As a 16-year old, he was a championship goalie in the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League.
As a 17-year old, he moved up to the Ontario Hockey League and followed his rookie season by becoming a National Hockey League draft pick.
As an 18-year old, he’s one of three goalies who will represent Team Canada at the World Jr. Hockey Championships.
The ride to the top continues for Jake Paterson, who backstopped the Soo Eagles to the 2010-2011 NOJHL championship as one of the youngest players in the league that season.
Paterson, a 1994 birth year goalie who is now in his second OHL season as the starting goalie with the Saginaw Spirit and regarded as the top, junior-aged, netminding prospect for the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings, will play for Team Canada at this year’s World Juniors, which get underway on Dec. 26.
To be sure, Paterson’s selection to the Team Canada roster comes as no surprise to the man who coached him with the Soo Eagles during that ’10-11 championship season.
“Nothing that Jake will do in his hockey career will surprise me,” said Bruno Bragagnolo, who now coaches an Eagles team that has since left the NOJHL for the North American Hockey League.
Bragagnolo is quick to recall Paterson’s performance in leading the Eagles to the ’10-11 NOJHL title.
“One of the reasons I made him the starting goalie is the way he handled the pressure,” Bragagnolo said of Paterson. “I remember telling you back then that the kid had ice in his veins.”
Bragagnolo added that Paterson showed a way of bouncing back from a so-so outing.
“You knew that if he didn’t have one of his better games that it was a guarantee that he would come back and we would win the next game. Guaranteed, that’s what would happen,” Bragagnolo added.
Paterson was at his best during the NOJHL semi-final playoffs that ’10-11 season when he and Soo Thunderbirds goalie Michael Doan put on an absolute clinic in an epic, six-game series that the Eagles eventually won.
Paterson and the then-19-year old Doan traded highlight-reel games in the six-game thriller, which the Eagles won before going on to defeat the Sudbury Jr. Wolves in the finals to win the NOJHL crown.
“That’s some of the best goaltending I have ever seen from two kids in the same series,” Bragagnolo said of Paterson and Doan.
As Paterson has since left the NOJHL for the OHL and become an NHL draft pick and Team Canada member, Doan too has moved upward and onward and is now a freshman on a full-ride scholarship with the Division 1, National Collegiate Athletic Association, Northern Michigan Wildcats.