It may have taken a while, but Jakob Reichert is delivering on his potential.
“He is a player that is finally coming into his own,” said Langley Rivermen head coach and general manager Bobby Henderson.
“We have been waiting for the last season and a bit and the switch has gone off for him. He is playing unbelievable.”
Henderson said they have known of Reichert since his days with the Langley Minor Hockey Association.
After all, it is not hard to notice a six-foot-two, 232 pound 16-year-old, which is just how big Reichert was when he began his junior hockey career.
And when the chance came to acquire him, Henderson pulled the trigger, sending another Langley player, Austin Plevy, to the Merritt Centennials prior to the 2012/13 BCHL season.
“The potential has always been there and we saw signs of it through junior B and flashes of it when he was up with Merritt,” he added.
The only problem was inconsistency.
“Now it is a more complete game, wire to wire, a full 60 minutes,” Henderson said.
Last season, his first in Langley, Reichert had nine goals and 10 assists in 51 games, which worked out to a 0.5 points per game average.
And through this season’s first 32 games, Reichert had 10 goals and nine assists in 32 games, which is about 0.6 points per game.
But his play has really taken off since early December. In his last 17 games, Reichert has scored nine times and added 10 assists, for a 1.1 average.
Reichert also has points in eight of the past 10 games for the Rivermen — they have earned a point in all 10 at 8-0-1-1 — including the game-winning goal on Sunday afternoon in Victoria over the Grizzlies.
“Part of it is him recognizing who he is as a player and the things he has to do to be successful,” Henderson said.
And this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Reichert, a hulking six-foot-five 220-pound prototypical power forward.
“His biggest asset is obviously his physical presence,” Henderson said.
“He is a tough guy to knock off the puck and you combine that with his skating ability and stick skill, that makes for a pretty well-rounded player who is tough to defend.”
Reichert sits third on the Rivermen in scoring with 19 goals and 38 points through 49 games as the team sits in top spot in the Mainland Division.
“This season, I have been having a lot of fun and I think it is showing on the ice,” Reichert said, adding that last season was a bit of an adjustment, going from spending the first three seasons of junior hockey — one year of junior B with Revelstoke and then two seasons of junior A with Merritt — living with billets to moving back home.
Reichert has committed to attend Bowling Green University next season on scholarship, fulfilling one of his goals.
He had Western Hockey League options, but was intent on earning a university scholarship.
But before he departs for school, the 20-year-old hopes to cap off his final season of junior hockey the same way he began: with a championship.
Reichert was a 16-year-old rookie with the Revelstoke Grizzlies, helping the team win both the Cyclone Taylor Championship (provincial championship) and the Keystone Cup (western Canadian championship).
Since then, the has grown three inches to six-foot-five and dropped a dozen pounds thanks to a summer workout regiment.
And the work he has put in has Henderson believing that the sky is the limit for the Reichert.
“There is no reason Jake couldn’t play in the National Hockey League,” he said.
“You look at the guys that are in the American Hockey League and the National Hockey League now, it is all size, speed and skill.
“He has that, plus toughness, so the sky is the limit for Jake.”
Reichert isn’t looking too far down the road, however, and is just enjoying one last run.
“Obviously we don’t just want to finish in first place, we want to win the whole thing,” he said.
He has also noticed a difference around town as fan excitement builds around the team.
“It is definitely louder this year in the LEC and more people seem interested,” Reichert said.
Regardless of how the rest of the season winds up — there are nine games to go before playoffs begin in March — Reichert said his junior career has been memorable.
“It has been a lot of fun and I have met a lot of people and learned a lot about hockey and myself, too,” he said.
He added he has learned not to set limits for himself.
“If I believe in myself, I can do it.”