since he’ll still be eligible to compete at the 2014 tournament in Malmo, Sweden. He says that even if he doesn’t play this year, he’s hoping people will still remember his name.
“Where ever I go and whenever I have to fill out my name I have to tell them Paterson with one T,” he said.
“Hopefully after all of this people will start to catch on.”