Updated Feb 14, 2013 - 5:35 pm
Jacob Doty Making the Most of a Fresh Start in Medicine Hat
Former Thunderbird Jacob Doty has set a career high with 26 points in 58 games in his first season in Medicine Hat. (Medicine Hat Tigers photo)
By Tim Pigulski
In his two full seasons as a Seattle Thunderbird, Jacob Doty established a reputation as one the most feared fighters in the league.
As a 17-year-old rookie, Doty led the team with 176 penalty minutes and 24 fighting majors. The following year he finished second on the team behind defenseman Cason Machacek with 107 penalty minutes, but still dropped the gloves five more times than any other T-Bird.
Despite the favor that he gained with fans in Seattle, Doty and his agent both felt that he was capable of becoming a more complete hockey player and contributing to the game in ways that wouldn't force him to the penalty box.
"I was looking for a little bit more ice time and obviously that wasn't working out in Seattle, " remembers Doty. "We waited until after the season last year to ask for a trade but I think it was a mutual agreement between myself and the Thunderbirds staff."
Seattle acquired Riley Sheen from the Medicine Hat Tigers in exchange for Doty and both players have had breakout seasons offensively. Doty's 26 points in 58 games are by far a career high, as he was only able to notch seven points in each of his first two seasons. Seattle has also benefited, as Sheen's 36 points in 56 games trump his previous season-best of three points and place him fifth on the T-Birds in scoring.
Even though he requested a trade, Doty maintains that he enjoyed his time in Seattle with the Thunderbirds.
"Seattle was great and I really enjoyed my time there, " said the Billings, Mont. native. "Everything there was first class, from the fans to the rink to the way we were treated. I really did enjoy my time there and I appreciate everything that they gave me."
The Doty-for-Sheen trade was a very unique situation in which both players were seeking more playing time, had their trade requests granted, and saw huge increases in ice time and productivity. Generally when a player requests a trade, other teams know he can be had for much cheaper than market value, putting his original team in a difficult spot. Just look at the situation the Prince George Cougars are in now with center Alex Forsberg.
Back in November, the Tigers visited the ShoWare Center for the only meeting between the two teams this season. Seattle came away with a 4-3 victory in a game Doty describes as possibly his worst of the season.
"I was so excited I couldn't sleep the night before and couldn't take my usual pre-game nap," remembers the 6-foot-3, 223-pound wing. "I was shell-shocked almost. I didn't play well at all and we ended up losing the game, but it was fun to see the guys again and the fans were great. It's definitely something I'll remember for a long time."
Doty asserts that the reason for his breakout season is due to increased and consistent playing time, which has led to more confidence in himself and from his coaches. With the Thunderbirds he generally found himself on the fourth line and only saw ice time when the team was looking for a spark physically.
"I'm playing with a ton more confidence," says the 19-year-old Doty. "I have confidence in myself and the confidence to make plays knowing that [the coaching staff] trusts me and trusts my offensive abilities. It also helps that I'm getting regular shifts. It's hard to score points when you're not on the ice."
Those offensive abilities became apparent at the beginning of 2013, when Doty kicked off the New Year by going on a four-game goal streak. For the month of January, Doty had six goals and six assists in 15 games.
Even with somewhat of a new role, it doesn't mean Doty has completely changed his ways. Ranking second on the team with 69 penalty minutes and leading the Tigers in fighting majors with seven, the role of enforcer is still one that Doty recognizes and embraces. Playing with high-scoring forward Hunter Shinkaruk, who will likely be a first-round NHL draft choice, means that Doty will often have to take matters into his own hands when opposing players decide to take liberties with the team's top player.
"I still do the same stuff, but I might tone it back sometimes," acknowledges Doty. "I'll still go out looking for fights if we need a spark. That part of my game hasn't left. Guys like to bug Shinkaruk quite a bit and that's something I don't like. I'll find my way over to defend Hunter and let the other team know that those kind of things won't fly with me."
When he was just 15 years old and playing in the NORPAC, which at its highest level is a Tier III Junior A league, Doty discovered that one of the best ways to get himself into the lineup and stay there was by engaging in fisticuffs.
"There weren't a lot of guys that were willing to do it, and I was just a young guy trying to scratch and claw my way into the lineup," remembers the former Yellowstone Quake player. The Quake are a member of the NORPAC's Junior B league.
"I got in my first fight as a 15-year-old and it went pretty well, which doesn't usually happen your first time. From there, I just kept doing it and I haven't really stopped since."
Even though his new home stands about 750 miles from the ShoWare Center, the heavy hitter still loves to keep in touch with his old teammates and friends.
"I Skype a few of the guys once in a while and keep in touch with a few of them regularly. Me and [Justin Hickman] talk a lot, usually a couple of times a week through Skype or text message."
Next year, in what will be Doty's final season in the WHL, he's hoping for many of the same things that others his age would.
"I want to keep improving as a player, especially offensively, and I want us to go far as we can in the playoffs."
However, unlike many of his colleagues, Doty has received at least some attention from scouts, as he was invited to the Florida Panthers' rookie training camp in the summer of 2011.
"The rookie camp in Florida was awesome. It was an eye-opening experience. To be able to put on an NHL sweater and skate with those guys was a dream come true," says the NHL free agent. "Nothing came of it, but I'm hoping something will in the future."
Follow Tim on Twitter @tpigulski
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