Photography Provided by Nicholas Hudak, The Lantern

As Mason Jobst prepares to embark on an athletic career as a signee with the New York Islanders of the National Hockey League, he can’t help but chuckle when reflecting that his journey began with a rather random gift from his aunt when he was only three years old.

“None of my family really played hockey at all,” says Jobst, a native of Speedway, where he graduated high school. “My aunt just happened to give me a little plastic stick from Target for my birthday. I carried it around with me for a full year, and the next year my parents got me a pair of ice skates.”

Before long Jobst was learning to skate at his grandfather’s pond in Illinois and during trips to Pan Am Plaza in downtown Indy, eventually enrolling in organized hockey leagues by age five.

Even back before junior high school began he was taking the sport seriously, with an eye toward playing at the collegiate level and eventually in the NHL.

“It’s absolutely always been my dream,” he says. “I always told myself that it was going to happen no matter what.”

During his years at Speedway High School, which currently has no hockey program, Jobst was districted to play with the Zionsville Hockey Club and further developed his skills by taking part in USA Hockey’s annual player development camp in Rochester, New York, alongside some of the best young talent in the nation. Jobst led the camp in scoring during his second year there.

The journey continued when Jobst was drafted by the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the United States Hockey League during his senior year, further developing his craft for the next three years while battling a shoulder injury — he tore the labrum in both his left and right shoulder, eventually requiring surgery.

“I was a grinder type guy with the Lumberjacks and that took a toll on my shoulders,” Jobst says. “As a result, I was always rehabbing and didn’t have time to work out and get bigger and stronger. I’m small to begin with, and I only weighed 140 pounds in that league.”

Success — with healthy shoulders to boot — followed at Ohio State University, where Jobst earned a scholarship and became the school’s highest scorer in 30 years, earned All-Big Ten status twice and received All-American honors during his sophomore year.

“The NHL is really opening up to a lot of smaller players, but you have to be able to score,” Jobst explains. “I told myself in college that if I want a shot at the NHL I have to throw up just unbelievable numbers that people can’t turn their back on. So the summer before college started I worked out like a maniac shooting pucks and gaining confidence.”

Jobst finished up his senior season this year as a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, which is given to the top collegiate player in the nation, and earned a degree in real estate within Ohio State’s Fisher College of Business.

In April, his long-time dream became a reality. Jobst signed a two-year, two-way contract with the New York Islanders beginning in the upcoming 2019-2020 NHL season.

“It was an incredible feeling,” he says. “The process of talking to teams and negotiating is very exciting but very stressful. You’re in the dark at times and your agent is handling a lot of things. Once we finally got the paper in hand it was a relief and a dream come true for a team to take a chance on me. I know that with the chance I can make it.”

Jobst recently began workouts with the Islanders, and rookie training camp starts in September.

Having undertaken such a long, injury-plagued journey to get where he’s always wanted to be, his advice to young players is to focus on fundamentals and never lose perspective — especially when physical shortcomings and other hurdles seem insurmountable.

“Being from Indiana, people ask me a lot about the best things to do to get out and get noticed in hockey,” he says. “I always say your time away from the rink is just as important as your practice time with your team. The repetition of practicing and slowly developing and being a student of the game is really important. You have to believe in yourself and believe you can always get better.”