YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Christian Jimenez is just 18 years old, but hockey has already taken him many places.
The Yorktown resident starred for Lakeland/Panas as a freshman in 2017, helping the Rebels reach the section playoffs following back-to-back winless seasons. He attracted offers from boarding schools, playing his sophomore and junior seasons at the Taft School in Watertown, Conn.
That was followed by a stint on Team USA’s U-17 team, which took him to Europe, where he competed in the Five Nations tournament. The 2018 tournament started with exhibition wins over Hungary in Budapest and Slovakia in Piestany, where all four tournament games were played. From Aug. 15 to Aug. 19, Team USA split four games against the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Germany, and Slovakia, the host nation.
“That was truly a remarkable experience,” Jimenez said.
Next up was a one-year stint in Iowa, where Jimenez played for the Sioux City Musketeers of the United States Hockey League, a highly competitive junior league.
Jimenez, an offensive-minded defenseman, lived with a host family during the 2019-20 season, which started in October and was scheduled to end in April. The pandemic canceled the season prematurely, sending Jimenez back to his home in Yorktown.
USHL players are not paid, allowing them to retain their amateur status. Though Jimenez might get selected in this year’s NHL draft, his next destination is Harvard College, where he will continue his amateur career.
“If I were to get drafted into the NHL, I can still go to Harvard,” Jimenez said. “You can pretty much leave whenever you want. You can play in the NHL when you’re 18 years old.”
Universally recognized for its academics, Harvard also boasts a competitive Division 1 hockey program. The Crimson of Cambridge have made 13 Frozen Four appearances (hockey’s equivalent of the Final Four), winning the top prize once (1989).
“Harvard, just forgetting about the hockey, it’s one of the best universities in the world, so I’m very excited hockey afforded me the opportunity to play at a school like that,” Jimenez said.
The seven-round NHL draft, originally slated to begin June 26, has been indefinitely postponed while the 2019-20 season in on hiatus. Jimenez is the 184th-ranked draft prospect this year, according to NHL.com. Whatever happens, Jimenez will continue on a path toward the pros.
“Anything can happen, and you can’t take anything for granted, but I think I put myself in a pretty good spot [to get drafted],” Jimenez said. “If I don’t get drafted, it doesn’t really change much.”
Jimenez grew up in Yorktown Heights, putting on skates for the first time at 3 years old. He learned the sport of hockey from his father.
“Just going to skate with him every Saturday/Sunday morning,” Jimenez said. “I feel like that’s where a kid really develops his true love for the game.”
Growing up, he played for the Westchester Vipers hockey club for two years before switching over to the Westchester Express. He was about 12 or 13 when he started to draw the attention of boarding schools.
Jimenez, who admires offensively skilled defensemen like Erik Karlsson (San Jose Sharks) and Brian Leetch (retired New York Rangers legend), scored 28 points (7 goals, 21 assists) in 42 games last season for Sioux City. He was named to the USHL’s All-Rookie team.
“I definitely view myself as an offensive defenseman. I love joining the play, I love contributing in the offense,” Jimenez said. “The players I look up to, the young puck-moving defensemen, they all have great IQ and are all able to move.”
His year in the USHL took him to cities in Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. He called Sioux City “a great hockey town.”
“They packed the arena there,” he added.
Jimenez has continued to train during the pandemic in his home gym and at his coach’s private ice rink.
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