Jagger Dirk is more than just one of the best names in hockey.
The 18-year-old is also one of the most underrated and unheralded blueliners in the entire WHL. While his game is more subtle than flashy, he is a kid that can play in any situation and be effective, and simply was born to play the position as his father is former NHL d-man Robert Dirk.
So, with his bloodlines, it’s little wonder why the pedigree rearguard has put up remarkable numbers through his first three seasons of junior hockey. This year, Dirk potted seven goals, and 29 points in 72 games for the Kootenay Ice, which sat him second overall on the team in scoring from the back end. He also added 101 penalty minutes, and was an eye-popping plus-22 on the year.
The talented six-foot-one, 195-pound blueliner was used in many key situations including quarterbacking one of Kootenay’s two powerplay units, killing penalties, and played against the opposition’s top lines. He does so many things well, and head coach Kris Knoblauch had nothing but high praise about his play during the year stating, “Jagger moves the puck up ice very well. He has the skills to beat an opponent by skating the puck up ice, but his real strength is his passing. Another skill Jagger possesses is his ability to win one on one battles. He comes out with the puck the majority of the time when battling an opponent along the boards.”
While the undrafted Dirk is flying low on the radar once again for the upcoming 2012 NHL Entry Draft, he has more than enough potential to be a versatile guy at the pro level.
I had the chance to catch up with the gifted and well-spoken Jagger Dirk, for a quick Q and A.
Obviously with your father being a former NHLer and a coach he’s been able to guide you in the right direction over the years, how influential has he been in your development?
Jagger: My dad has been extremely influential in my development, I would not be the player I am today without him. He has taught me the game so well and that is why I am, where I am today.
I’ve seen you a few times over the past couple years and have always been impressed with your intelligence as you are very solid positionally and close the gaps extremely well. What do you see being your best attributes on the ice?
Jagger: My best attributes on the ice are my hockey smarts, my defensive play, and my ability to create offense off the rush, or jumping into open slots in the offensive zone.
I saw a lot of Scott Hannan during his time with the Kelowna Rockets back in the day, and you remind me a little of him at the WHL level with your overall skill-set, is that a fair comparison or is there another NHLer you model your game after?
Jagger: I think my game is comparable to Dan Girardi’s, he is a solid underrated defenseman that can also put up points.
What was your ‘welcome moment’ to the WHL?
Jagger: My welcome moment to the WHL was when I played my first game against the Vancouver Giants and my dad was there to watch me. It was a special moment because that is where he used to play, when he played for the Canucks. It was pretty cool that my first game would be in his old stomping grounds.
A lot of scouts don’t give you enough credit when it comes to your offensive game, and you’ve scored at every level from minor hockey to Junior A, and now in the dub, do you have a goal that stands out as your biggest?
Jagger: The goal that stands out the most for me so far was when I scored my first goal in the dub, we were playing against Prince Albert and there was a delayed penalty so I decided to go into the corner in the offensive zone to grab the puck, I skated back to the blueline, took a wrist shot and it went over the goalies glove.
Last season you played on an Ice club that hoisted the Ed Chynoweth Cup as the WHL’s top team, where does that rank on your career highlights so far?
Jagger: Hoisting the cup has by far been the highlight of my career. Not many guys are able to say they won a league championship, and to be a part of that is something special.
It was a lot different outcome this season, and Kootenay went from one end of the spectrum to the next, as you guys were eliminated in 4 straight by the Oil Kings. In your opinion, what was the difference in that series with Edmonton, and how do you like the make up of this Ice squad looking ahead to 2012-13?
Jagger: In my opinion, the difference in the series against Edmonton was that they were just better then us, there is no other real reason. Next year we are going to have a lot of young guys, and in the beginning of the season, there will be a learning curve, but I see no reason why we can’t make playoffs again, with the leadership group we’ll have.
In my opinion, you’re one of the most underrated blueliners in the entire WHL as you slipped through the NHL Draft last season despite putting up good numbers, and weren’t ranked by NHL Central Scouting this time around. How frustrating has that been for you personally?
Jagger: It’s always disappointing to not get drafted, but it doesn’t mean that it’s the end of the world and I won’t be able to move on to the next level. A lot of great players have made the NHL without getting drafted. This gives me more motivation to prove everybody wrong for not picking me, and that they are missing out on a good player.
I know it’s an honor in itself to be drafted, but if you could pick the NHL team that selected you, who would you choose?
Jagger: If I could pick the NHL team, that would pick me, I would have to say the Detroit Red Wings because they always have a winning organization and I would love to be able to learn a few things from (Niklas) Lidstrom, who is one of the greatest defenseman of all time.
Along with everything else you do on the ice, you have been known to drop the gloves occasionally. Do you have a favourite tilt that sticks out in your mind, and what’s your opinion on the state of fighting in the NHL?
Jagger: My favourite fight would have to be when I fought Cody Beach because he hit one of my teammates from behind and I stood up for him. Even though he is bigger then me, and one of the most hated guys in the dub, I showed everybody that I wasn’t afraid and I gained a lot more respect from my teammates.
A lot of guys like to talk trash on the ice, what is the funniest hockey chirp you’ve heard while playing?
Jagger: The funniest chirp I’ve heard was when my teammate said “Hey buddy, can I borrow your hands? I need a stone for my skates.”
In your opinion, who is the toughest player to stop 1-on-1 in the entire WHL?
Jagger: The toughest player to stop 1-on-1 was Emerson Etem because he is so fast and strong, and he has great hands.
You are up for The Hockey News’ “Name Tournament” for the best name in hockey, and have moved on to the second round. What were your thoughts when you heard you were a contestant?
Jagger: I thought it was pretty cool and surprising that I was picked as a contestant for the “Name Tournament”. If I win, I know I would never hear the end of it from my parents, because they named me (ha/ha)
What do you enjoy doing in your downtime from the game?
Jagger: I enjoy going for a round of golf in my downtime.
Any hidden talents?
Jagger: I’m a pretty good basketball player, I learned how to play when I was down living in Texas.