By MIKE ASHMORE
Special to ECHL.com
PHILADELPHIA – Every team needs players whose value isn’t always measured through statistics.
With increased discussion centering around so-called “fancy stats” – basically a layman’s term for the increased use of analytics for the purposes of player evaluation – it seems there’s yet to be a way to measure energy. Similarly, there remains no accurate way to measure the impact a player has on his team off the ice.
But if there were, his teammates insist that Philadelphia Flyers forward Jay Rosehill would be off the charts.
“He brings energy, tons of energy. He’s full of energy, on or off the ice,” says fellow fourth-liner Zac Rinaldo. “He has a real high tenacity level, he works hard every single shift he’s out there. I think guys notice that. Just watching him give 110 percent every shift gives guys the confidence that they should give 110 percent on every single shift.”
To be sure, the 28-year-old is certainly more adept at filling up the right side of the scoresheet than he is the left; he has seven points and 292 penalty minutes in 96 career NHL games. But, as cliché as it may seem, 110 percent is what got Rosehill to the NHL in the first place.
Drafted in the seventh round by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2003, Rosehill made his professional debut during the 2005-06 season, splitting the year between the AHL’s Springfield Falcons and ECHL’s Johnstown Chiefs. The gritty native of Olds, Alberta suited up in five regular season games with one of the league’s charter members, tallying 13 penalty minutes along the way.
“That was a real learning experience, being my first year there,” Rosehill told ECHL.com.
“I went down there for a couple games, and I went down for the playoffs as well. It was a learning experience to go down, get some more minutes and more games and get used to the professional game. I was focused on learning as much as I could…I was a rookie at the time, and I wanted to absorb as much as I could at the pro level considering I was just coming out of college and only 20 years old.”
As many players before him and after him, he also took advantage of playing in a historic setting.
“I went downtown, and I saw the dog in the park off of the movie Slap Shot,” he said. “I saw the mill from the movie too. Then I’d look around the rink, and you’d see the hallways and see some of the same areas where they shot some of the scenes, like where you step down to the ice from the tunnel and also the stairs going up to the press box where the guy climbed up on his skates. I definitely looked around and had a chuckle, I thought it was kind of cool.”
Circumstances weren’t quite as fun for the personable enforcer during his final stint in the ECHL, when he suited up for two games with the Mississippi Sea Wolves in 2007-08.
“I was a defenseman at the time, and me and my coach weren’t really getting along too well at the time,” recalled Rosehill. “He didn’t see me as a player there. I think we had nine defensemen in Norfolk, so they had me pack up my truck, drive down to Tampa Bay where the Mississippi team picked me up. We drove down to Florida, where I played a Friday and a Saturday game with them, and then they called me back up to Norfolk.”
From there, Rosehill experienced one of several key turning points in his career. But only after driving his truck all the way back from Tampa Bay to Norfolk. The Admirals coaching staff moved him to forward, and he never played another game on the back end. Ultimately, however, he wasn’t able to advance in the Lightning organization, and was dealt to the Toronto Maple Leafs late in the 2008-09 season.
With a new opportunity, Rosehill flourished, and put himself on the precipice of his first NHL call-up.
“(The trade) was huge,” he said. “Things weren’t working out for me in Tampa Bay’s system; I’d been there for four years, and there just didn’t seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel. I think some of the guys that were on the brass in Norfolk and Tampa were in my corner and knew things weren’t going to pan out for me, so they let me go to Toronto for basically nothing…they gave me the opportunity when Toronto came knocking, and everything kind of took off from there.”
In 2009-10, Rosehill made the Maple Leafs opening night roster, and made his NHL debut on October 1 against the Montreal Canadiens. The experience, he says, was “insane.”
“I never really took my eye off the prize, and I never really got too discouraged with all the ups and downs, so I always had my eye on the NHL,” he said. “I was never going to quit until I played in the NHL. Looking back now, there’s a lot of guys that went through less than I did, and they quit playing. I never really considered that as an option after everything I thought of as a kid. It was going to happen.”
Rosehill’s father’s flight arrived in Toronto just in time to see his son play – and record his first fight against Travis Moen as well – and his message to his father after the game was simple: I did it.
“It was a pretty surreal moment, and something I’ll never forget,” he said. “It took a lot of time to get there, and a lot of hard work. Looking back, it’s something that can never be taken away from me. I’m proud of playing in all the different leagues coming up; playing in the (ECHL) and the American League to get where I am today. I didn’t think it was going to be easy, and looking back, I’m glad it wasn’t because I think I learned a lot.”
And the learning process continues to this day. Similar to when he was dealt to Toronto, an NHL opportunity opened for Rosehill after the Anaheim Ducks traded him to the Flyers. Rosehill struggled to find a job thanks to the lockout, saying that how everything played out was one of the low points of his career, leaving him unsure of what he’d do that summer to “make one last go of it.” But when his cell phone rang and Paul Holmgren was on the other end, it instilled fresh life in Rosehill’s career.
It gave him what he gives the Flyers: Energy.
“He’s great with the boys, he gets everyone up,” Rinaldo said. “When the room’s quiet, he’s one of the top guys who get the boys going, along with myself. We all feed off his energy.”
For a player like Rosehill, who has recorded just one point through his first 13 games this season, the understanding of the need to fill that type of role both on the ice and in the room never escapes him.
Simply put, he knows he may have run out of turning points.
“I’m not a real high-minute player, so you have to find other ways to contribute to the team,” he said. “I think I’m pretty good at watching the game and understanding the flow of it and the momentum of it. When the guys need a boost, sometimes that comes with a big hit or a fight or a goal. If we can’t get some of that, just having energy around the team and making sure we stay focused and stay on the right page. It seems like little things, but whatever I can do to contribute, I’m happy to do.”