Jesse Blacker made his debut as a pro this season, putting in a solid campaign for a deep Toronto Marlies squad. You would be forgiven for not remembering about Blacker as the attention was spread across a number of other defenceman in the organization.
For Blacker, this might have been a good thing, as the former 2nd rounder in the 2009 Draft (thanks, Dominic Moore!) was able to make his transition to professional hockey without significant pressure. Playing on a Marlies team that featured a significant number of veteran pros, Marlies coach Dallas Eakins could afford to use Blacker as necessary to maximize his chances. Blacker responded with a workmanlike campaign, accumulating 16 points in 58 games.
Yet another defenceman in the organization that is highly valued for his strong positional play, Blacker is also a very strong skater with a powerful stride, and loves to use it by rushing the puck up the ice to spearhead an attack. Blacker is fairly well-rounded as a defenceman, and fits in with the recent trend of D acquired under Brian Burke's development plan, along with Stuart Percy, Petter Granberg, Matt Finn, and Jake Gardiner among others.
Blacker remains in the #9 spot on our countdown.
#49 / Defenseman / Toronto Maple Leafs
Apr 19, 1991
Blacker does have a strong offensive game which developed in the OHL after his trade from the Windsor Spitfires to the Owen Sound Attack. The move allowed him to take on more responsibilities and Blacker became a key member of those teams.
On a Marlies team that typically used four forwards on its powerplay, the opportunities for offence weren't as plentiful, yet Blacker's 16 points were still good for third among defenceman, even though he only played the fifth most games among all Marlies D. Blacker will look to take another step forward in his play at both sides of the ice, as he will be expected to take on more responsibility this year.
|Prior Rank||JP Nikota||PPP||Chemmy||SkinnyFish||birky||Plea From A Cat Named Felix||clrkaitken||Rank|
We've reached a point in the countdown where we know quite a bit about the people that are being ranked, and assuming we properly rated them before, it becomes harder for individuals to move up. Blacker holds steady at #9, and even his point total is almost the same, losing one point from the previous countdown (143 vs. 144).
As you can see the spread was rather large, with a very broad range of opinions on Blacker's place in the organization. Birky is the most bullish on the young defender, having raised him from #10 in the previous rankings all the way up to #5.
Jesse Blacker is, by most accounts, an extremely talented hockey player. Excellent skater, good puck skills, physical presence. He only got into 58 games with the Marlies this year due to a few niggling injuries, but still managed the third most points from the blueline. The Leafs moved him to the left side this year (he's naturally a RD) and really worked on his defensive game. He's been around for a few years now it seems, but it's easy to forget that Blacker is a year younger than Jake Gardiner. It wouldn't shock me if he challenges for a roster spot in camp if/when that begins.
Conversely, Blacker also picked up a couple of fairly low rankings, the lowest being that from PPP, who dropped him from #12 in the previous list to #16 this time around.
With a pretty heavily populated blueline at the moment, Blacker is going to be in tough to crack the NHL next season. However, that may not be the worst thing for the 21 year old, as the departures of Jeff Finger, Matt Lashoff, Juraj Mikus and the likely promotion of Korbinian Holzer will create opportunities for Blacker to take on a greater role with the Marlies and establish himself as a highly regarded prospect.