“If you want to harvest in one year, grow a crop. If you want a harvest in 10 years, grow trees. If you want a harvest that will last a lifetime, grow people.” – Chinese Proverb
Jakob Brahaney and Jacob “Jake” Murray are the epitomai of this well-know statement both leading in different ways and while one is still eagerly learning from the other, they’ll both leave lasting impressions on their teammates in Kingston long after their Frontenacs days are concluded. The importance of having a solid base of leadership can’t be underestimated, but it is even more so of value on a young team.
While they are both solid contributors on the ice, just importantly, both players also contribute heavily off the ice. Frontenacs Coordinator of Marketing and Media Jordan Jackson described their time off the ice as first class: “They are a vital connection between the hockey and business staff. On top of being talented players, they are important pieces to the Frontenac’s off-ice success. Well-spoken, well-mannered, they represent our organization incredibly well.”
Brahaney was officially named the newest captain of the Kingston Frontenacs on Sep 20, 2019, as the historic franchise headed into a rebuilding season with the youngest team in the Ontario Hockey League. While a tall order potentially for a captain to take on, the six-foot-one, 192-pound defenceman has been through a lot in his OHL career.
He was prepared by utilizing what he’d learnt during an already stellar 202-game career coming into this season. He’s been a part of some ups and downs over his time in Kingston including being a member of an East Division Championship and playing in an Eastern Conference Final. Not only accepting of the captaincy-role, but he’s also embraced it, ensuring stability and work-ethic within a franchise that will reap the benefits he sows after his OHL career ends with Kingston projecting to be a legitimate contender over the next few seasons.
Long-time Frontenacs play-by-play broadcaster Jim Gilchrist commented: “Brat’s maturity over the years has blossomed, especially through some lean years, so he’s really matured and showing his leadership on and off the ice and been a really good captain this year, but you could see it coming from his early years.”
Taken 37th overall at the 2015 OHL Selection from the AAA Quinte Red Devils, he wasn’t given any silver spoons during his journey into the OHL. He spent time in his first season in 2015-16 getting seasoning in Tier-II Junior “A” with the Kingston Voyageurs while appearing in 16 games with the Frontenacs. Brahaney described the time as: “It wasn’t an easy transition spending some time in Jr A, but it was a valuable learning experience in the end. I made great relationships that carry on to this day.” In his first season, Gilchrist recalled: “He just went down to the Voyageurs and excepted it up and down using the experience to help him and not a negative.”
He had to work on some of the things early in his career and now thrives on helping younger teammates
with subtle tips including things like playing in difficult opposition buildings and preparedness needed to be successful. His biggest learning experience so far was adapting to the different pace of an OHL game after being drafted. “The speed and trusting my feet and knowing if I have a tight gap it will be a lot harder for the attackers,” he recalled recently.
Becoming a full-time regular on Kingston’s blueline in 2016-17, the hard-hitting, dependable defender continually improved his overall game ever since becoming a regular in the top-four by 2017-18 registering a 30 point season with a +25 rating. He added four points in Kingston’s exciting 16-game playoff run. While an assistant coach at the time, Foster told the Peterborough Examiner in Nov 2017: “He is a guy for me that from Day 1 he’s basically been great the whole time. He puts the work in practice. He listens in the meetings and he knows what to do.”
Hard-working off the ice, he was named the OHL East Division Academic Player of the Month for January in
2017-18 as well. “Jakob’s dedication to academics mirrors his success on the ice,” said Frontenacs academic advisor Mike Hamilton. “He has a reputation with coaches and teachers as being a committed, hard-working individual on and off the ice.” The then 18-year-old was invited to Vancouver Canucks rookie camp as a free agent that summer.
While it was a long 2018-19 season in Kingston as the team finished last in OHL standings, he chipped in
with 23 points in 66 games and took the season as a learning experience. Taking on the role of captain in 2019-20 has certainly increased his responsibilities, but the native of Camplleford, ON, also increased his on-ice production playing all situations having a career year on the scoresheet. He’s been at or near the team-lead in assists all season and as of Feb 24 sat first in team assists with 30 and fourth in team scoring with 34 points. Seeing time quarterbacking the powerplay has helped spur his offence leading Kingston with 16 assists while on the man-advantage and second to Shane Wright in powerplay points with 18.
Head coach Kurtis Foster says: “Enough good things can’t be said about what he does. The biggest thing is he’s a branch of what we are trying to do, he buys into what we do and he does it right. He leads and makes sure other guys are on the same page and he’s really improved his game at getting pucks through.” The hard-shooting defender has been amongst the leaders in shots-on-goal from the point all year sitting sixth in shots-on-goal from defenceman with 168 shots as of Feb 23. “I did work on just changing my angles (last summer) an getting more shots through cause that could lead to more offence for the team.
His assist against Barrie on Feb 17 set a new career-high with 31 points but the captain knows it’s about hard work for his team to win. “We’re a team that has to play a full 60. If we aren’t playing hard with every man we won’t be successful,” he said when speaking on his offensive output.
He’s stood up for teammates when necessary including a spirited scrap earlier this season against Sarnia’s Kelton Hatcher after the Sting player laid a big hit on rookie Shane Wright. Said Foster: “When your teammates are sticking up for each other and when you have a kid of Shane’s age and ability in our lineup we have to take care of him and anytime a teammate steps up to help him out we’re willing to kill those off.” He also came to the aid of a teammate in Peterborough, unfortunately, being suspended for three games for his team-first mentality. Foster appreciates his captains’ willingness to defend his teammates.
Sitting 11th all-time in franchise history for games played, the veteran over-ager winds down his OHL career approaching the franchise record for games played by a defenceman sitting just eight games back of the 263 played by Taylor Doherty heading into Kingston’s Feb 25 game in Ottawa.
No question Murray is a young player still developing his game, but his character and off-ice persona leave you with confidence in his ability to help guide the Frontenacs dressing room past this season. The second-year defenceman has taken on a larger role on and off the ice. Named an Assistant Captain this past off-season cemented Murray as part of a nucleus of young leaders anxious to soak up their veteran captains’ Brahaney’s experiences while continually gaining their own sense of dealing with situations.
A well-spoken young man, the Oakville, ON native comes across as a mild-mannered, respectful, and hard-working player eager to get better every day. Taken out of the AAA Oakville Rangers in the first round at the 2018 OHL Selection, Murray was a part of an excellent 2017-18 regular-season with his minor-midget sqaud going undefeated providing nine goals, 25 assists for 34 points in 35 games. He also registered a goal and four points in the season-ending OHL Cup earning a bronze medal teaming up with current Frontenacs defenceman Ethan Ritchie.
At 6 foot two, 199 pounds, he’s an excellent skater able to move the puck out of his zone with ease but also blessed with a vision for making smart passes to start a breakout. While he likes to join the rush and provide offensive support, Murray is smart enough and quick enough to get back in position when the opposition gets the puck, and just as much as a 200-foot forward is valued to a coach, a two-way defender like Murray is also as desirable.
Jumping right into the mix playing his first OHL game on Sept 20, 2018, in Peterborough, he got his first career point in his home debut assisting on a game-winner in a 5-2 Frontenacs win over Oshawa in his second game. He scored his first career goal Oct 19 on the road vs Soo Greyhounds.
In 62 games during the 2018-19 season, he’d show off his ability to skate out of his zone at times with relative ease, contributing two goals and eight points helping chip in offence gaining valuable experience defending against the opposition’s best forwards. He also earned OHL East Division Academic Player of the Month for February and represented Canada Red at the U17 tournament collecting three points in six games.
With the 2019-20 season seeing Murray take on an even larger role transitioning from a first-year-player himself to now helping guide new rookies, he still knows he is a young player himself always learning. A quiet leader, he is a hockey-sponge soaking up lessons from teammate Brahaney saying: “ I’m always watching how he plays, his work ethic and its something I want to lead by as well. With I guy like Brats who’s been a leader for both years I’ve been here, I just watch him how he works 110 percent all the time blocking shots and finishing checks always moving his feet trying to do something to help the team.”
Murray feels he’s been able to offer some leadership as well saying: “Just do little things that inspire guys and make everyone want to be a part of it. When everyone is making hits and blocking shots it makes us want to play for each other and have success.
He recalls meeting rookie Braden Hache at training camp and beginning his role as a leader. “With Hacher we hung out in pre-season and I just tried to show him the ropes a little bit, “said Murray. He’s been impressed with his young teammates season (Hache is currently injured day-to-day) saying,” “Hacher’s been playing physical and gets better every game and (Ethan) Ritchie and I played for seven years of minor hockey so I know his game well and you can easily see the skill with him so it’s great to see his development.”
Head Coach Kurtis Foster appreciates Murray’s willingness to help, “You are happy to have him as a guy who represents our organization and culture. He’s still young and I’m excited to see where he goes.” He has happily taken advantage of being tutored by his former pro-defenceman and current head coach who has seen him step up saying, “He’s led by example every day and leads the right way.” Murray also credits minor hockey coach Gord Hynes (former pro and Olympic Silver Medalist) for helping his career. Hynes described Murray as “Strong character, a really good person and he’s a super athlete in many ways.”
On his coach, Murray says: ” It’s a treat, no other way to put it. Fozzie (Foster) played a lot of games of pro hockey so having knowledge from a pro like him who’s not far removed from the game has been super beneficial. He’s lived through it all being a second-round draft pick so he knows what makes a defenceman successful. He has a lot of knowledge to share and its special to be able to listen to what he has to say day in and day out.”
Twice in 2019-20 he’s had a three-game point streak and was pivotal in a multi-point game on Nov 24 against Mississauga with a beautiful score. The goal made OHL highlight reels as he deked through three Steelhead defenders before putting a high backhand in the net. In the opening 14 games he had a -15 rating, however, since Nov 1, he is an +1 player steadily improving his defensive play while continually showing off his puck-moving ability.
Gilchrist, who’ called every game of his career, has seen improvement in his game in the last year and a half saying: “He was out of the lineup a few games (early) but then he’s matured so much and his leadership has grown with his confidence getting boosted since his last year. His confidence in carrying the puck into the offensive zone has really been a big plus for him.”
The soon to be 18-year-old (April 11) possesses a great slap shot as Foster comments: “I wish I had of shot more when I played (NHL) and one thing I try and help him with. We want him to use his shot more as he’s got an exceptional slap shot. I think that will come as its part of being assertive and being a little selfish which is good sometimes.”
The left-handed defenceman appeared in his 100th OHL game on Jan 10 at home versus Owen Sound growing into a minute-eating player comfortable in all situations. The 2020 NHL draft-eligible has surpassed point totals from last year with 14 points in 55 games and only 14 penalty minutes playing a smart game.
Foster concluded: “It’s a big year for him with the draft stuff. Early on maybe he was thinking too much, but he’s been coming on the last couple months getting better being more assertive with and without the puck and when he plays that way he’s a big-strong kid who can skate well.” Part of the game he wants to help him improve on is his defensive play and using his large frame. “We want him to be more assertive,” said Foster,” and he’s made an effort to work on that every day and part of it is practice and you can see a big difference in him where’s he being more physical.