By Joshua Boyd / NCDCHockey.com
Another year at Chelsea Piers Connecticut in Stamford? Sign him up, said Jextinian Sheffield, who will play in his third straight NCDC season with the Connecticut Jr. Rangers here in 2023-24.
“Chelsea Piers Connecticut is one of the nicest, cleanest, and most well-taken-care of rinks in the country,” Sheffield said. “The organization has helped me grow as a person and as a player. I have met a lot of good guys and great players which could not have happened without the support of the organization.”
Sheffield, originally from Glen Ellyn, Ill., originally signed with the Jr. Rangers following a lost Midget 18U season due to COVID-19 regulations. He wasted no time in making an impact in 2021-22, registering seven points in a crucial two-way forward position over 43 regular season games. To that, he added 20 more points in 2023-23, putting up 27 points in playing all 50 games of the season.
Even with that personal improvement, there’s certainly a heavy “unfinished business” feeling among the Red, White and Blue faithful of the Jr. Rangers this year.
“I enjoyed last season as a Ranger. We had a good group of guys but it was disappointing we came up short and didn’t make playoffs. The boys and I will work hard to change that this year,” added Sheffield.
Sheffield is an NCDC Combine success story, having attended the 2021 Detroit Combine. Heading into those spring and summer events, he had played in two very successful 15U and 16U years for Team Illinois (2018-20) and prior to that was with the Chicago Young Americans organization.
When I met Coach Henkel at the NCDC combine, we connected well,” said Sheffield. “I like his intensity and competitiveness. He is firm but fair, and he gave me a shot, so I owe him a ton. His door is always open and he has always been there for me when I need it.
“I knew I was ready to step up and play junior hockey even though I had another year of AAA left,” Sheffield said. “I also wanted to play out East due to the proximity to a bunch of top colleges. I was able to meet and speak with Coach Henkel at the NCDC Combine in Detroit and again at another USPHL event in the spring. I was drafted by the team and performed well at the main camp and training camp.”
With two NCDC seasons, he not only has gotten a great read on the talent and skill level, but has also become a big fan of what he sees in the Tier II Tuition-Free conference.
“This is a high-skill league with a good mix of physicality. Every time you go into the corners and in front of the net you have to be prepared for battle,” said Sheffield. “It is a very competitive league from top to bottom. Any team can win on any night so no team can take a night off and as a player, you have to go hard every shift.”
The goals for this season all come back to making a return to the playoffs, which the Jr. Rangers missed by just two points last spring.
“My No. 1 goal is to make the playoffs, and from there, go on a good run toward the championship,” he said. “As for myself, I want to keep working and getting better in all aspects of my game. This is my last year of juniors, so I also want to make sure that I lead by example for my teammates and the younger players in the league.”
Sheffield is looking forward to making that momentous decision coming up, that is an NCAA college commitment. He has a lot to offer the interested coach.
“I am a hard worker that takes care of the little things,” he added. “I take pride in my hockey IQ and I am a 200-foot forward who plays hard in all three zones and puts the team first.”
The NCDC wishes the best of luck to Jextinian Sheffield and the Connecticut Jr. Rangers in the 2023-24 season.