Back when the USHL Playoffs was an event here in Fargo and the Force were vying for a third Clark Cup Finals appearance, there was talk among NHL scouts.
Yeah, there was the usual talk. They were talking about the NHL Playoffs. Getting post-season and pre-draft meetings in order. They were discussing where and what to eat dinner that night. Those are the kind of items which become talking points.
Talk continued but the chatter centered around a player who wasn’t even on the ice on the particular night when his name was first brought up. He actually wasn’t even on the ice during the entire playoffs. What NHL scouts wanted to know was, “What’s up with Jay Dickman?”
They wanted to know (more like really see than anything) about the 6-5, 225-pounder who in high school scored 42 goals for St. Paul Johnson. A player who was able to make the jump to the USHL and has been described from being “a draft dark horse” to someone who “is built like an all-state wrestler and has soft hands.”
Dickman’s only appearance, other than walking around the Scheels Arena concourse, was on the videoboard when he flashed a giant smile when his brother, Andy, was welcomed back from his year-and-a-half long deployment in Iraq.
“We were not very close growing up,” Dickman said. “Going through high school, we fought like crazy and the past couple years, once he graduated, and got older, we started to connect and became really close.”
Having his brother back has added to what could be an intriguing and potentially life-changing off-season for Dickman.
Even though he didn’t feature in the USHL Playoffs, he still has a chance at being taken in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh. Dickman said he has been approached by various NHL scouts including ones from the Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins and Toronto Maple Leafs to name a few.
Colleges have also shown interest as he’s spoken with recruiters from Minnesota-Duluth, Nebraska-Omaha, North Dakota and St. Cloud State, which are all schools that have drank from the Force’s well before whether it be with recruiting players or snagging coaches.
All this is going on as he’s doing the high-wire balancing act that is graduating from high school, serving as captain of his high school’s golf team and doing daily workouts in the hopes that if his name is called, he can roll into a rookie camp and show why drafting him was a wise choice.
“I didn’t need to sit back and watch but I needed to keep working and getting better,” Dickman said. “So I came right back home and worked out with my old head coach from St. Paul Johnson and I’ve been helping them trying to get new kids and working out with them everyday.”
Anyone not familiar with Dickman and his situation with St. Paul Johnson, it’s not hard to figure out. He’s beyond committed to the program. In fact, he might as well just get on one knee, break out a diamond ring and pop the question.
St. Paul Johnson, known for being Herb Brooks’ alma mater, has seen an enrollment shift of a student body more into basketball than hockey resulting in what could be the end of the program. If it were to come to an end, there’s no doubting Dickman would be the last star to come from the program.
Dickman on several occasions has made it clear how much the school means to him. He talks about St. Paul Johnson the way a revolutionary talks about a cause. It’s about the struggle, the progress and the hope that something better could eventually come even when the climate says otherwise.
Usually when most USHL players leave a high school, that’s really it. But with Dickman he continued to do his schooling through Johnson while here in Fargo. Following his end-of-year meetings with the Force’s coaching staff, he sped back to school to play in a golf meet as he’s Johnson’s captain.
“It is just a nice, relaxing thing to do after hockey is so brutal and you’ve been taking a beating all winter,” Dickman said. “Come summer, you get to walk around and golf for free and you can’t beat that. I’ve won the past three tournaments with a 38, 39 and a 38.”
If life is a course, Dickman is shooting well under par.
There is the NHL Draft interest and in case it does come to fruition, he knows there’s a strong chance he could be in Pittsburgh to hear his name get called. Dickman said he knows his brother is buying him a plane ticket to Pittsburgh for the NHL Draft as a graduation present.
And if getting draft doesn’t happen, it’s just another year and opportunity for Dickman to make improvements while playing for the Force.
“I don’t think about that and sometimes people get a little hot-headed and forget about what they need to do and where they came from,” Dickman said about the NHL Draft. “Just you gotta sit back, keep working and don’t give up on anything whether I get called or I don’t get called. If I get called, it will be special but if not, it is just a stepping stone to overcome and make it.”
Dickman is extremely realistic about his draft chances. He realizes what he does well but knows his Achilles’ heel is his skating.
With his large frame, he’s been gifted with many things and speed, as he knows, is not one of them.
So that’s why he’s been in the rink since the season ended to work on his speed. He also wants to work on his physicality. Force coach John Marks told Dickman that he needs be more physical and Dickman agreed. Dickman said playing high school hockey didn’t allow him to be physical whereas in the USHL, it’s more or less a requirement.
“The next step is just needing to get stronger and faster,” Dickman said. “I’ve been told growing up all my life and everyone says I have improved a lot but it was probably sophomore year when I had a reality check when I broke my back and it pushed me harder and harder to get looks and from then on, I was crazy about it.”