5FW Originals: Ex-ECAC Rivals Jillson, Julseth-White Set To Make Pro Debuts Together In Las Vegas

Former Union captain Nolan Julseth-White will be joined by Cornell’s Locke Jillson on the Las Vegas Wranglers roster this year (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

Once rivals, now teammates.  There are many fun stories to watch in the ECHL this year, but Cornell’s Locke Jillson and Union’s Nolan Julseth-White signing with the Las Vegas Wranglers in the offseason certainly has to be one of the more intriguing ones.

Jillson and Julseth-White certainly saw plenty of each other playing in the ECAC for the past four seasons, but developed a mutual respect as their college careers wore on.

“Union was so strong,” recalls Jillson.

“He was a great player on the back end, but they had so many other good players too. It was definitely not the most fun team to play against in my last couple years. My junior year, I think we had 15 combined shots against them in two games. There’s no fond memories from those two games. But it’s exciting, because you go through the roster on that Union team, and you’re excited to play with anyone because they were so good.”

Julseth-White had similar sentiments.

“Cornell’s got a great program there, it’s a very tough team to play against,” he said.

“Him individually, I remember him being a very skilled, pesky forward that was tough to cover down low. Cornell as a whole, our toughest games were probably against them this year. They took it to us some games, and we got the better of them other games. But I’m definitely looking forward to getting to meet him and getting to know a new bunch of guys and getting ready for the season.”

Both players said the prospect of playing for Wranglers head coach Ryan Mougenel was a key factor in their decision to join the Wranglers.  Certainly, Mougenel is happy to have both players on board. 

Julseth-White is a 24-year-old defenseman who captained the Dutchmen all the way to the 2012 Frozen Four, where they ultimately lost in the semifinals to Ferris State.  As it turns out, that was a more interesting few days for the Chillwack, BC native than anyone might have known.  He’d worked out a deal with the AHL’s Rochester Americans to join them and make his pro debut after the tournament had ended, but the deal ended up falling through.

“I was going to go to Rochester, and basically I had to cross the border and didn’t go home the summer before,” he said.

“I’d been in the States for too long, and my visa would have been voided and I wouldn’t have been able to graduate. It was right after the Frozen Four, the day after it, when this all happened, and I was pretty mentally exhausted from losing and then that all happened.”

So now, Julseth-White is set to make his pro debut with the Wranglers this season.  He says that even though he didn’t get a taste of the pro game last year, that his time in the ECAC prepared him plenty for the next step.

“The ECAC is a very competitive league from top to bottom, you’ve got to be prepared to go every night,” Julseth-White said.

“One through twelve, it’s just a very competitive league and that worked well with my style of play. I’m a very competitive player and it’s prepped me for this jump.”

As for Jillson, he’s already got experience on the big stage.  Well, sort of.  The 24-year-old forward scored a goal in each of his appearances for Cornell at Madison Square Garden during the “Red Hot Hockey” event against Boston University. 

“I think I’m averaging a goal a game there. If you can find someone else on the Rangers that has a better goals per game, you let me know,” joked Jillson.

“It was just a lot of fun, that was one of the best experiences I’ve had playing hockey. Truly surreal. I was fortunate enough in both games to have a memorable moment for myself. But just as far as taking it in, you had to do it every single time in warmups. Just take a few moments and take in the whole scene. Seeing 18,000 people all in red, both BU and Cornell, that was definitely the most memorable experience I’ve had in hockey.”

Jillson, who said he felt like he was “hyperventilating” after his breakaway goal at “The World’s Most Famous Arena” during his sophomore year, says that the lockout affected his offseason and that he’d certainly like a chance at the AHL if everything works out in Las Vegas.

“The American Hockey League, I think that’s the next step I’d like to take,” he said.

“I didn’t really have any idea (about available opportunities). I wanted to play somewhere, and be in a good situation with a good coach that had a good reputation, and that’s exactly what I’m getting in Vegas.”

Jillson is also slated to make his pro debut with the Wranglers after tallying double-digit point totals for the Big Red in each of his final three seasons there.  Like his new teammate Julseth-White, Jillson has never even been to Las Vegas, and it sounds like he’s got some family members who are hoping he doesn’t enjoy it too much. 

“I think my parents and other people are hoping that I’m pretty underwhelmed by it all.  I think at the very least it’s going to be great for my golf game this year,” Jillson quipped.

“I’m excited for a lot of different reasons. It’s a notable city, it’s one where if you can think of something to do, it’s going to have it. There’s a lot of other towns where you might have your options limited. As far as friends coming to see me play, it’s a lot easier to catch a flight to Vegas than it is other places. It doesn’t require much convincing at this point.”

Julseth-White managed to sum it all up.

“Living in New York for the past four years, I’m mature enough to realize that I am there for a job and to work, and not get distracted by things like (Vegas),” he said. 

“It obviously is an exciting town and an exciting town to play in from what I’ve heard. All around, I’m looking forward to it being a great experience. I’ve never been to Vegas, and it takes a lot to surprise me. I’m sure I’ll have my moments. But right now, I’m just focused on hockey and getting into camp and getting off on the right foot.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

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