Just a sophomore but leads team in assists and overall points

Starting left wing makes switch from AAA club to varsity hockey

Sophomore+Owen+Just+works+on+his+puck+handling+at+a+practice+on+Oct.+29.+Just+started+his+hockey+career+in+the+GBN+youth+system+with+the+Northbrook+Bluehawks%2C+but+then+switched+to+play+club+hockey+for+Chicago+Young+Americans+when+he+was+seven+years+old.+Just+now+plays+for+the+GBN+varsity+team.+Photo+by+Dylan+Buckner

Sophomore Owen Just works on his puck handling at a practice on Oct. 29. Just started his hockey career in the GBN youth system with the Northbrook Bluehawks, but then switched to play club hockey for Chicago Young Americans when he was seven years old. Just now plays for the GBN varsity team. Photo by Dylan Buckner

Dylan Buckner, Sports Editor

When sophomore Owen Just arrived at his first varsity hockey practice, he stood out before he even stepped onto the ice. Unaware that upperclassmen typically drive underclassmen to practices, Just was dropped off by his mom while wearing his bright red club hockey gear.

“I saw everyone in green and definitely I stood out because I was in bright red and GBN has no red in it whatsoever,” said Just in a phone interview. “I was definitely different.”

Just decided this year he was going to make the switch from Chicago Young Americans, a AAA club hockey team, to the Glenbrook North club program. 

Just said the decision to switch ultimately came down to him seeing the opportunity to play for a team with a great culture and winning tradition. Although he loved his time playing AAA hockey, Just was looking for a change and wanted to see what high school hockey was all about.

Evan Poulakidas, head varsity hockey coach, said in a phone interview that AAA hockey is the highest tier of youth club hockey. Most GBN players start their hockey careers with the Northbrook Bluehawks (AA) around the age of three or four. As they grow older, there are opportunities for players to branch off onto AAA teams.

The main difference between club and high school hockey is that in club leagues, players are matched against others with the same birth year. In high school, athletes play against all high schoolers, Poulakidas said.

Poulakidas said Just’s potential was evident from his first practice with the GBN team. Just is the starting left wing and leading point getter. As of Nov. 16, Just has four goals and 11 assists, accounting for 15 points in 11 games.

“His hockey IQ was very high,” said Poulakidas. “You could immediately tell that he certainly had a lot of talent and could compete at this level.” 

According to assistant hockey coach Ben Stein in a phone interview, Just has also brought a positive attitude and mindset to the GBN team.

“He’s brought a lot, not only his skill but just a bright personality, a good kid to have on the team, a good kid to have in the locker room.

“He’s a playmaker,” said Stein. “That’s the one thing I would say about him is not only does he do well on the ice, but he makes the people around him better.”

Captain Andrew Rubin said in a phone interview that Just’s play thus far has been fantastic.

“As I got to know him more and more, I got to realize how great of a person he is,” said Rubin. “Everything’s just been awesome ever since he’s been able to join the team.”

According to Just, his new teammates have made the transition easy.

“These guys have treated me very well and they’ve taken me in as their little brother in a way — like they all love me and that’s really good coming into a team where I didn’t really know many of the guys,” Just said.

In his second game with GBN, Just scored his first goal of his GBN career, a moment he said was surreal.

“I see the goalie come out on me, I’m coming on the left side and I kind of just shoot it far side at his glove,” said Just. “It wasn’t the hardest shot, but I think I placed it pretty well and it went top right corner and I turned around and I was like, ‘There it is, there’s the first one.’”