Finley excited to join Ice

Towering forward looking forward to run at WHL title

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Jack Finley was born in St. Louis, grew up on Kelowna, B.C., and played the first three-plus seasons of his major-junior career with the Spokane Chiefs.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 07/12/2021 (249 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Jack Finley was born in St. Louis, grew up on Kelowna, B.C., and played the first three-plus seasons of his major-junior career with the Spokane Chiefs.

His next stop on his hockey journey, following a multi-player trade Monday, is in Winnipeg where he will join the Ice for run at a WHL championship. The Ice acquired Finley and a seventh-round pick in the 2024 WHL Draft in exchange for winger Chase Bertholet, 18, centre James Form, 19, and a second-round pick in ’24.

The contrast between his current and former team is stark. Winnipeg won 22 of its first 25 games while the Chiefs were dreadful, losers of 15 of their first 21. And so, it wasn’t a big surprise when the struggling Chiefs dealt their most valuable asset to a contender.

Supplied New Winnipeg Ice forward Jack Finley.

Spokane GM Scott Carter called the 19-year-old centre with the news.

“Our team was not doing as good as we’d hoped at the start of this season (and) he thought it would be a good opportunity to get some younger players and some draft picks and to try and look for the future,” said Finley in a Zoom call with reporters Tuesday. “So for me, I kind of had an idea in the back of my head. But (when) he called me yesterday and broke the news to me it was definitely bittersweet.”

Ice head coach James Patrick said he’s heard rave reviews about Finley’s presence on and off the ice. A 2020 second-round pick of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, the 6-6, 223-pounder plays a bruising game with plenty of offensive upside.

Patrick suggested teaming Finley up with wingers Cole Muir and Jakin Smallwood could be an excellent partnership.

“You always wonder how your lines look and we’ve got a lot of options now,” said Patrick. “I think it gives us a balanced attack. It gives us four lines that can play against anyone. And as far as matchups and who’s the shut-down line or who’s an offensive line, I think that’ll all work itself out. We’ll have plenty of time to figure those things out.”

Finley won’t immediately join the Ice. He’s due to travel to Alberta for the start of the national junior team selection camp Friday and is one of 21 forwards trying to make the squad.

In Winnipeg, Finley will be reunited with his former Pursuit of Excellence academy teammate Connor McClennon, who leads the WHL with 20 goals.

“I can’t remember if we played together — probably not — he was probably on the first line (and) I was buried (in the lineup) there but he’s a great player, obviously doing really good this season,” said Finley, who got some further intel on his new team from his father Jeff a former NHL player who is a scout with the Winnipeg Jets.

“I talked to my dad about about the team and… we’re both excited. They’ve got a mixture of good older guys and young guys and the coaching staff is great.”

Finley was asked what he expects to contribute when he finally touches down in Winnipeg.

“I’m a big body, two-way play-making centre,” said Finley. “I think I bring a different element and that’s… size and strength to a lineup and I think with my game I can shut down other teams’ top lines, kill penalties, take the faceoffs… in key moments. Offensively, I’m a great playmaker.”

Winnipeg isn’t the only team loading up for a title run at a championship.

The Central Division-leading Edmonton Oil Kings got the jump on their rivals by trading earlier for defenceman Kaiden Guhle, probably the best player on the market, and another talented blue-liner, Luke Prokop.

Edmonton GM Kirt Hill shipped two players and four draft picks, including two first-rounders, to Prince Albert for Guhle and gave up two players and a pair of picks to the Calgary Hitmen for Prokop.

Hill may not be finished wheeling and dealing but it won’t be a response to what the Ice or other contenders might be doing. The league’s trade deadline is Jan. 10.

“They’re a good group,” said Hill of the Ice. “They’ve got lots of talent and I think we were always anticipating they would do something. I don’t know if it’s as much watching what other teams do but just really understanding what we have as a group and what we need to do to make it feel like we have the deepest team possible to go on a long playoff run.”

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Reporter

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

History

Updated on Tuesday, December 7, 2021 7:39 PM CST: Cuts reference to number of games the elder Finley played

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