Photo by Rena Laverty
There is something about the sport of hockey that challenges Jeremy Wilmer, something that began at an early age and has never stopped.
“I love the competition,” Wilmer said. “I love to win. I love how fast-paced the game is; it makes it really exciting."
That passion began at the age of 4, courtesy of his dad, Fred.
“My dad was watching the New York Rangers on TV and I was just mesmerized by it,” said Wilmer. “He took me to a rink by my house, we went skating and I just fell in love with it. I wanted to play hockey from that moment.”
The Rockville Centre, New York, native also tried soccer, baseball and lacrosse growing up, but for some reason, hockey continued to stick with him. He does credit his soccer background in helping him with his on-the-ice game.
“When I was playing soccer, I would go to indoor training,” Wilmer explained. “We also worked on the small-area game and I really think that has helped me on the ice. It has allowed me to see gaps, so I know where to put the puck and to help find teammates. It really helped me grow as a player. Even though I wasn’t into soccer, this still really stands out to me.”
When it came time to transition to USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program last year, it was definitely a challenge for him. The 5-foot-6, 140-pound forward had to learn to play against bigger, older and faster players in his first season with the NTDP.
“I have always been on the smaller side, so I’m used to that aspect,” said Wilmer. “The USHL was a huge adjustment. I wasn’t used to being able to hold and protect the puck. You have to react more quickly. It definitely took me some time to get the feel of the game and feel comfortable on the ice.”
Wilmer, who finished the season with 12 goals and 33 points in 45 games, remembers the exact moment that the season turned around for him. It came in conversation with head coach John Wroblewski.
Photo by Rena Laverty
“At the end of the U17 World Challenge is when that talk happened,” Wilmer stated. “I started the tournament slow and it was not my best start. I spoke to coach and he told me to settle down, ‘You are doing fine, and you don’t need to worry.’ It really helped.
“He talks so much about all the little details that go into everything. I’m a smaller guy so I really have to practice being mentally tough. It was something that he challenged me to do on top of things. It’s the little things you do off the ice that carry over to results on the ice, whether it’s making your bed in the morning, to preparing for practice, or watching what you eat. It’s simple but it does make a difference.”
It should come as no surprise that the U17s’ second international tournament — the Four Nations in Russia — had better results for Wilmer. The NTDP posted a 6-0 win over Russia on Dec. 15 as Wilmer tallied a goal and an assist in the game.
Photo by Rena Laverty
“Winning the Four Nations in Russia was probably my best memory,” he said. “It was really special when we beat Russia in their home rink. It was so special, especially to see the guys so happy.
“The one thing I remember from that game is my first shift. I scored the second goal of the game and it just kept going from there. Everyone produced and we got the win. It was huge for us.”
It also helped him to realize just how special it is to wear the red, white and blue every day.
“To wear the USA logo every day is a huge honor,” Wilmer said. “I get to represent the country and it's absolutely incredible especially when we win in international play. It is something that I have never experienced before.”
For Wilmer, his focus right now is to improve his game as he gears up for his second season with the NTDP. With his competitive nature, he realizes exactly what he needs to do, especially off the ice as he takes into account the advice he received from Wroblewski way back in November.
“I'm planning to focus on the little things and working to get better,” said Wilmer. “For me, I want to put on weight and muscle; those are some of the goals that I have set. Since I am undersized, it will be important to do these things especially when we play college teams. Right now, I am working out with Jon DiFlorio at Institute 3E back home. We are working out four to six times per week.
“Since we have no ice back home right now, I have really been hitting my mobility and my stretching. It is something that I didn’t focus on, but I realize how important it is now. I really worked with it this past year with Brian Galivan [NTDP director of sports science]. I had always lifted weights, but I had never worked on my stretching and mobility. It really helped with my stride as I felt so much better on the ice.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.