Top defensive prospect will make camp cuts a tough call

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EDMONTON — He was a question mark coming into camp as he worked his way back from off-season double shoulder surgery while getting his first taste of pro hockey.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/09/2017 (1889 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

EDMONTON — He was a question mark coming into camp as he worked his way back from off-season double shoulder surgery while getting his first taste of pro hockey.

But Tucker Poolman continues to impress his boss.

“He’s had a real strong camp. He hasn’t had a dip, he hasn’t had a lull,” Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice said following Saturday’s 6-2 loss in Edmonton.

JASON FRANSON / THE CANADIAN PRESS Winnipeg Jets' Tucker Poolman (3) and Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid (97) battle for the puck during second period pre-season NHL action in Edmonton, Alta., on Saturday September 23, 2017.

Poolman played 16:51, registered two shots on goal and blocked a shot while going minus-one. He spent plenty of five-on-five time matched up against superstar Connor McDavid.

“It’s hard to assess a guy coming out of college. There’s a big unknown for all of them. It’s obvious the skill set. He’s big, he moves, he can shoot the puck, he’s showing some nice hands to make some plays. But you don’t know until you get into the heavier going. But he handles it well,” Maurice said.

With the Jets’ top-six defence appearing to be set and Ben Chiarot likely slated for the seventh spot, where Poolman fits in remains a mystery. Does he go to the Manitoba Moose and log big minutes for his first pro experience, or stick with the big club for added depth from the press box?

Time will tell.

***

JC Lipon is likely destined for another year in the American Hockey League. He certainly helped his cause as a future recall option with a strong showing in Edmonton, which Maurice singled out for praise in his post-game comments.

Lipon made the most of his 10:35 of ice time, scoring a power play goal, dishing out three hits, firing two shots and dropping the gloves for a spirited scrap with Jujhar Khaira.

“I just try to do something every night to try and get another game,” Lipon said.

Mission accomplished, as he remains with the team following Sunday’s round of cuts.

***

Hockey is filled with examples of players who could light it up in junior but flopped at the pro game. But Maurice thinks there’s a future player in Michael Spacek, who scored a power-play goal in his exhibition debut Saturday.

Spacek is coming off an impressive 30-goal Western Hockey League campaign. He should be a key player for the Moose this season, but could find himself in the Jets conversation sooner rather than later.

“We’ve liked him right from going back a couple years. His body’s changed an awful lot in two years. He’s quite a bit bigger, stronger. But what he had two years ago he still has,” Maurice said. “He’s got a real nice vision in the middle. And he passes the puck very accurately and very hard. He’s one of the few guys I think that can break into the league at some point at centre and stay at centre. Usually the young guys get out to the wings a little bit and (don’t) come back in until they learn the game. But he’s got a real good understanding about body positions. And he can take the puck in the middle of the ice in our own end and do something with it.”

***

On paper, it looked like a line filled with exciting offensive potential. Yet the trio of Nic Petan, Kyle Connor and Jack Roslovic never really got going in Saturday night’s game in Edmonton.

“Penalties. Penalties all night long,” Petan said of the lack of flow. “We were talking about it on the bench. Every three to four minutes there was a penalty. If we had a five-on-five shift there were only one or two in a row. But that’s no excuse for us three, we probably should have a little more offensive ability there. The plays were there, you could see them, we were just a touch off.”

The three combined for zero shots on goal, although Petan hit the scoresheet with an assist on Spacek’s power play goal. He played a whopping 21:22, leading all forwards and trailing just defenceman Dustin Byfuglien.

“The legs were getting a little tired by the third,” Petan said. Maurice has moved him to the wing, stating he believes it to be Petan’s best shot to make the team.

Petan said the sense of urgency must increase for himself and his teammates heading into the final three preseason games with a 0-3-1 record so far.

“We’ve got to start getting some wins here in the preseason just to make ourselves feel a little bit better,” he said.

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

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