BISMARCK, N.D.–It was only a matter of time before the Bobcats’ leading scorer found his collegiate hockey home, and it is a destination that always stands to be special for his head coach.
Center Jake McLean has committed to play Division I hockey at Bemidji State University in Bemidji, Minn. The 19-year-old is in the midst of his first season of junior hockey in the United States. He leads the Bobcats with a notably consistent 40 points in 44 games.
“I am just grateful,” McLean said. “A lot of people have helped me get to where I am. My family, my friends … It is something I have been working towards for a long time.”
As a North Vancouver, B.C. native who spent entire career up until this year in Canada, the COVID-19 pandemic put McLean at a disadvantage hockey-wise. He played just 12 games with the BCHL’s Merritt Centennials in 2020-21. McLean has not had a “real” hockey season since age 17, before most NAHL players even make their league debuts. Not only is McLean two years older, he is no longer a rookie trying to find his place on a roster.
“I think I am a very different player,” McLean said. “I have grown mentally and physically, and I think a big part of this year was taking that next step.”
It did not take that long for McLean to lock in the next chapter of his hockey career when presented the opportunity. Bemidji State opened up communication during the first half of the year, but nothing too serious until the second half came along. With a Bemidji representative watching the Bobcats’ home weekend against Minot earlier in February, McLean served up two assists in a 5-1 Saturday win.
He committed to head coach Layne Sedevie’s alma mater two days later.
“(McLean) has been a rockstar for us,” Sedevie said. “All of (the statistics) are great, but the type of kid he is … That makes me very happy, obviously with where he is going, but the work he has put in.”
McLean put faith in coming to the United States and joining the Bobcats’ program, led by the 12th-year bench boss. Sedevie spent four years with Bemidji as a goaltender in the 2000s. McLean has yet to visit the school in person, making his coach a valuable source of advice.
“Layne spoke very highly of them,” McLean said. “The coaches have been great. I really like the relationship I have built with them, and I am super excited to get going there.”
As a 2002 birth year player, McLean can either join Bemidji for the 2022-23 school year, or take the option to use his final eligible season of junior hockey.
McLean is the fourth Bobcat in the last four seasons to commit to Bemidji. Will Magnuson (2020-21) and Austin Jouppi (2018-19, 2019-20) are currently playing for the Beavers. Kirklan Irey (2018-19) is set to join them next year. The Beavers are part of the newly-formed Central Collegiate Hockey Association, facing top-tier league competition including Minnesota State, Michigan Tech, and Northern Michigan.