Highly regarded blue-line prospect Tucker Poolman is not ready to sign with the NHL's Winnipeg Jets. At least not yet.

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Highly regarded blue-line prospect Tucker Poolman is not ready to sign with the NHL's Winnipeg Jets. At least not yet.

The University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks defenceman told the Free Press Sunday afternoon an injury to his left shoulder has forced him to put off any decision about his hockey future.

Poolman was injured March 18 when he was hit from behind into the boards during the National Collegiate Hockey Conference championship game.

He practised, but was unable to play in UND's 4-3 double overtime loss to the Boston University Terriers in the NCAA West Regional semifinal Friday night. The loss ended the Fighting Hawks' season.

"It was a tough loss and a tough game and not playing in it was tough, too," said Poolman via telephone. "I'll probably give it some time, (I'm) more so just dealing with my injury right now before I move on to other issues like that...

"I'm getting (the shoulder) looked at this week to see how severe it is and if there's anything that needs to be done. I don't even have an answer yet."

Until his injury, UND's top defenceman was playing between 25 and 30 minutes per game and was the fourth-highest scoring blue-liner in the NCHC. He finished the season with seven goals, 30 points, 14 penalty minutes and a plus-18 rating in 38 games.

The 6-4, 217-pound Poolman is a junior with one year of college eligibility remaining. He stayed at UND for the 2016-17 season in order to play with his younger brother Colton, a freshman defenceman with the Fighting Hawks.

The 23-year-old native of East Grand Forks, Minn., is a classic late bloomer, chosen as a 20-year-old by the Jets in the fifth round (127th overall) of the 2013 draft.

He was asked if it's possible will return to school next fall for his senior season.

"I suppose so, yeah," Poolman said. "A small chance, I'd say."

Five other members of UND's 2015-16 national championship team are already playing in the NHL.

Included in that group are defencemen Paul Ladue (Los Angeles Kings) and Troy Stecher (Vancouver Canucks) and forwards Drake Caggiula (Edmonton Oilers), Nick Schmaltz (Chicago Blackhawks) and Brock Boeser.

Boeser, who made his big-league debut Saturday afternoon and scored the winning goal as the Vancouver Canucks upended the Minnesota Wild 4-2, said Poolman is very capable of making a successful transition to the NHL.

"He's a great guy and a great player," said Boeser prior to Vancouver's game Sunday night at the MTS Centre. "He comes to the rink every day and works super hard. Just watching him, I've known him since three years ago, he's developed a ton. He's big, strong and a great playmaker. He'll be a tremendous player in the future."

His former teammate believes Poolman will adjust quickly to the NHL.

"He's got the size and speed and he can make plays quick," said Boeser. "I definitely think, you know, once he starts playing some NHL games he'll definitely have a smooth transition."

The Jets are believed to be very interested in signing Poolman, who could become an unrestricted free agent on Aug. 15. He said he's not considering the free-agent route at this time but knows the Jets would like to get him under contract.

"I believe so, yes," said Poolman when asked about the Jets' interest. "It just goes back to figuring out what's best for my health long term. Taking a step at a time before making a move to sign."

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

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

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