Nearly every day this summer, Jack Roslovic wakes up in his childhood home, eats a carefully-balanced nutritional breakfast, and then heads out to what may be the most unlikely gym you’ve never heard of.
He makes the short drive through the streets of Columbus towards what appears, at least on the outside, to be a typical barn dotting the Ohio countryside. But above the main floor containing the horse stalls awaits a world of opportunity for the 21-year-old fitness fanatic.
It is where Roslovic works towards taking the next big step in his promising NHL career, one he hopes will include full-time employment this fall with the Winnipeg Jets.
“You try to focus on the details, because that can be the difference between you getting faster and getting hurt,” Roslovic told the Free Press this week in a telephone interview.
His personal trainer since high school, Brady Powers, says he’s never had a pupil quite like Roslovic.
“He’s extremely motivated. He absolutely won’t miss a workout. He doesn’t let his personal life get in the way of a workout at all.”
Neither do farm animals, apparently.
“It’s unnamed, undisclosed to the public. If somebody goes there, it’s because they know another hockey player or an agent sends them. It is a legitimate barn. There are horses in it. We’re on the second floor. There are horses on the first floor,” Powers said.
Roslovic, selected in the first round (25th overall) by the Jets in 2015, has opened many eyes in his first two pro seasons, and looks poised to make a huge leap as early as this fall.
Some pundits already have the 6-1, 187-pounder tagged as the second-line centre between scoring stars Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers.
The modest Roslovic is not one of them.
“I’m not really looking at any lineups. I’m just excited to get back to Winnipeg and try to make the team. Wherever I fit, I fit,” he said. “I still haven’t made the team. I haven’t even got to training camp yet. That’s definitely my main focus.”
After spending his first pro season in the AHL with the Manitoba Moose, Roslovic took a big step last season. Although he started in the AHL out of camp, he was called up by the Jets after posting 35 points in 32 games (15 goals), primarily playing centre.
Even though he often was in a bottom-six-winger role with limited minutes, Roslovic scored five times and added nine assists in 31 regular-season games with the Jets. He added three more helpers in 10 playoff contests.
One thing is clear: Roslovic is not taking anything for granted, nor is he resting on his laurels.
It comes as no surprise to his former college coach, Enrico Blasi.
“Jack’s one of those guys, he’s a student of the game. He’s always constantly thinking of different things, how to be better. I think the drive and the determination to be great is there. And he’s going to do everything he can to make sure he gives himself the best opportunity to do that,” said Blasi.
During his 2015-16 season at Miami University in Ohio, Roslovic was often in one of two places if not on the ice – in the gym or in the video room, according to the coach.
“He wants to make sure he doesn’t leave anything to chance. When you get players at that level, they know what it takes to get there and stay there. I think he really understands that in terms of his conditioning and strength and the mental game, as well,” said Blasi.
Powers has literally seen Roslovic grow up, from a scrawny teenager to the elite athlete he is today. During the past two Jets training camps, Roslovic has recorded some of the highest scores during extensive fitness training.
“He’s always been lean. Didn’t have a lot of muscle, but not necessarily lacking for his age for a hockey player. But he was lanky, for sure,” Powers said of his first impressions in meeting Roslovic during the player’s junior year in high school.
“He’s gotten stronger for sure. He’s put on muscle mass. Every year, he’s got a little bit heavier… He had the right size, just didn’t have the muscle necessarily early on. He’s definitely grown into that. He’s always had the speed. That’s been his money maker all along, is his speed. You can have eyes and hands, but his legs, if you saw him jump, it blows your mind how fast he gets off the ground.”
Roslovic credits a few veteran NHL stars with helping his progress in the gym. He’s become good friends and training partners with Rick Nash, Brandon Dubinsky, Cam Atkinson and Jared Boll, who all live in the area.
“I always like to try and improve my strengths, rather than really focus on my weaknesses. I’m already pretty fast, pretty quick. That’s how I know how to play the game,” said Roslovic. “I’m not looking to put on 20, 25 pounds and slowing down and trying to go hit people. That’s not really what I’m best at. I’m worried about getting faster, getting quicker and the strength will come along.”
Since Roslovic turned pro, Powers said the focus has turned to more “explosive exercises” with plenty of plyometrics, also known as jump training. They have certain days for legs, upper body and cardio. But there are also certain intangibles you simply can’t teach, which Roslovic has in spades.
“He’s such a decent person. Everybody likes him. He’s easy to get along with, works hard, so that makes the job so easy. It was really never ever a challenge with him. Hard working, genetically gifted. Fun to be around. Not really lacking anywhere,” said Powers.
Roslovic said one of the important aspects of his development was playing multiple sports as a youth – basketball, golf, tennis and baseball, among them.
“I think that helped my hockey game a little bit. You don’t burn out mentally, and there’s a lot of other sports that have really difficult tasks,” he said.
Another key factor is nutrition, which goes hand-in-hand with fitness. He works out a detailed plan with Powers and monitors everything he puts in his body.
“It’s definitely a job in itself. I’ve done a pretty good job this summer. Staying at home, it’s pretty easy to get meals and help out around the house. You’ve just got to know what’s best for you,” said Roslovic. “There’s really no secret to it. I just try to eat as much as possible, and the right foods.
“I definitely spoil my body and it’s almost like I don’t want to eat bad foods, I’ve just kind of trained my body to be that way.”
Roslovic said last year’s taste of the NHL – especially the deep playoff run – has only made him hungry for more.
“It’s great to succeed on that kind of stage, obviously, it’s a big stage. It was definitely something that I’ll take with me for the rest of my career,” he said. “I just wanted to show my teammates that I want to win with them and we could do that. It didn’t work out the way we wanted to, but I think there’s a lot of hope.”
Blasi, who is about to begin his 20th season at Miami, believes Roslovic is only beginning to tap into his enormous potential.
“In terms of his skill level, he’s got tremendous skill. Everybody can see that. He can skate. I think he’s putting all his skill, his maturity and his growth, packaged together where he can compete for a full-time spot on the Jets,” said Blasi, who took note of how Roslovic performed in the playoffs this past spring.
“What impressed me the most is when he wasn’t in the lineup (as a healthy scratch), his attitude was pretty good. He continued to work hard. I talked to him a couple times during that stretch. That to me is a sign of his maturity and growth as a person and a hockey player. Things aren’t always going to go your way. You have to learn how to deal with it. I think he’s understanding that at that level,” said the university coach.
“Where I see him now, I think he’s got a pretty good opportunity — and he knows that.”
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.