Defenseman Jordan Wishman, a 3.5-star prospect, recently committed to Michigan State and new head coach Danton Cole. Wishman, a tall and mobile defenseman, earned a B- grade at the USHL showcase. The Des Moines, Iowa, native played youth hockey in his home state but left at the age of 14 and branched out to the Kansas City Mavs Elite and Omaha AAA Lancers in his U18 and U16 years. He was then tendered by the Lone Star Brahmas of the NAHL where he played in 49 games and won the Robertson Cup in 2016-17. Following the championship, Wishman was drafted by the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the USHL for the 2016-18 season.
Neutral Zone caught up with Wishman to chat about his youth hockey experience and the process to his commitment:
Neutral Zone: How and when did you start playing hockey?
Jordan Wishman: I got into it and started playing when I was seven. My mom was a nanny for a family whose son played, so I just kind of grew up around the rink and always wanted to play. They finally let me start when I was seven, so just kind of took off from there.
NZ: How did you eventually convince them to let you play?
JW: I think I kept badgering them and asking and they finally let me do Learn to Skate. I loved it and I thought that they’d give it a chance, so started playing just haven’t looked back.
NZ: What’s your earliest memory of playing hockey?
JW: I remember like my first game, everyone was on the ice and I couldn’t stand up on the ice so I had to skate along the boards to help me stand, so I just remember falling a lot.”
NZ: You’re from Iowa, played there but also played elsewhere. What was the experience of playing hockey in Iowa like?
JW: It was good. I loved it. Playing youth hockey there with all my buddies, those are some of the best hockey memories I have, just growing up, going to hotels and on road trips with them. It was just a lot of fun times that I won’t really forget.
NZ: How would you describe the hockey culture in Iowa?
JW: It’s definitely growing. As like the USHL gets bigger and better, there’s a team there so the interest grows and just continues to get bigger and bigger, which is exciting to see in that area.
NZ: You played in Kansas City and then in Omaha. How did you decide where to play where to play for your U16 and U18 years?
JW: I played for Russell Stover when I was in bantams and I just randomly decided to try out, just give it a try and see if I was even good enough, and I happened to make it just by the off chance. So I played there in bantams and they were based out of Kansas City and I played my U16 hockey for a year in Kansas City, just the next step up. Then we played the Omaha [AAA Lancers] the end of that year in Kansas City, and they were one of the best programs in the country and I had wanted to go there originally but didn’t make it. The next year I tried out again and happened to make it and I ended up spending two years there and had a really good time and got a lot better there.
NZ: How did you make playing in Kansas City and Omaha work?
JW: My first year in Kansas City, I billeted there. I left when I was 14 and then I billeted in Omaha too. It’s two hours away so that was a little closer than Kansas City.
NZ: What were the emotions leaving home at such a young age?
JW: It was definitely scary and I didn’t know what to expect. I just remember the first couple of weeks thinking I don’t know if this is for me, if this is really what I want to do. My parents were really supportive, my billets were great and just encouraged me to stick it out. It ended up being a good year for me where I ended up getting a lot of playing time and got better, so [I’m] definitely glad that I stuck with it.
NZ: What are the advantages of going somewhere else and billeting, even at that young of an age?
JW: It forces you to mature a lot quicker than most high school kids. You’re not completely on your own, but a lot of things are up to you. Like if you’re going to study or not you don’t have your parents looking over your shoulder all the time. A lot of the decisions you make are on you.
NZ: How did you end up with the Lone Star Brahmas?
JW: When I was in Omaha my U18 year they got in touch with me. They’d seen me play a showcase and they said they wanted to tender me, so I ended up signing a tender with them and getting a game in with them actually that year. And then that following summer I went to camp, made the team and ended up there for the whole year.
NZ: What was winning the Robertson Cup like?
JW: It was surreal. You don’t really know the emotions you’re going to feel when you win it, but it’s a feeling like none other. A lot of hard work goes into it, so to see the rewards is really exciting. People want winners, so you can take the lessons you learned from that experience into the next level and the level after that. It was just a really good experience.
NZ: After that year, you were drafted in the USHL. How did playing in the NAHL help you develop?
JW: It was huge. I think going down there I learned just a lot of lessons that got me ready to play here this year, like just how important it is to be consistent night in and night out, just the little details of the game and that every day in practice you’re battling for ice time for the weekend, so you just have to be ready to go every day.
NZ: How do you feel the USHL can help you develop, especially the year before you go to college?
JW: I think it’s a good opportunity now that I know where I’m going to go to school have a good chance to focus on playing and working every day and working on fine tuning my skills and getting ready for the college game. The speed here and how fast it is is really good. I think that’s the biggest jump to the next level so I think it’ll get a lot better here.
NZ: Take us through NCAA recruiting process. What other schools were you considering and where did you visit?
JW: I talked to a decent number of schools. I went on a few other visits. I went out to Merrimack and Alaska Fairbanks and Alabama Huntsville. I went out there last year and they were all great places, good programs that I was really excited about, but when I started talking to Michigan State, I just knew that I had a lot of interest in them.
NZ: How did that happen? How did you narrow it down to those schools and visit them?
JW: Honestly it just kind of randomly happened. [It was] the schools that had a lot of interest in me and were willing to bring me out on visits. I think going out there really made my decision to go to Michigan State that much easier.
NZ: What drew you to Michigan State?
JW: Just when I got on campus I knew right away. I had that feeling that this is going to be home for the next few years. I mean the campus is beautiful, but the scenery [and] just the buildings there are really, really nice. You can’t beat the amenities they have for hockey and the athletics, so it was kind of a no-brainer.
NZ: What are you most looking forward to this season?
JW: Here in Dubuque just hopefully bringing a championship to the city and getting better, but at the same time every day working and working towards a championship.
NZ: What’s your biggest on-ice skill?
JW: For me it’s just my skating. I think when I’m playing best I’m moving my feet and getting up in plays, so skating’s definitely a big part of my game.
NZ: What aspect of your game are you trying to improve on the most?
JW: Right now I think just getting more comfortable in the offensive zone, trying to get more shots through and create as much as offense as I can, just contribute more in that area.
NZ: What’s the toughest challenge you’ve faced in hockey?
JW: Last year towards the end of the year I wasn’t playing as much, and that was just a good lesson for me that you just have to stay positive and continue to put the work in. I did my best and it just wasn’t going my way. I continued to put the work in and I ended up being in Dubuque and now [I’m] lucky enough to be able to go to Michigan State next year. I think just keeping a good attitude and continuing to put the work in.
NZ: What advice would you give to a 14-year-old who’s debating between staying at home or playing somewhere else and billeting?
JW: You got to give it a year. At least try it. You’ll meet so many great people and make a lot of lifelong friendships and relationships that you’ll be glad that you made. It’s a different experience than normal high school, but you have a lot of really cool experiences and relationships that you wouldn’t have had otherwise, so I think it’s important to try it.
Photo credit: Hickling Images