By Mark Simon
Special to NHL.com
Nov 15, 2002
Some rookies receive a tough welcome upon getting to the East Coast Hockey League, but Roanoke Express first-year left wing Jason Jaffray was fortunate that wasn’t the case for him.
Jaffray’s initiation to the ECHL came in the form of an assignment to play on the top line with a pair of all-stars — captain Rick Kowalsky and center Dylan Gyori.
“They’ve shown me the ropes of the league, and I’ve just followed them along,” said the 21-year-old Jaffray, who entered this week atop the rookie leader board with eight goals (four on the power play), 11 assists, and 19 points. “Rick has an unbelievable shot and a great set of hands. Dylan, I think he is trying to make a point this year after his contract with Pittsburgh (expired). He’s my roommate too, so he’s helped a lot. He’s an amazing center, especially on draws, and a smart player. He’s the kind of player that every wing likes to play with.”
All three players were in the top 10 in the league in scoring through Roanoke’s first dozen games, which may explain why the squad is off to a strong start at 7-3-2.
Jaffray has come into the league feeling he has something to prove, which is the case for a lot of his teammates as the Express have gone with a youth movement this season under head coach Perry Florio. Jaffray was ranked by the NHL Central Scouting Service twice while playing in juniors in the Western Hockey League, but went undrafted. He was with the Kootenay Ice for three and a half seasons, then was traded to the Swift Current Broncos while he was the Ice’s captain. Kootenay went on to win the Memorial Cup and his former teammate Cole Fischer (now also with Roanoke) likes to wave his championship ring around at Jaffray to tease him about an opportunity missed.