It was obvious early on that Ben Jenkinson had a bright future in hockey. As an eighth grader he joined the Nantucket varsity hockey team for the 2016-2017 season and not only was he a contributor for that team, but he also scored 60 points along the way - including 10 in the playoffs – as a 14-year-old to help Nantucket reach the sectional semifinals.
“We had some studs on that team,” Bryan Larivee, an assistant coach for the Whalers during that season, recalled. “And up until this year, that was the most success a Nantucket hockey team had had - and it was led by an eighth grader.”
Fast forward seven years and Jenkinson, now 20 years old, continues to play the game he loves and develop as a player.
On May 22 it was announced that he would be committing to Endicott College’s Div. 3 club, making him the first male Nantucket native to play for an NCAA hockey team. Jillian Fey, also a Nantucket native, is the only female to play NCAA hockey – playing four years for Boston College’s woman's program from 2018-2022.
Two days after his commitment on May 24, Jenkinson was named the New England Hockey Journal’s 2023 NCDC (National Collegiate Development Conference) Player of the Year for his stellar season with the South Shore Kings where he scored 17 goals and tallied 33 assists for 50 points in 49 games.
Jenkinson said he is excited for this next step in his hockey journey.
“Right away, I mean, Endicott is a great location that is close to home, close to Boston,” he said. “It is a good school. Good academics as well as a great hockey program. So, all of that had something to do with it and the coach was very convincing and very likeable.”
After Jenkinson’s lone season as a Whaler, he received a scholarship to play for St. George’s, a prep school in Middletown, Rhode Island. He attended the school for four years but lost his senior season due to the COVID pandemic, which he said made it difficult to find a junior team.
But everywhere Jenkinson has played, he has produced. He scored 36 goals and had 55 assists for 91 points in 84 games with St. George’s. His best season with the club was in 2018-2019 when he scored 21 goals and 27 assists for 48 points in 30 games.
He played for the Rhode Island Hitmen of the Premier Hockey League of New England for two seasons from 2019 through 2021. He scored 26 points in 26 games.
Then in 2021, Jenkinson got an offer to play for the Connecticut Jr. Rangers of the NCDC. He had success there as well, scoring 11 goals and adding 25 assists for 36 points in 49 games.
But Jenkinson said he wanted to be closer to home and asked his coach to trade him to the South Shore Kings, who are based in Foxborough.
The trade was completed and that is where Jenkinson played in 2022-2023. He had seven points in eight playoff games to go along with his productive regular season. It capped off one of the best seasons of his hockey career – giving him plenty of momentum as he makes the leap to NCAA hockey.
“I’m just trying to get better and I’m really enjoying the game,” Jenkinson said. “I’m really looking to just to have fun and from there, see what happens.”
Jenkinson’s former Whaler head coach DJ Watkins told the Current that it didn’t take long at all for him to see the potential in Jenkinson.
“From the very first time we saw him skate with the varsity team we could tell he had the skill as well as the drive to be someone that not only could compete but could excel at that level even as an eighth grader,” Watkins said.
And he wasn’t a player who could be pushed around either despite other teams trying their very best to do just that, Larivee recalled.
“Teams would try to body him,” Larivee said. “Teams we played against knew we had this stud eighth grader who was the best player on the ice every game and they would just go after him physically. Me and DJ would see it on the bench. But as soon as they started going after him, all it did was piss him off. And when he got pissed off, he just got better. He took games over. He would say ‘alright if you want to do that then I am just going to beat you on the scoreboard.’ He laid some hits too don’t get me wrong. The kid is strong and tough.”
Larivee said one of Jenkinson’s best traits is his ability to be coached and to be a leader himself. He said it didn’t take long for his teammates, some of which were four years older than Jenkinson, to accept him.
“At first, I don’t want to say it is animosity, but it was like ‘hey this eighth grader is coming in’ and you don’t want that eighth grader to be your best player or better than you since you’ve been playing at that level for years," Larivee said. "But at the same time everyone knew who he was. He became a leader as an eighth grader which is unprecedented. So that helped but once he starts putting the team on his shoulders and quite literally winning games for the team, that animosity or whatever it is goes away pretty quickly.”
“We could be down one goal, two goals even late in a game and it was just like ‘B is going to take over and get this done.’
Watkins recalls Jenkinson’s ability to learn and his work ethic as two things that stood out.
“I’m not surprised at all to see the success he has had,” Watkins said. “He is a really good kid, comes from a really good family, works hard and is friends with everyone. I can’t think of a single enemy he has. He does everything the right way, so this is no surprise.”
Jenkinson said during the winter he watched almost every Nantucket varsity hockey game to see his brothers Canton and Jeremy, both freshman, play.
“I would watch a lot of their games online and then I got to come back for a couple too, including that quarterfinal game that was packed,” Jenkinson said. “That game was nuts. It is cool to see them playing out there and enjoying it. They have a lot of fun.”
Jenkinson says he tries to help his brothers as much as he can but acknowledged they each enjoy playing the game their own way.
“I try to sometimes give tips or advice or tell them what I see but you know, Canton has a really feisty game and Jeremy plays a little bit smarter – but I try to give them tips and help them if I ever can. But they have their own games. I am kind of in between those two stylistically. Jeremy likes to sit back and watch the play to see where it is going which I like to do a lot too – but I also like to get into the corners and get in front of the net like Canton.”
As for his advice for any young hockey players on the island with aspirations to go on a similar journey to what he has rode, Jenkinson says to put in the work that goes beyond what you’re doing at team practices.
“Work on your game alone,” Jenkinson said. “Everybody has that scheduled ice time and practices throughout the week, but it is what you do off the ice away from the rink and the effort you put in on and off the ice - all that stuff plays a role, and it matters.”