It’s the end of the junior hockey road for Jets prospect, Tucker Poolman.
After two seasons with the Omaha Lancers of the USHL, Poolman accomplished just about everything he could in his junior career and is ready to make the jump to college hockey. The Lancers’ captain led all defencemen with a league-high of 15 goals in the 2013-14 season and was named the 2014 USA Hockey Junior Player of the year.
“It was a really good season. I got to learn a lot, being in my second year in Omaha. We lost in the first round so I would definitely change that, but with all the guys down there and the coaches, it was a pretty close team. That was fun to be a part of; it just didn’t last as long as we would have wanted it to,“ said the 6’3” defenceman.
Director of Player Development, Jimmy Roy, agrees. “I thought he had a really good season. He was a leader in Omaha and I think he stepped up to that. Obviously it showed, the team did really well and he did really well individually.”
Poolman set a franchise record of 29 goals over his two years with Omaha, wearing the Lancers jersey for 122 games and accumulating a total of 69 career points. The blue-liner attributes his success this season to a confidence boost that came with experience.
“I felt the game slowed down a lot this year for me. I felt like I had a lot more time when I had the puck. Just after playing that many games, it’ll happen. I was definitely more confident. I had played a year and practiced all summer,” said Poolman.
It’s this precise work ethic and drive that impressed Roy at the Jets’ Player Development Camp last summer. “He’s a player that came into our development camp last year and was in tremendous shape, very well-conditioned. He watches what he eats, he works hard, he’s going in the right direction with everything off the ice away from the rink. He’s a good kid, he’s a smart, and he has his head on his shoulders right,” noted Roy.
The defenceman’s elite condition comes as no surprise - his father, Mark Poolman, is the Athletic Trainer at the University of North Dakota (UND), where Poolman will begin his freshman year in the Fall.
“It’s my home, I grew up watching them [UND] play so it’s very exciting for me. My dad is the athletic trainer, so I got to hang out there and ever since I was little, it’s all I’ve ever known. It’s really cool,” smiled the Minnesota native.
But having his father on campus may pose its challenges. “It’ll be a little weird at times for sure,” laughed Poolman. “Maybe when I’m there I’ll have to call him…. I don’t know what I’ll call him! I can’t call him dad in front of the guys. Maybe I’ll just call him Mark or I’ll call him coach or something. I don’t know. When I come home we’ll switch roles, but we’ll try and keep things professional,” he added with a laugh.
Having his father on campus won’t be the only adjustment. He’ll be facing bigger and stronger players, and will also play a different role on the team.
“I would think there will be an adjustment period for him because he’s going to come in as maybe a fifth or sixth defenceman and has to put his time in, but I think they’re looking at him to play a big role at UND and they’re looking for him to play the same game he did in Junior,” observed Roy. “It’s going to be good for him because he did go back to play that extra year in Junior and get that experience, so now he’s that much more mature going to College.”
Poolman knows there will be adjustments on the ice, but life outside of the rink will be different as well.
“In college you have to manage your time a lot more. You have a lot more things on your plate with just practice and games and school and living in the dorms. You’re on your own, so you have to find a balance there and not get too carried away with your social life and stuff too.” But the 20 year-old is looking forward to returning home and playing for the team he grew up watching.