ASU hockey’s Jack Judson is finding his path in rookie NCAA season

The former Vernon Viper turned Sun Devil defenseman appears to have adjusted well to NCAA hockey

Freshman defenseman Jack Judson has hit the ground running in his first season with Sun Devil hockey.

In December 2016, the White Rock, British Columbia native verbally committed to ASU shortly into his three-year stint (2016-19) with the Vernon Vipers of the British Columbia Hockey League.

His commitment at 16 years old— while ASU’s Division I hockey program was in its infancy— meant a lot to head coach Greg Powers.

“He just bought into wanting to come here and build a tradition,” Powers said. “The thrills and material stuff like big, nice and new arenas weren’t important to him. He wanted to stay on the West Coast and build something special and that’s the kind of kid he is. … We’re thrilled to have him.”

But his time with Vernon wasn’t an oversight to his commitment to play NCAA Division I hockey: It was a dividend of all of the hard work the talented defenseman had put in during his time in Junior A.

During Judson's final season in the BCHL, Vipers’ assistant coach Larry Draper saw firsthand how much of an emphasis Judson put on work ethic.

“What I saw with Jack was a kid that had off-ice and on-ice leadership,” Draper said. “He was good in the dressing room from what I saw, also on the bench, kind of a quiet guy. But I thought he was a heck of a player and a great teammate.”

It was subtle leadership that helped propel Judson to the top of Vernon’s scoresheet. During the 2018-19 season, he recorded 32 points (six goals, 26 assists) in 50 games, enough to make him the fourth-highest scorer on the Vipers’ roster and first among defensemen.

In addition to his character, Draper said there's one memory that is indicative of Judson's attention to detail.

“Every opportunity he (could) get before and after practice, he’d have me (pass) him pucks and working on that strong-side one-timer or the cross-ice one-timer,” Draper said. “He worked extra hard at it." 

"We were in a game ... and we were down two goals in the final period. We scored a goal and there was only about a minute left, and then Jack scored a goal off his one-timer to tie it up with a couple of seconds left.”

Judson said he also remembers that game and that practice is key to improving as a player.

“(I) like to do stuff after practice ... I think it translates to the games and when you put in the hours,” Judson said. “I remember that game was kinda cool, it was something that I worked on a lot with 'Drape.' It’s good to see it paid off in that game.”

Judson’s approach to practices and games in the NCAA has remained the same since he joined the team in the offseason. Fortunately for the freshman, his previous experiences have helped him adjust to the Sun Devil program.

“It was a new experience moving away from home when I was 17, but I really liked playing in Vernon,” he said. “It was a really good stepping stone coming to Arizona State.”

A trip to China over the summer helped break the ice to get “Judder” acquainted with his new team. His efforts paid off this past weekend when he scored his first collegiate goal: the game-winner against Quinnipiac last Friday night.

“It was a really cool feeling,” he said. “Just to get that one out of the way, it was a good play by my teammates so I’m just happy I could help contribute to the team.”

Although the sensation of scoring your first collegiate goal is a special moment, Judson’s primary focus is what lies ahead for ASU.

“I am just really excited to see where this program can go in four years with all the strides we’ve already made in the short time it’s been Division I,” he said. “It’s really cool to see. I’m just excited for the future.” 

Powers believes Judson is a vital piece to that future.

“He’s got tons of poise with the puck which is really impressive for how young he is,” Powers said. “He’s just getting better every game, and he’s going to be really good for us for a long time.”

While three years in the BCHL helped form Judson into an efficient defenseman, his time as a Sun Devil has just begun, and there are high hopes that he will develop into an even better blueliner for seasons to come.

“He just wanted to work on (his game) every day, he wanted to get better at it, because he knew that in the end, it was going to help him,” Draper said. “To me, that’s the sign of a guy that is going to get better each and every day.”


Reach the reporter at aklatsky@asu.edu and follow @averyklatsky on Twitter. 

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