Logan Stanley is “a big boy”. At least that’s how his teammate, 5-foot-11, Nikolaj Ehlers refers to him. The 25-year-old Ehlers has been a fixture in the Jets’ dressing room since 2015, so he is very familiar with fellow big-bodied defenders Dustin Byfuglien and Tyler Myers – to name a few.
But Logan Stanley is a little different than those two former Jets. Born just two years after Ehlers, the 23-year-old Kitchener, ON. product stands 6-foot-7 and tips the scales at 235 pounds. According to the dashing Dane, Stanley is a guy who does just about as much in room as he does on the ice – and that’s saying a lot, because he covers a large area anytime he steps onto the playing surface.
“He’s an incredible guy in that locker room,” Ehlers said of Stanley. “He’s funny. He brings a lot to this team. Again, you learn so much every single year. He’s definitely learned. He’s learned a lot from the guys that have been in the league for a little bit, and he still learns a lot. He’s a guy that will talk to you about the game, about the plays, and do better next time. Having a guy like him on the team who is a huge presence out there, plays hard, blocks shots, does all the little things right. It’s fun for us and it helps us a lot.”
Drafted 18th overall in the first round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, many had begun to tout Stanley as a ‘bust’, after failing to make the team in each of his first four training camps. Even entering the 2020-21 shortened season, Stanley was not listed as a name to serve as a part of the team’s top-six defenders.
“It obviously was my goal to get in the lineup and be a part of this team this year,” Stanley reflected on Thursday. “That was something I was thinking about coming into camp, but we had a lot of bodies at first in training camp. We had eight guys on one-way deals. I just wanted to come in and work hard and see what I could do and it was definitely nice to get in some games this year and it’s definitely nice to try and help the team win in the playoffs.”
Clearly, the hulking blueliner gained favour in the eye of head coach Paul Maurice and his staff. It took some time, but it has been an enjoyable journey for the first-year Jet.
“I’ve just grown into my body,” he laughed. “I grew at such a young age … I was kind of a lanky kid. I’m starting to maybe mature a little bit. It’s just getting comfortable with my body, getting stronger and better on my skates so it’s a combination of things. It’s just, in the summer, working out and getting bigger and stronger.”
Stanley, who lives near teammate Mark Scheifele during the offseason, actually put in significant work with the Jets’ leading point producer, training nearly every day together as a pair as COVID restrictions allowed.
One thing that both Scheifele and Stanley share is a high hockey intelligence quotient. According to Stanley it is something he has been working on for many years.
“I think it started when I was younger,” he said. “I was always a bigger kid and couldn’t really move around that well, so I relied on that a lot when I was younger. It’s helped me now that my feet have caught up a little bit, and I’m still able to try and make some plays and hang on to the puck sometimes. So, I think it started when I was younger, but I think it’s also confidence in your abilities and just going out and trying to make plays sometimes.”
Finishing the regular season with a goal, four points, and 26 penalty minutes in just 37 games played, Stanley actually ranked second behind only Ehlers in plus-minus, while leading all NHL rookies with a +13 rating. He then began the playoffs with an assist on Dominic Toninato’s game-winning goal in his first postseason game.
“It was a lot of fun,” Stanley said of his first playoff series. “Edmonton played us hard all series. It was four games but it was a lot tighter than that. We missed the fans … it would have been a good time having them in the building for the last two games at home. Overall, it was a good series.”
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Serving a key role on the Jets’ penalty kill this year, Stanley was given minutes while down a man throughout the opening round series with the Oilers. Tasked with keeping superstars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl off the board, the big fellow seemed to do alright.
“I think that was huge for my confidence, to get out there and get a stick on puck,” he said. “It’s something I did with the Moose the last two years and definitely a role I’m comfortable playing in. I was just happy I could help the team and that’s part of my job to play in the NHL is to be a good penalty killer. So I take a lot of pride in that and hopefully I can keep helping out.”
And it’s more than just Stanley and Ehlers who have enjoyed having the big-bodied blueliner manning the back-end. Fellow Jets defender Neal Pionk has also seen Stanley’s growth – both mentally and physically – over the past year.
“Obviously, the first thing that jumped out is his size,” Pionk said of meeting Stanley for the first time. “But then when he comes on the team and you get to know him a little bit, I think what’s underrated is his hockey IQ. I would never tell him to his face, so don’t tell him I said this, but he’s a heck of a player and you can see the development that he’s been making throughout the year. He’s always learning and he’s been really good for us this year.”