Billet brothers, Jonah De Simone and Jake Uberti are living their hockey dream with the Niagara IceDogs.
The chemistry the sophomore forwards have developed, on and off the ice, dates back to their time together in Minor Midget.
Selected one pick apart in the fourth round of the 2018 OHL Priority Selection, Niagara IceDogs’ General Manager Joey Burke couldn’t ignore their chemistry, selecting right-winger Jonah De Simone 70th before acquiring his pivot, Jake Uberti, 72nd overall.
When asked if it was at the forefront of his mind to select the Mississauga Reps’ linemates, GM Burke stated, “It really was, but at the same time, drafts are unpredictable so you never really know who’s going to be available. When we were coming into the fourth round with two picks and just Sault Ste. Marie in between, I had a pretty good feeling that we might be able to get both these guys almost back-to-back. It worked out great for us.”
Looking back on draft day, Head Coach Billy Burke commented the team’s overall strategy for the fourth round was that the organization had tagged the pair from the outset.”I know Joey had Jake and Jonah targeted and the fact we were able to snag them both, a pick apart. The guys were really pumped up when it worked out for us.”
Following the draft, committing to Niagara was an easy decision. Both signed just seven days apart in June 2018. Opening a new chapter in their hockey career.
Linemates to Roommates
Moving away from home at the young age of sixteen can be a challenge for any teenager. Jake and Jonah found solace in the fact they did not have to face a new city and a new league alone. Their friendship which started in Minor Midget cultivated with the two now rooming together in St. Catharines.
Both have become adept at reading each other, on and off the ice.
“It makes it a lot easier living with someone you know,” said Uberti. “I’d say Jonah is more intense at the rink; at the house, he’s laid back. It’s fun to be around him. We know each other’s strength and weaknesses, how we play, what we’re capable of, and we hold each other accountable if we’re not playing up to those standards.”
Jonah added his own interpretation of their friendship.
“We have a good understanding of how we function at home,” added De Simone. “We know how to give each other our own space, but at the same time, we know when it’s time to hang out. I think we’ve gotten to know each other, how we like things done, our strengths and our weaknesses. I think we’ve grown into a relationship where we’re comfortable providing each other feedback and when to step in and when to stay back. It’s something that we both appreciate.”
The two have become more than just loyal teammates; they have become family.
“It’s crazy sometimes how the world works,” said De Simone. “I think everything happens for a reason. I’m thankful for that and mindful of that. I’ve said this before but if it could’ve been anyone from that team. I’m glad it was Jake. He’s growing into a brother for me.”
Looking forward to the 2019-2020
The future is bright for De Simone and Uberti in their NHL Draft season after learning on the job in their rookie year.
“Last year we knew with such a veteran team that the big minutes wouldn’t be there for them,” said GM Burke,” but it was important for us to get those guys acclimatized to the pace and the speed and the culture of an OHL season and the grind. I think that pays huge dividends for us going forward. These are guys who are already OHL vets. They’ve acclimatized to the style. They’re already that much ahead of their peers.”
The learning curve will prove invaluable as both players are expected to see expanded roles in their second seasons. Due to the number of IceDogs’ veteran forwards graduating to the professional ranks, and their ability to build on their rookie outputs with more responsibility and ice time.
IceDogs’ bench boss Burke has been impressed with De Simone and Uberti: “We’re expecting a lot from those two. We treat them like veterans even though they’re seventeen and didn’t play a ton of games last season. They were still here and a part of this team. Now they’re ready to lead.”
De Simone (1g-1a) and Uberti (1g) showed off why the organization continues to be bullish over their developmental track, helping Niagara debut a 2-0-0 record to kick-start their 13th season in the Garden City.