At the same time Christian Jimenez has been expanding and elevating his game in the United States Hockey League, the Sioux City Musketeers defenseman has also been trying to simplify it.
“My assistant coach Mark Abalan, my defensive coach, has really worked with me on efficiency in terms of my skating and my overall game,” Jimenez said. “He always says simple is the best option, especially as a defenseman from this league onward.”
Through the guidance of Abalan, the team’s associate head coach, and the experience of playing in the USHL, Jimenez said he now watches games differently. When he views games, particularly those in the National Hockey League, he notices how much the best players focus on the little details.
“That’s the biggest change for me from previous hockey I’ve played and playing in the USHL,” Jimenez said.
Jimenez has generally adjusted well to the switch from New England prep school hockey at the Taft School to the only Tier I junior hockey league in the United States. The Yorktown Heights, New York, resident, who celebrated his 18th birthday Sunday, finished the season leading all USHL rookie defensemen in scoring with seven goals and 21 assists in 42 games. Since mid-November, he had not gone more than two games without scoring.
“Being an offensive defenseman, one of the key things is you have to let the game come to you,” Jimenez said. “The minute you start forcing plays and trying to lead the rush when you have guys ahead of you that are open, that’s when you’re starting to force the game and the game doesn’t go your way.
“You just play a solid, sound game and then obviously be aggressive and join the rush, but you also have to pick and choose your moments.”
Jimenez describes the USHL experience as one in which he plays against players who are quicker, faster, bigger and smarter than past competition. While crediting Alaban, he says he has developed his mental game as much as the physical side.
“He reminds me to play a simple game, especially as a puck-moving guy who likes to get in on the offense and be as involved as possible,” Jimenez said.
Jimenez has been learning the game since he was 2 years old and his father first put him on skates.
Jose Jimenez grew up in the New York City borough of Queens, loving hockey and playing roller hockey, but didn’t’ get on ice for the first time until he was 20. An avid New York Rangers fan, he put his young son on skates early and put Christian in his first hockey program a year or two later.
“He fell in love with the game, with the help of the Rangers,” Christian said. “He did not play the game as a kid, so he wanted me to play as soon as I could walk.
“He put me on the ice early. At first, I didn’t really like hockey. I was always the last guy in the line during drills, sort of hiding behind everyone else for the first year or two.”
With his parents’ encouragement to stick with it, Christian said it was not long before he shared his father’s love of the sport.
“The rest is history,” Christian said.
Jimenez committed to play college hockey at Harvard in 2017, where he plans to enroll in the fall of 2021 and study economics.
Throughout his career, Jimenez has worked under the direction of USA Hockey coaches and trainers, something he remembers fondly.
“Those experiences have done wonders for me in terms of my game and my actual hockey career,” Jimenez said. “… With the coaching staffs and the resources we had, those weeks are fun.
“They’re a grind physically, but I wouldn’t trade them for anything.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.