WHL Next Generation is a 23-part series highlighting a handful of the future stars of the Western Hockey League. From first-round bantam draft picks to later-blooming selections, get to know the names of players set to establish themselves as the newest crop of exciting talent to grace the WHL. From August 1 through August 31, get the inside scoop on the incoming rookie class of 2018-19.
Team: Spokane Chiefs
For most junior hockey players, the months leading up to their WHL or NHL training camps is filled with strength training in hopes of gaining weight and getting stronger. While that is still the case, the 6-foot-5, 205-pound 15-year-old Jack Finley has been focusing more on skill training and improving other aspects of his game.
“I have early workouts and skate everyday,” said Finley. “I just got back from Los Angeles after a week-long an agency camp. It was really fun, and I got to meet a lot of guys from Europe and from the Eastern States. Other than that, I have been skating and working out with some friends as well. I’m excited about the progress I’ve made and I’m excited for the season to start.”
Finley is hoping he can use his strong summer to build off his previous seasons success, where he scored 33 points (11G-22A) in 33 games with the Okanagan Rockets.
“We had a really good team [last season],” stated Finley. “Personally, I got off to a bit of a slow start. It was different playing in Midget from Bantam but once I established myself I thought I started to improve. We had a great coaching staff and the organization is unbelievable. They do a great job of preparing us for the WHL or whatever league we go into next. Overall I happy about the season and I am glad that I chose to play with the Rockets.”
The Spokane Chiefs selected Finley with the sixth-overall pick in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft, a team he was excited to be drafted by.
“With the draft you never really know,” explained Finley. “There are a lot of guys who could go at [sixth]. It just comes down to what teams are looking for and what they think they could develop each player into to help their team down the road. I talked to the scouts from Spokane a lot. They think I have great potential because of my size and vision. Being selected sixth overall was an honour and being drafted by Spokane was beyond exciting and I am hoping that I can play a big role with their team.”
The excitement for playing full-time for Spokane grew when the 15-year-old suited up for his first game in red.
“It was very challenging, stepping up from Midget and going to the WHL,” explained Finley. “It took me a couple games to get up to the speed and the physicality but once I did I started to play better. I had an assist in my second game which was a bit of a confidence booster and all the guys were a huge help. I knew coming out of those games what I have to do to be ready for this upcoming season.”
Finley is hoping to be on the score sheet more regularly this season. He said the feeling of scoring his first point was great but scoring his first goal will be even better.
“I came down the wall and there was no one in front of the net,” Finley said about how he got his first point. “I circled behind the net and waited there until the defenceman came in and I put back to the blue line, our defenceman took a shot and it hit the back of the net. It was pretty exciting.”
The Chiefs prospect is also excited about getting the opportunity to move to Spokane and to get the opportunity to live the junior hockey life with his billet family.
“I’ve lived in Kelowna and grew up watching the Rockets,” sated Finley. “The WHL has been a dream for me since before I can remember. The Spokane Chiefs organization is absolutely incredible and the people there are top class. I can’t wait to step into the league, I love playing hockey and this is the highest league for my age and the league is going to be awesome for my development. It’s going to be a really fun year next year.”
Finley also had the chance last season to suit up for the WHL Cup, where some of the brightest players from each of the four western provinces get to showcase their talent in front of scouts and coaches.
“It was an unbelievable tournament to take part in. The Team, Coaches and Staff were all amazing. They put the team together how they thought they could win and we ended up doing that. All the teams there had so much skill and they were all challenging to play against.”
While Team BC took home the gold medal, they faced adversity at the start of the tournament, which made the win much sweeter.
“We started the tournament off a little slow,” explained Finley. “We lost our first two games, but we knew that every team makes it to the playoffs, so we just kept focusing on those games, the ones that count. We kept getting better and our chemistry grew with every game. We beat Saskatchewan in the semi-finals and faced off against Alberta in the finals. Everyone played their role and we took it to overtime and ended up winning. It was a great feeling and it was an honour to represent my province.”
With a busy summer, Finley hasn’t forgotten that he is only fifteen, and has been spending his summer with friends before he moves to Spokane.
“I love golfing, my dad is a big golfer and my brothers all golf, so I have been doing that with them and with friends and my friends and I play street hockey as well. Family is really important to me and if all goes well I will be living in Spokane come September o I have been visiting with them as much as I can before I go.”
Jack Finley and the Spokane Chiefs will be starting their journey for the Ed Chynoweth Cup when they kick-off their pre-season when they take on the Portland Winterhawks at the Angel of the Winds Arena in the Everett Silvertips Tournament at 3:00 p.m. PDT.
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