Jasper Weatherby saw a phone number with a 408 area code and immediately knew good news was on the way.
He didn’t need to think very long about where it was coming from.
The team that Weatherby grew up watching from afar in Ashland, the San Jose Sharks, had just used the 102nd overall pick in last weekend’s NHL Draft to select the 20-year-old forward who spent most of his life in the Rogue Valley before moving away to play junior hockey.
“It was awesome,” Weatherby said of first getting word the Sharks had drafted him. “I was actually in the (University of North Dakota) gym and I got a text on my phone that said congratulations. I looked up on the TV and the NHL Network was on. I saw my name, I saw the Sharks. Being drafted is pretty humbling and a lot of the work you’ve put in comes out there.”
As is quite common with later-round draft picks, the Sharks will retain Weatherby’s rights as he prepares to play his freshman season at North Dakota in the fall.
If Weatherby impresses at North Dakota — where he is already enrolled in summer classes and taking part in the offseason training program — then he could sign a professional contract with San Jose at the end of the college season.
“North Dakota does an unbelievable job of getting people ready for that jump from college to pro hockey,” Weatherby said. “My plan is to stay at North Dakota, keep developing, keep getting bigger, faster, stronger and at the same time my goal here is to try and win a national championship.”
Being a Sharks fan has been a part of Weatherby’s life as long as he can remember.
He moved to Ashland when he was 1, living on a ranch for seven years before moving into town before his early-teenage years. Weatherby moved away at age 14, going to a boarding school in Ontario, Canada, where his hockey career started to pick up steam.
No matter where he lived, though, the Sharks were the ones he followed most. It’s helped that his step father, who lives in the Bay Area, has season tickets. (He was in attendance when the Sharks faced the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final two years ago.)
“It was a little unbelievable waking up the next day and being like, ‘Wow, the Sharks took a chance on me,’” Weatherby said. “There’s just been a lot of people reaching out and saying congratulations. It’s been awesome.”
The Sharks traded up to get the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Weatherby in the fourth round, shipping a pair of picks — Nos. 123 and 139 — to the Montreal Canadiens — to get to the No. 102 spot.
Weatherby made his way onto the draft radar this past season when he was named the MVP of the British Columbia Hockey League. In his second year with the Wenatchee Wild, Weatherby led the BCHL in scoring in both the regular season (58 games, 37 goals, 37 assists, 74 points) and the playoffs (20 games, 15 goals, 23 assists, 38 points).
Considered a late bloomer by some, Weatherby was ranked 198th amongst North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting.
“Growing up, I was kind of always the underdog. Being from a small town that’s not really a hockey town, being a late developer, you have to have that self-motivation of if you’re not doing the extra rep or not putting in the extra work, then I could slide off the map,” Weatherby said. “It’s been a progression, and you have to believe in yourself and stay humble. But, at the same time, I looked at two years ago in the BCHL having a decent year and felt like if I put the work in and believed in myself, then (getting drafted) could be a possibility.”
A sign of just how much of a jump he made from his first to second year with the Wild: He improved mightily in every statistical category after recording 32 points in 46 games in the 2016-17 season.
“It’s an unbelievable league. It’s fast, everyone can play,” Weatherby said. “But I think just having a good offseason and getting the opportunity to play some big minutes in Wenatchee was just the biggest thing. ... I think every season and every summer I take a step in the right direction. If I continue to put in the work, I think my best hockey is definitely down the road.”
While the joy of being drafted by the team he’s been following for years is still there, Weatherby is also aware of the work he now must put in to be in the position to go from the college ranks to getting a shot in the pros.
North Dakota is one of the most prestigious NCAA Division I hockey programs in the nation, having one eight national titles and 17 conference championships.
“I think they’ll do an unbelievable job. From what I’ve seen, the workouts are so specific and the strength coach, I can’t speak highly enough about him,” Weatherby said. “The coaches, the facilities, I truly believe that this is the best college hockey opportunity — not only in coming here and having the best coaches and the best everything, but as a group of guys, every single guy wants to get better. Being in an environment where everyone is pushing each other and motivating their teammates, it’s the best.”
The dream of being drafted is one that Weatherby had thought about for years — and now it’s a reality.
You can bet that he knows plenty about the team that just drafted him, too.
“Growing up going to Sharks games, there’s nothing like SAP Center,” Weatherby said. “I always tell people that you’ve got to go see a Sharks game because the fans are crazy, it’s loud and it’s a great environment. To be possibly lucky enough to get an opportunity, it would be a dream come true.”
Contact Danny Penza at 541-776-4483 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @penzatopaper.