For the first time since the 2006-07 season, the Vancouver Canucks will not have Alex Edler‘s name on the opening night roster. The veteran defenceman who played 925 games and accumulated 409 points in a Canucks uniform will be wearing the crown of the Los Angeles Kings when the puck drops on the 2021-22 season in a few weeks. Tucker Poolman, who is 805 games and 390 points behind him, will be one of the defencemen attempting to fill his massive skates.
Poolman will be joining only his second team in the NHL after spending parts of three seasons with the Winnipeg Jets. He ended up finishing his career with five goals and 19 points in 120 games. Now, armed with a new four-year contract that will pay him $2.5 million in average annual value (AAV), he will try to bring his game to the next level with the Canucks. Projected to play in the top-four alongside either Ekman-Larsson or Quinn Hughes, he will most likely be the guy tasked with protecting the defensive zone when his partner jumps up into the play. He will also take some of the shorthanded minutes left by Edler too.
So, as we get ready for another season of Canucks hockey on the beautiful West Coast, let’s find out more about the newest addition to the defence core. Here are five interesting things about Poolman’s life on and off the ice.
#1: Poolman Won a NCAA Championship With Brock Boeser & Troy Stecher
Yes, Poolman was part of the 2016 NCAA Champion North Dakota Fighting Saints that featured the likes of Brock Boeser, Troy Stecher, Drake Caggiula, and Nick Schmaltz. In fact, he actually played three seasons at the University of North Dakota (UND) and wore the “A” in his junior year when he scored a career-high seven goals and 30 points in 38 games. He also walked away with All-American honors and the inaugural NCHC Defensive Defenceman of the Year Award that season.
There was a time when Poolman thought that playing for a university team was impossible. After going undrafted in the NHL Draft and getting rejected by a number of North American Hockey League (NAHL) and United States Hockey League (USHL) teams, he was almost ready to give up on his hockey dream. In fact, in 2012, he applied to UND strictly as a student with no plans of playing hockey with them. It wasn’t until he was finally accepted onto the roster of the Wichita Falls Wildcats that the dream started to become a possibility again.
Then I tried out in Wichita Falls, on the Texas-Oklahoma border…They said, ‘Yeah, you could come back.’ I just kept tryin’ out until they said I was on the team for sure. I didn’t want to take any chances.Tucker Poolman
After a season that saw Poolman record seven goals and 29 points in 59 games with the Wildcats, the ball started rolling downhill. He ended up getting selected 38th overall by the Omaha Lancers in the 2012 USHL Entry Draft and the rest, as they say, is history. After only one season with the team, he caught the eye of the Jets and their scouts and was selected in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft. Then, he exploded with a career-high 15 goals and 41 points in his draft-plus-one year and began his stint at UND right after that, not only as a student but as a hockey player too.
#2: University of North Dakota Is a Family Affair
Along with his father, Mark, who spent 17 years as UND’s strength and conditioning coach from 1995-2012, and his mom, Leanne, who graduated from UND, his younger brother Colton also played four seasons there. Colton was captain of the team in his senior year and walked away with the same NCHC Defensive Defenceman of the Year Award Tucker won back in 2017. He signed a one-year contract extension with the Calgary Flames in 2021 and is now playing with their American Hockey League (AHL) farm team, the Stockton Heat.
Tucker’s baby brother Mason hasn’t committed to UND…yet, but considering the legacy his dad and older brothers have established there, I’m sure he will soon. He just finished his first season with the NAHL’s Austin Bruins where he recorded four goals and 10 points in 46 games. Unlike his brothers, he is a forward, not a defenceman. He is also only 19 years old while Tucker and Mason are 28 and 25 respectively.
#3: Colton & Tucker Played Together on the Same Defensive Pairing at UND
Not many brothers can say that they’ve played together on the same defensive pairing at a legendary school like UND. Well, Colton and Tucker can. Electing to push his pro debut one year to play on the same team as his younger brother, their head coach Brad Berry gave them that experience on New Years’ Eve against Union. They ended up playing as the top-pairing too, which gave Mark flashbacks to when they were young boys.
I have so many flashbacks from when they had their white hair when they were little, tan 6- and 7-year olds with their little shaved heads…I have a lot of those flashbacks with the looks they give when they are talking.
It’s the little things you catch throughout the day more than the wins and the losses. I’m enjoying moreso off the ice. It’s not that I don’t enjoy watching them on the ice, but it’s more the day-to-day things, the little looks and just normal every day little things you may not notice. It’s been very neat to have the two together.Mark Poolman (from ‘Now an NHL prospect, Tucker Poolman had trouble finding a team after high school’, Grand Forks Herald, 3/1/17)
With Colton now in the Flames’ system, maybe one day they will get the experience of playing against each other too.
#4: Poolman’s First NHL Playoff Goal Was Historic
Poolman isn’t known for his goal scoring, but he did something historic during the 2021 NHL Playoffs against Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers. He not only became the first player from East Grand Forks to score an NHL playoff goal but also joined another exclusive club too.
In the history of the NHL, only two other Greater Grand Forks natives have scored a playoff goal, Paul LaDue of the Los Angeles Kings in 2018 and Fido Purpur of the Chicago Blackhawks all the way back in 1944 (from ‘Tucker Poolman scores first Stanley Cup Playoff goal as Winnipeg shuts down Connor McDavid and Edmonton’, Grand Forks Herald, 5/20/21). Interestingly enough, Poolman also played with LaDue at UND. Talk about an interesting and rare coincidence.
#5: Poolman Experiencing Rare Success as a 127th Overall Pick
In the history of the NHL Draft, the 127th overall pick has not been a great place to be selected, especially for a defenceman. Only three have played over 100 games in the NHL, and Poolman is one of them at 120 games and counting. The others are Nate Guenin (2002 Rangers – 205 games) and Christoph Schubert (2001 Senators – 315 games). That’s pretty rare company, especially when you consider that only 17 players in all have ever seen the inside of an NHL dressing room.
Poolman Joins the NCAA Contingent in Vancouver
When Poolman suits up for his first game with the Canucks, he will join a large contingent of former NCAA and USHL players. Remember, he also played for the Omaha Lancers of the USHL before joining UND in the NCAA.
|J.T. Miller||USNTDP Juniors||USHL|
|Brock Boeser||University of North Dakota||NCAA|
|Tyler Motte||University of Michigan||NCAA|
|Thatcher Demko||Boston College||NCAA|
|Conor Garland||Muskegon Lumberjacks||USHL|
|Jack Rathbone||Harvard University||NCAA|
|Quinn Hughes||University of Michigan||NCAA|
|Phil Di Giuseppe||University of Michigan||NCAA|
In addition to the players on the roster today, the Canucks have had a very successful past with the college track. Boasting former stars like Kevin Bieksa, Chris Tanev, and Cory Schneider, they have found some gems within the confines of the NCAA. Here’s hoping Poolman continues that strong tradition. Knowing his work ethic and determination, we probably shouldn’t bet against him.
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Matthew Zator is the assistant managing editor at THW and a writer who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.