We knew that the 2019-20 season was going to be a wash for a lot of prospects in the CHL. At the best some of the leagues started after a lengthy delay. others struggled with a stop-and-start schedule, while the OHL just bagged it all together. The WHL, saw their season start in February and last only 24 games. For players like Jack FInley of the Spokane Chiefs, that meant a lot of waiting around and practicing in small groups or alone.
When he did finally return to action, a shoulder injury required surgery and knocked him out of action for six months. So yeah, the definition of a lost season. Not only did it cost him a few games last season, it also kept him from participating in Team Canada’s National Men’s Junior Development Camp in July. He was invited, but unable to play due to the injury.
Still, there was a little good in it for the big center as he was able to suit up for a few games with the Crunch prior to the Chiefs season starting. In December he also signed his entry-level contract with the Lightning. He’ll be returning to the ice for the Bolts prospect camp later this month as well. So, a little ray of sunshine among the clouds.
The son of former NHLer Jeff Finley was picked with the 57th selection in the 2020 draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning. They actually traded up to make the pick, exchanging a fourth round 2020 pick and a second-round 2021 pick with Montreal. While Finley was selected right around where he was projected to, it was a bit of a surprise that the Lightning took him as they have rarely valued size when drafting forwards.
Finley just turned 19 a few days ago so there is plenty of time for him to recoup the missed ice time last season. At 6’6 and 213 lbs he’ll be one of the bigger players in the WHL this season and he knows how to use his size to his advantage. He has the hockey awareness the Lightning like in their prospects as well.
Finley uses his size along the boards to win pucks and keep them in the offensive zone on the forecheck. Then he can pick out his linemates and set them up with an on-the-tape pass. For a gentleman of his stature he doesn’t take a lot of penalties and isn’t one to resort to fisticuffs or gooning things up on the ice. He only has 84 penalty minutes in 132 WHL games.
He uses his big frame well on offense to screen out the goaltender and wreck havoc in front of the net. His offensive skills won’t wow a lot of folks, but he gets the job done as evidenced by the 19 goals and 38 assists he put up in 61 games during the 2019-20 season.
Can you guess what one of the areas he needs work on? I’ll give you a minute.
Yup, his skating!
Another candidate for the Barbara Underhill School for Amazing Skating Upgrades, Finley will need to improve his footwork to succeed at the next few levels. His size will only carry him so far in the AHL and NHL when he’s competing against forwards equal to or bigger than he is.
The 2021-22 season should be a solid test not only of his shoulder, but to see if he is able to improve some of the areas of the game that he needs to work on. He is another prospect that isn’t in a rush to get to the NHL. After his stint in Spokane, he will likely need a year or two of seasoning in the AHL before making the next step. Right now he seems to profile as a bottom-six forward who can kill some penalties as well. With his size and skillset, maybe a Brian Boyle-like career can be in his future.