Record: 52 – 20 – 10
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This article was published 7/9/2017 (288 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Rubbing shoulders with some of the big boys at Bell MTS Iceplex on Thursday was exactly what promising young defenceman Tucker Poolman needed.
Poolman, 24, from East Grand Forks, Minn., was anxious for a test. By his own admission, he passed with flying colours.
He wasn’t set on wowing anyone during a fast-paced, physical workout with the group of players the Winnipeg Jets have since sent to Penticton, B.C., for the annual Young Stars Classic tournament against prospects from the three other western Canadian NHL clubs.
He was simply eager to see how two surgically repaired shoulders would handle something well beyond the loose brand of shinny he’s been playing back home the past few weeks.
This "was that hurdle, I guess. I feel fine, I feel good," said Poolman, a 6-4, 217-pound, right-shooting blue-liner. It "was the first time with full-out contact and I feel good, so I’m happy with it. Once I had the first couple of hits, in my mind I was good.
"They feel more sturdy in general, in terms of pushing things, passing, doing what you need to do on the ice. They feel just solid right now, which is a comforting feeling that you can rely on that."
Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said Poolman, who signed a one-year, US$1.775-million, entry-level deal with the NHL club on March 30, will likely play at least one game at the prospects’ tournament this weekend.
The Jets open tonight against the Vancouver Canucks at 9:30 p.m. CT, play the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday at 9:30 p.m. and finish up Sunday at 12:30 p.m. against the Calgary Flames. All games are on TSN 1290 Radio and fans can watch the games live on winnipegjets.com.
Poolman had just completed his third season with the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks before inking the deal with Winnipeg. He becomes a restricted free agent with arbitration rights next summer.
Highly regarded as a puck-moving defenceman, he posted 30 points (seven goals, 23 assists) in 38 games as a junior with the UND last season but was injured March 18 when he was hit from behind into the boards during the National Collegiate Hockey Conference championship game.
He was unable to play in UND’s 4-3 double-overtime loss to the Boston University Terriers in the NCAA West Regional semifinal last Friday. The loss ended the Fighting Hawks’ season.
Poolman went under the knife to fix his right shoulder the day after he signed his first pro deal and then underwent a procedure on the left shoulder three weeks later.
"It was tough at first. It takes so long to recover and get to the point where you can start rehabbing and stuff," he said. "With the double, there was kind of an overlap to where I needed help eating. I gotta thank my mom for that, getting me through that for a week or two.
"I trust the doctors. They said I’d get better and it slowly gets better."
Other players suiting up for the Jets in Penticton include goalies Mikhail Berdin and Jamie Phillips, forwards Jansen Harkins, Michael Spacek, Mason Appleton and Jordy Stallard and defencemen Logan Stanley, Sami Niku and Leon Gawanke.
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The issue of upping the age of NHL draft-eligible players to 19 has come up yet again.
A group of executives led by former all-star NHLer Pat LaFontaine continues to look at increasing the draft age in order to improve player development. Currently, the league allows players who are, or will be, 18 years old by Sept. 15 in the year of the draft to be eligible to be selected.
Pushing a player’s eligibility back a year would, indeed, open a can of worms. Players are at the age of majority, can vote and earn a full-time paycheque, so would any teen take legal action because the NHL is preventing him from making a living? Certainly, the NHL Players’ Association wouldn’t allow the move without a major dust-up.
A couple of Jets prospects were asked to weigh in on the issue following a skate at the Iceplex.
Logan Stanley, a defenceman drafted in the first round (18th overall) of the 2016 NHL draft, said leaving the eligibility at 18 is appropriate.
"At 18, it gives you a couple of years in junior to develop with your team. We are prospects. We are young kids and that’s what they’re drafting on. They want to try and develop players into what they think we can be," said the 6-7, 240-pound player from Waterloo, Ont., who won a Memorial Cup national junior title with the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League this spring.
"Obviously, people in Winnipeg saw it last year with (Patrik) Laine. He was ready for the NHL at 18. Some guys are (ready) and then for me I needed another year in junior."
Cleveland-born forward Jansen Harkins was selected by Winnipeg in the second round (47th overall) of the 2015 draft. He had a terrific junior career with the Western Hockey League’s Prince George Cougars and was called up to the Manitoba Moose at the end of the past two seasons, scoring three goals and adding four assists in 10 pro games.
Harkins, whose father, Todd, played 11 years of pro hockey, including 48 games split between the Calgary Flames and Hartford Whalers, said he was definitely ready for the draft at 18.
"Being a kid in Canada, you want to be drafted and it doesn’t come soon enough," he said. "I wasn’t ready to play in the NHL then... but it’s the right time to start identifying guys and start building them towards pro, because it’s a big step and it takes a lot of time and it’s an advantage to be drafted younger.
"I’ll stick with how it’s at now because I know how excited I was. You’re usually in your second year of junior and it’s something to look forward to. For me, I wouldn’t have wanted to wait an extra year. Most want to get drafted right away and get the NHL dream started."
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Assistant sports editor
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).