The COVID-19 pandemic made Jackson DeSouza’s stint with the Revelstoke Grizzlies shorter than hoped, but the 17-year-old says playing in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League helped him earn a spot on the Kelowna Rockets.
“It was huge. Working with Ryan Parent and the coaches there helped my development and confidence,” says DeSouza. “I can only imagine how much development I would have got during a full season.”
DeSouza says his time in Revelstoke was amazing and gives him confidence heading into the WHL. In two games this season, DeSouza collected four points, all against the Sicamous Eagles on Nov. 14.
“I thought I played pretty well. The four point game in Sicamous was awesome. It was awesome playing with my brother Noah. Playing with him in his last season was pretty special.”
A mobile, two-way defenceman, DeSouza says it feels awesome to make the roster of such a prestigious WHL organization.
“It’s an honour,” says DeSouza, listed at six-foot-five, 190 pounds.
DeSouza has seen action with the Rockets as an affiliate player, playing a total of six games over the previous two seasons while in the Okanagan Rockets U18 AAA program. That experience helps him know what is happening in the game, especially getting feedback from the coaches on the bench.
“You are not going into a game with no experience,” he says. “You are not as nervous. It helps to know what the WHL game is like and the type of talent these players have.”
DeSouza often talks to teammate Trevor Wong as well as head coach Kris Mallette, a former North Okanagan Knights head coach.
“Jackson is a young, big, mobile defenceman who can cover a lot of area on the ice,” says Mallette. “He’s a young player who’s played games for us previously.”
When in the lineup, Mallette says DeSouza will need to utilize his size and skating ability while making strong puck decisions. He also needs to be a good teammate and continue to work hard and learn while continuing to develop.
“All players coming into our league realize early how fast and strong the players are and how quick their decision making needs to be, so the ones who excel are able to recognize this early and continue to get better every day,” says Mallette.
DeSouza wants to show that he is a WHL player and enjoys playing in Kelowna. Selected in the 2018 WHL bantam draft by the Rockets, he’s lived in the city since then staying with a billet family while playing in Major Midget.