Two years ago Jordan Naylor was backstopping the Delta Ice Hawks to the Pacific Junior Hockey League championship. Now he is establishing himself among the top goaltenders in the BC Hockey League.
The 19-year-old is enjoying a breakout season with the Nanaimo Clippers — at or near the top of the league in save percentage (.932) goals against (2.11) and shutouts (five).
His 25-9-2 record has the Clippers sitting solidly in second place in the Island Division with the playoffs looming.
The move to the BCHL and Nanaimo was a natural fit. His father Darren Naylor took over as GM and head coach midway through the Ice Hawks’ championship campaign. Still, he had to prove himself, just like at every other level of hockey.
His stint in Delta began when he was 16. He was terrific in leading his team to game six of the PJHL finals before bowing out to the Aldergrove Kodiaks. In year two he was a key piece in the Hawks’ best season in franchise history — paving his way to junior “A.”
He went 18-18-0 in his rookie campaign with a .895 save percentage and 3.37 goals against average. Now he is in the conversation for the league’s top goaltender award — earning player of the month honours for December. He even scored an empty net goal in last month’s 5-2 win over Wenatchee.
“It’s definitely being more comfortable this year,” said Naylor. “Having a year under your belt helps and we have a lot of guys in the same boat who were also rookies last year and have matured. Everyone has found their groove and we are rolling right now.”
The former U16 Team BC goalie has seen the pace of the game change dramatically from his days in the crease with Fraser Valley of the BC Major Midget League. It was a step up to the Pacific Junior League and then a significant leap to the BCHL.
“The biggest difference at every level up is the speed. From major midget to junior B was a jump up as well as playing with the older guys too,” he continued. “But this level is so much faster. It’s the biggest thing I have had to adapt to for sure.
“I would say it’s my anticipation that has improved the most. Just being able to read the play because it is so much faster.
“You have to be ready a little earlier and read that play so that’s what I have been working on the most.”
The d-men in front of Naylor is impressive and features five players who have committed to collegiate programs, including former Ice Hawk teammate and South Delta native Aiden Hansen-Bukata. He is heading to RIT next September.
“He is having a solid year and I’m not trying to take anything away from him but the structure we play in front of him definitely helps a goalie,” said Darren Naylor. “Last year we were a little immature at the back and he was seeing a lot of 3-on-1s and 2-on-1s. This year he is seeing shots that 90 percent of the time he should be saving. The odd time he also is coming up big for us too.”
To no surprise, Jordan’s play is generating plenty of interest from university programs at the NCAA level.
Whether he returns to Nanaimo for his final season of junior depends if the right offer from the right school happens first.
“It’s whatever works out best for him,” added Darren. “Long term, staying here would give him an extra year of school. But the interest is there now and it comes down to waiting to see what is the best (offer) then making a decision.”