‘Down on the farm’ is a bi-weekly feature series on Oil Caps prospects. Next up in this series: Jake Poole. Enjoy.
By Lanny Stewart
As soon as Jake Poole heard the news, he was all smiles.
“I was excited to go to Virden,” said the 16-year-old Oil Caps prospect whose rights were acquired via trade by Virden last November in a multi-player deal with the Waywayseecappo Wolverines. “I’ve watched them play ever since I was a kid. They’ve developed so many good players who are playing college, WHL, or pro hockey. It was a good feeling knowing I was going to a good organization.”
Oil Caps management is thrilled to have Poole amongst its list of prospects as well considering the first overall pick in the 2017 MJHL Bantam Draft has the makings of a player who could really make a difference with Virden in the not-too-distant future.
“He’s the total package,” said Jamie Hodson, director of business and hockey operations for the Oil Caps. “He’s very much a naturally gifted, skilled hockey player. He knows how to play at both ends of the ice and he’s very aware of his responsibilities at the defensive end. On top of that, there’s obviously a lot of local connections with family and relatives and being close to Virden.”
Born and raised in McAuley, Poole’s local connections from a hockey perspective stem from his father Robin, who played in the MJHL with the Dauphin Kings years ago. Poole’s Dad also had a cup of coffee in the WHL as well with the Brandon Wheat Kings and Regina Pats. His roots coupled with his overall love of the game is why Jake has become so invested in hockey.
“Whether it was playing mini-sticks with friends, or skating at the outdoor rink in front of our yard that my dad built every year, I just loved being on the ice; it’s something I’ve always enjoyed,” Poole said.
Poole is currently in his second season with the Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League’s Yellowhead Chiefs – and he’s off to a stellar start this year. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound forward is leading his club in scoring with 15 goals and 31 points in 21 games as the Chiefs currently sit tied for second place in the standings (as of Nov. 26).
“Jake has always had an excellent work ethic, so his skating has improved a lot especially over the last year,” said Chad Facey, Chiefs head coach. “Being that he’s a returning player in our program, he’s been given opportunities and he’s taken full advantage of them.”
Poole attended Oil Caps spring evaluation camp last year and was at the club’s training camp earlier this fall – and management came away impressed with what they saw.
“He really showed at 16 years of age, he was already showing he could make the jump to this hockey league,” Hodson said. “He’s with a very good team at Yellowhead and I think between Jake, his family and the organization, it was felt that it would be best for him to develop with the Chiefs this year. In saying that, he showed that he could be on our hockey team now.”
The Oil Caps had Poole playing down the middle during camp and in exhibition games earlier this year and believe that’s a possibility of where he’ll fit in the lineup if he dons an Oil Caps jersey in the not-too-distant future.
“We believe he’s a very intelligent, smart hockey player that can play up the wing or the centre position, which is not an easy position to play. At centre, there’s a lot of responsibility at both ends of the ice, and how Jake played in camp and in exhibition, he showed he has a high hockey IQ; were excited where the possibilities lye with him no matter the postion he plays.”
Poole is also a sixth-round pick by the Kelowna Rockets in last year’s WHL Bantam Draft and it’s conceivable, as his hockey career continues, he could end up in the WHL.
“We don’t have any guarantee with Jake and we don’t ask for that,” Hodson added. “He’s going to end up doing what’s best for Jake Poole. We hope we’re a part of that and if we’re not, we understand. It was the risk worth taking at the time. We feel whatever he decides, we’re going to back him up. If that’s developing him one year to get to the WHL or maybe he commits to here and then goes the college route, then we’ll gladly be a part of it. We feel strongly enough about him and we feel he could be in the next couple of years, a centrepiece in accomplishing our goal of being a championship contender on a yearly basis.”
Coach likes what he sees in Poole
Troy Leslie, Oil Caps head coach and GM, doesn’t mince words when describing Poole’s skillset.
“He’s just a very good hockey player,” Leslie said. “I think he’s got very good hockey sense. He sees the ice well and can make plays. He strikes me as a guy who wants to be on the ice a lot. He wants to be on the ice at key times; I think he relishes that kind of thing.”
Leslie believes Poole has a bright future ahead of him.
“Obviously there’s a lot of work to be done but the potential is there. I’d like nothing more than to get him into our program and help him along in his development.”
Hole: ‘He’s definitely improving’
Patty Hole, Oil Caps power skating instructor, began working with Poole in the spring and it’s clear the extra work he’s put in has paid off on the ice.
“Every time I’m with him, he’s working on his edges,” Hole said. “In order to be a great skater, you have to use your edges effectively and I can see he’s definitely improving in that area each day.”
She says it’s obvious to her that Poole is dedicated to his craft and wants to improve.
“He’s willing to learn. He spends a lot of time working on his stride and has much quicker feet as a result.”