(Photo: Larry Brunt/Spokane Chiefs)
Tri-City Americans forward Jake Gudelj is ready for the 2023-24 season and wants to get this thing started, even though he hasn’t had much time with his new team.
It isn’t often you see a trade between the Tri-City Americans and rival Spokane Chiefs, but just over two weeks ago, that is exactly what the WHL got when Jake Gudelj was acquired by the Ams, with a 2025 fifth-round pick and a 2026 second-round pick heading back to Spokane at the end of August.
Of course, suiting up for your former team’s closest rival must feel pretty odd, right?
Not according to the 17-year-old Gudelj.
“It’s not as weird as you think. It doesn’t feel really different, it just feels like it’s a new slate, and I’m really excited to be here.”
Something that has been a change for Gudelj in his transition to the Ams, is that guys live closer to the rink.
While he notes that he hasn’t had too much of a chance to see what Tri-Cities had to offer before, he notes that he’s been to the mall with some of the team and to a driving range in the limited time he’s had in the area since the trade. Now that he’s had a chance to look around a bit, he recognizes that it’s a nice place to be.
Though he hasn’t had time to fully immerse himself in the area just yet, his plan for adapting to the systems and style of play of the Americans on the ice is to jump straight into it.
“It’s a quick turnaround. We have plans for doing things as a team, so there’s not much time to give myself to start over. I’ve got to familiarize myself with the systems and my new teammates, but it’s just jumping in quick off the bat.”
The Tri-City Americans and their fans are no strangers to Gudelj, but now that he’ll be donning their home team’s sweater, just what can they expect from the 6-foot-2 192-pound forward?
“It’s been over 20 games that the [Tri-City] fans have seen me away and at home, definitely bringing a big, strong, physical presence, helping out on the offensive and defensive sides, and doing anything I can to help the team win. That’s what the goal is. To win games. What I’m doing is bringing that passion and a little bit of fire to push the team forward and win games. That’s what they should expect.”
Gudelj went on to describe himself as a guy who works hard and “isn’t afraid to lay the bod”.
Ams fans, Goody’s excited to play for you.
During his rookie season in the WHL, with Spokane, Jake Gudelj had been the youngest full-time player in the league. Now, with two seasons behind him, he credits a lot of his learning to the older guys who have been around him as he’s grown up, with the biggest learning experience being adjusting to the pace of play, something he had mentioned he knew would get easier, even at the end of his first year. It’s been about putting his game together and even still, adjusting to the speed of the game is what he worked on over the offseason, citing hockey IQ and cognitive vision being focuses in his summer training. He’s learned that now, it’s not just about working hard.
“It’s about thinking the game smart and thinking the game fast because plays are happening at super quick speeds, so you have to be able to make the right play at the right time, be in the right spot. The game is [still] working hard and giving 100%, but now it’s working smart as well as working hard. That’s a big thing. You only get so much faster, so much stronger, and your shot only gets that much better, but it’s the IQ that separates the professionals from [juniors].”
An improved sense of seeing and thinking the game is something Gudelj says he is excited to bring to the Americans this season.
Another area Gudelj says he has learned more about is how to take care of himself off the ice, stating that he’s “kind of getting a little bit older.” (Ah, yes. The ripe old age of 17.)
“I have to take care of my body more. When I was younger, I could get away with it. Now that I’m getting older, I’m doing a lot more things off the ice – eating properly and doing all the right things. It makes a big difference on the ice and it’s become part of my routine.”
While the Spokane Chiefs narrowly snuck into the 2022 playoffs, they had an early first-round exit after facing a powerhouse Kamloops Blazers team and losing starting goaltender Mason Beaupit to injuries in the first two games of the series. With the Chiefs following that up with a season that saw them at the bottom of the Western Conference, missing out on a chance at a 2023 playoff run, Gudelj says his experiences during his first two seasons have made him more hungry to help his new team not only make the playoffs but experience a big playoff run.
Get to know Jake Gudelj
If you were a fruit, what fruit would you be and why?
JG: Let’s go with a mango because it’s probably my number one favorite fruit. I think I had it every single day this summer. I don’t know why, but every day, for breakfast, a small cup of mango. It’s just so good. Definitely one of the best fruits out there.
We know you’re a big football (soccer) fan and you were a Lionel Messi fan growing up. What are your thoughts on him joining Inter Miami?
JG: I think it’s so sweet. That’s obviously a great deal for him, to be closer to home. It’s a little less money at the moment, but he’d definitely got a good contract going to keep him in the game for a while and he’s going to be able to invest in an expansion team and own part of the team. It’s also good for growing the sport on this side of the world. I’ve actually been talking about it a little bit and entertaining the idea of going to watch him next summer. Go to Miami and watch a game, that would be a dream.
(For those wondering why or how Messi would be able to invest in an expansion team/own part of the team, The Athletic reported that MLS and Inter Miami’s contract offer to Messi had included the option to purchase part of an MLS team after leaving the league or retiring as a player.)
It’s not a Jake Gudelj interview if you don’t talk about Star Wars. Have you seen the Disney+ shows?
What would be your raking of The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, Ahsoka, and Obi-Wan Kenobi?
JG: Definitely not a hot take here, but we’re going to go Boba Fett in the four. Just a little bit underwhelming, and throwing Ahsoka and Mando in there, it was just underwhelming. It could have been better. Then, I’m going to have to go with a hot take, but Obi-Wan in the three. I thought the first five episodes were so mediocre and the storyline was so thrown around. Then, the last episode, you know the one I’m talking about, no spoilers, absolutely carried the show. I don’t think 50 minutes of one show is worth the other five episodes. That’s my hot take of the day. I’m going to go Mandalorian in the two. It is phenomenal and has such a sick storyline. It has basically saved Disney Star Wars. I think that’s such. a sick character and they had some sick cameos. They definitely put a lot of effort into that and I think it should be praised for that. Then, Ahsoka. Number one. It’s just blowing my mind right now and it’s easily the best. The storyline is already so good. Obviously, some things are a little questionable like-“
So that is
- The Mandalorian
- Obi-Wan Kenobi
- The Book of Boba Fett
(Also, in case anybody is wondering, Obi-Wan Kenobi is still Gudelj’s favorite Jedi Knight)
Spokane, one last thing
Jake Gudelj says his time with the Chiefs is not something he’s going to wash down the drain, forget about, and move on from.
“It’s definitely something that has shaped me as a player and a person. I’m going to hold on to some good memories that I made there and some great people that I met there. I’m not cutting that off, but I have to focus on the future as well.”
For Tri-City Americans fans
JG: I’m excited to play in the Toyota Center in front of everyone and bring some Ams hockey to everyone, make a deep run, and make a real impact in the Western League this year.