Future Huskies: Jujhar Khaira

BCHL forward Jujhar Khaira, from Surrey, British Columbia, is next in our weekly Future Huskies series. Jujhar has taken an interesting path to get his scholarship. He was overlooked in the bantam draft by WHL teams and considered quitting hockey for basketball and following in his dad’s footsteps. Shortly after, a Spruce Kings scout spotted him and encouraged him to come to camp. Jujhar took the opportunity and has flourished in Prince George.

He is an exceptional student and has an extremely high work ethic on and off the ice. Last season as a 16-year-old, he could easily have been mistaken for an 18-year-old and after an offseason where he grew and put on muscle mass, he plays like a 19- if not 20-year-old veteran in the BCHL. He is currently second on the Prince George Spruce Kings with 19 goals and 36 assists through 37 games and ranks 10th in points among all players in the league. Khaira’s performance propelled him to a tryout for Team Canada West in the World Junior A Challenge where he not only made the team but helped Canada West win the Gold Medal. A few weeks ago, NHL Central Scouting released its midseason rankings and Jujhar found himself ranked 80th, highest of any players in the BCHL.

Jujhar is 6'3" but only 17 years old, yet he recently signed his National Letter of Intent along with four other future Huskies so because he has signed on the dotted line to play for Michigan Tech starting with the 2012–13 season, the Michigan Tech coaching staff is allowed to comment.

Here is what Coach Mel Pearson had to say:[quote]Jujhar is having an outstanding year in the BCHL. He chose Michigan Tech not only for hockey but also academics, and we're very excited to have him. He has good size and excellent offensive instincts, and we think he'll be able to add offense to our team immediately.[/quote]

Assistant Coach Bill Muckalt took a moment to give his input for Tech Hockey Guide too:[quote]We see him as a big time power forward. He skates really well, very good down low, strong on the puck, has good vision and great offensive instincts. We see him being a huge part of the core of our team moving forward. I think he has a lot of potential to be a pro hockey player, and he’s going to be a very good college player. We’re excited to have him as a Husky.[/quote]

Here's our interview with Jujhar Khaira:

THG: You’ve made your decision to play college hockey at Michigan Tech. Can you tell us a little bit about your decision to become a Husky and some of the other schools that contacted you?[quote]My decision to go to Michigan Tech was easy. Damon [Whitten] was the one I dealt with.  I met him a couple times and he came out here to see me play against Vernon and Salmon Arm. He’s a fantastic guy and a good person so that had a lot to do with it. Michigan Tech offered me a lot of playing time and the educational program is great from what I’ve read and heard from everybody.[/quote]

THG: With academics playing a large role in your decision to play for Michigan Tech, do you know what you want to study?[quote]I’m heading towards engineering right now, but I’m not sure what kind of engineering yet.[/quote]

THG: You're a younger guy with experience on Team Canada West, so there are probably some fans out there worried about the possibility of your being interested in going the major junior route, is that even a possibility for you?[quote]No, right now and I'm sure it won't change, I'm 100% sure I want to go to college.[/quote]

THG: You took your official visit to Michigan Tech recently. What are your impressions of Coach Pearson and his staff?[quote]When the new coaching staff was hired, I talked to Coach Pearson and Coach Muckalt. They were really happy to have me there and they’re great guys.[/quote]

THG: You had the honor of playing for Canada West in the most recent World Junior A Challenge and brought home gold. You’ve also been recognized as the highest ranked BCHL player for the NHL Central Scouting midterm rankings. What do those moments mean to you and so far what is your favorite hockey moment?[quote]I’d say right now, my favorite hockey moment was winning gold with Team Canada West.[/quote]

THG: Ron Gallo has called you a true “Diamond in the Rough.” How exactly did you get started in hockey and what do you think of getting overlooked by WHL teams in your draft year looking back now, sticking with it and earning a scholarship?[quote]It all started with my Dad. He had me start skating when I was about 6 years old. The first time I had stepped on the ice, I fell and had a huge smile on my face. From then on my parents knew I'd enjoy hockey. They put me in it and ever since then I've loved it. As for the WHL draft, I don't know if I expected to get drafted or anything. I think it was more motivation for me to work that much harder to get better than other kids and maybe surpass them and improve.[/quote]

THG: You’ve been having an outstanding season with the Spruce Kings to follow a breakout performance last year.  Why do you think you’re having so much success in the BCHL?[quote]I just think I haven't really been worrying about the points, just kind of working on the little things, working hard in practice all the time. I just think it's paying off as I go.[/quote]

THG: You’ve been described as a strong player with excellent offensive instincts and an extremely high work ethic. Ron Gallo even went as far to say you appear to play like someone a few years older. Would you describe that as accurate?[quote]Yeah, I think so. I think my vision, and ability to pass out of the corners is really good, and I'm not afraid to go in the corners and throw my weight around.[/quote]

THG:  What do you think you'll bring to Michigan Tech?[quote]I think I'll bring some offense to the program. It really depends on what kind of role they want me to play. I think I can play most roles fairly well.[/quote]

THG: What do you think is your biggest weakness? Something you’ll need to work on to become a better player at the College level?[quote]I think the main thing I need to work on is my foot speed and first two steps, or my quickness.[/quote]

THG: Anything you want Michigan Tech fans to know?[quote]I've heard they're great fans and I'm really excited to play in front of them.[/quote]

Special thanks to Ron Gallo, Prince George Spruce Kings Communication Director, for his help with some insight on Jujhar and setting up this interview.