The Chiefs selected forward Jack Finley of Kelowna’s Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy with the sixth overall pick of the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft. At 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds as a 14-year-old last season, he projects as a power forward at the WHL level. Finley will participate in his first Chiefs Training Camp this August and be eligible to play for Spokane full time starting with the 2018-19 regular season.
We chatted with Jack about his draft experience, playing style and excitement about becoming a Chief for this Q&A.
Q: Getting drafted sixth overall… what was that moment like for you? What was your reaction?
JF: On draft day, my three siblings and parents and I were watching in our living room. I had heard the night before that Spokane might be interested with the sixth pick but they couldn’t make any promises. We were crossing our fingers and when I heard my name called we all went crazy. It was an incredible feeling and I just couldn’t be happier to be drafted by such a great organization.
Q: How would you describe your style of play? Are there any professional players you try to emulate?
JF: I’m a big two-way centerman. I’m reliable and can play any role. I try to use my body as much as I can down low and in the corners. I have good vision, which helps me in a lot of ways I think.
I try to play a lot like (Detroit Red Wings forward) Anthony Mantha. He’s a big guy with great skill and uses his body to get shots off and help his team.
Q: What are your biggest strengths on the ice?
JF: I think my biggest strength is my hockey IQ. I know how to play and where I have to be in any system. I always try to know where my teammates are to make plays that the defenseman maybe aren’t ready for.
Q: One of the things Chiefs scouts (and Chiefs’ Director of Player Personnel Chris Moulton) mentioned that they liked about you was that you continued to improve throughout the season. Is there anything in particular that you worked on this season to really improve your game?
JF: I was lucky enough to be on a great team with great players so I think going in to practice every day with the mindset to be the best and push myself really helped. I worked on playing with speed and just skating for two hours every day has helped a lot.
Q: Chiefs forward Eli Zummack is also from Kelowna and went to the same POE hockey academy as you. Have you had any interaction with Eli before or after the draft?
JF: I had seen Eli around and knew of him but hadn’t ever met him before the draft. He was actually working out at the POE facility (in Kelowna) after so I decided to introduce myself and he was really nice. He just said “congrats” and was really happy for me to be part of the organization, told me a few things to expect.
Q: You have a reputation for stepping up in big games. Is that fair to say? Is there anything different you do for big games?
JF: I guess so. I just go into the game knowing that I have to be at my best and focused. I don’t do anything different. Just make sure I’m ready for the game.
Q: How has your dad’s experience as a player and scout influenced your development as a player? (Note: Jack’s father, Jeff, played 708 NHL games as a defenseman from 1987-2004, primarily with the St. Louis Blues. He is now Chief Amateur Scout for the Detroit Red Wings.)
JF: I can’t remember much of his playing career but since I’ve grown up he’s let me develop for myself and always just been really supportive. I’m really appreciative of how supportive he and my mom are. They’ve helped me develop my own love of the game and following (my dad) around WHL rinks really helped me understand what hockey is all about.
Q: Who is the best athlete in your family?
JF: You know, I’m not sure. My dad was, for sure, but my two younger brothers (hockey) and my older sister (soccer) are all great athletes too, so it’s tough to say now.
Q: Did you know anything about the Chiefs before getting drafted?
I didn’t know much in terms of details about the organization, but when they contacted my parents I got to know a little bit. I’ve heard (Spokane Arena) is a great rink and a Spokane is a great town to live in.
Q: Have you ever been to Spokane? The U.S.?
JF: I was there (in Spokane) for an atoms hockey tournament when I was younger but I don’t remember much about it. I was born in St. Louis and lived there for two years (as dad was finishing his career), so I’m really excited to play there and my family is too.
Q: Obviously as a 15-year-old, you won’t have the opportunity to make the team full-time this season. What are your goals for your first training camp (in August)? Anything that you’re most excited about? Nervous about?
JF: Going into camp I just want to soak up everything I’m taught and take as much as I can from the guys about how they work and how they practice. My goal is to be the hardest-working draft pick and represent myself well on and off the ice.