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2022 Tampa Bay Lightning Top 25 Under 25: #13 Jack Finley

The big man in the middle showed what he could do when healthy.

Spokane Chiefs v Seattle Thunderbirds Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

It’s going to be a big season for the big man in middle. Jack Finley, after a 2020-21 season interrupted by an injury, bounced back with a strong 2021-22 season in the WHL. The 6’6” center scored 27 goals and added 23 assists total for two teams (the Spokane Chiefs and the Winnipeg Ice). Most importantly, he played in 60 regular season games (and 15 more playoff games). Seeing how he had played in just three the previous season, just seeing him on the ice was a big victory.

Now the question, and he can begin crafting the answer this weekend in the prospect showcase, is can he convince the organization that he is ready for pros? At 20-years-old the Tampa Bay Lightning have the option of having him play another season in the WHL or he can play in the AHL with the Syracuse Crunch.

Finley will have the next couple of weeks to convince the powers that be that he is ready for the Crunch and the rough and tumble lifestyle of an AHLer. The good news for Lightning fans is that he has not only has the size, but also the compete level needed to be successful in the league.

One thing playing in his favor is that the Crunch don’t have a lot of natural centers on their roster right now. Veterans Gabriel Dumont and Gemel Smith are likely to take the first two spots (if Smith doesn’t earn a spot on the Lightning roster) but after that it’s pretty open competition. Newcomer Felix Robert may line up down the middle, but most of the other forwards that will be in Syracuse this season have played out on the wing.

It’s almost required to mention that Finley’s skating isn’t up to NHL levels at this point in his career, pretty much every scouting report write up mentions it, but is that big of deal in the grand scheme of things? He’s never going to be Dmitri Afanasenkov streaking up and down the ice, but as long as he can get to a league-average ability, he can be an effective player in the NHL. The Bolts have seen improvement year-over-year and there is no reason it can’t continue. After all Dave Andreychuk skated with a piano on his back for 23 seasons and that didn’t hurt his hall of fame career.

Chances are that Finley’s NHL career doesn’t quite reach the heights of Captain Dave, but he could still be quite useful to the Lightning. Right now he is projecting out as a fourth-line center that will likely kill penalties. With his size and ability to win net-front battles, he will likely see some power play time as well. There is a good chance that he could pot double-digit goals in the NHL and if a team is getting that from a fourth-line center, well, they’re doing quite well.

The St. Louis native bumped up seven spots from his 2021 Top 25 Under 25 ranking, which was a nice reflection on his strong season. The writers all had him between 11th and 13th with Hardev being the highest on him, placing him in his top 10. Our readers had him at 13th and the writers consensus was 12th. There is room for him to bump up in the rankings with another strong year.

It’s not a clean face-off win, but it’s still a win. He then skates straight to the front of the net, backing off the defenseman before fighting off a couple of stick-checks and potting the goal.

You can make a pretty good living in the NHL tipping pucks home from the front of the net.

Finley shows some decent straight line speed here on this goal. Once again, he gets to the front of the net where the magic happens.