Jack Finley and his family sat in silence in front of their living room television at their home in Kelowna, British Columbia, as the sixth pick was about to be announced during Thursday’s Western Hockey League Bantam Draft.
And then, an eruption of elation.
After the Chiefs expressed interest in Finley prior to the draft, Spokane pulled the trigger on the sturdy 6-foot-3 power forward for their first-round pick.
“Before the draft going into it, Spokane kind of talked to us and they said they were interested in us but couldn’t make any promises,” Finley said. “We were very excited. Just going into the draft we were hoping they were going to pick me.”
Finley scored 48 points (23 goals and 25 assists) for Pursuit of Excellence Bantam Prep this past season, ranking sixth in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL).
“He’s a big forward but he’s got great hands for a big guy,” Spokane Chiefs general manager Scott Carter said. “He’s smart. We project him to play in our top six down the road.”
He has hockey bloodlines, being the son of former NHL defenseman Jeff Finley, who played more than 700 NHL games for the St. Louis Blues, New York Rangers, Winnipeg Jets, Philadelphia Flyers and New York Islanders. He’s currently a scout for the Detroit Red Wings. He played in the WHL for the Portland Winterhawks from 1984-87 and was an assistant coach for Kelowna in 2008 and 2009.
Twitter fodder insinuated the Chiefs may have reached for Finley. Western Elite Hockey Prospects tweeted after Finley was selected: “Noah Boyko and Jack Finley were a pair of players who got better and better and really climbed for us, just not this high.” WHL draft analyst Brayden Sullivan tweeted that the Chiefs picking Finley was “a bit of a surprise.”
But, according to Carter, that’s not the case.
“Teams at No. 7 and No. 9 were going to take him if we weren’t,” he said. “If you don’t draft (a big forward), they’re hard to come by later in trades and such.”
Unlike Finley, the Chiefs’ second-round pick, goaltender Campbell Arnold, wasn’t patiently waiting for his name to be announced.
Arnold was sitting in English Class when his phone incessantly started buzzing.
“I obviously had the idea that something had happened,” he said.
Finally, Finley dialed up Arnold and officially congratulated him and informed him he was picked by Spokane.
Arnold was the Chiefs’ No. 1 goalie on their draft board at 28th overall. He was the second goalie drafted after Garin Bjorklund was taken by Medicine Hat 21st overall.
“We think he’s an outstanding goalie,” Carter said of Arnold.
Carter said he feel like they obtained great value in the draft’s later rounds.
Mac Gross out of Swift Current, Saskatchewan, is an imposing 6-foot-1 defenseman that can move the puck. He posted 19 points in 19 games thi spast season for Swift Current Raiders Bantam AA.
Hunter Hastings, the Chiefs’ eighth-round pick (160th overall) from Scottsdale, Arizona was a player Spokane was ecstatic to nab in the late rounds.
“If he was playing in Canada he may have been a third round player,” Carter said.
Ryan Popowich, the Chiefs’ sixth-round selection at 119th overall, is not particularly big now at 5-foot-10, 170 pounds. But Popowich, the younger brother of 6-foot-4 Vancouver Giants center Tyler Popowich, will likely grow and be a physical imposing player down the road, according to Carter.
“He might be the most greasy, aggravating player in the draft,” Carter said. “He’s just a fierce competitor. He’ll get in your face.
“He could be a fan favorite player down the road. The kind you hate to play against but love to have on your team.”
Carter was confident with his collection of prospects he acquired during his first draft.
“Today, we like them all,” Carter said. “Obviously if we drafted them we think all of them have a chance.”
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