Going back to the University of North Dakota well, a player who has impressed recently is Joe Finley. A Washington Capitals first rounder, Finley at first glance seems like one of those pre-lockout defensemen that GM’s dreamed about. A towering 6’7, 252 pounds, Finley was a big body with a ridiculous wing-span and precious little mobility.
To his credit, Finley has vastly improved his skating and is now somewhat rangy, even if he will never be compared to Bobby Orr. He plays with a pronounced mean streak and makes life very difficult for opposing forwards, especially on the PK. Where he differs from former Sioux standout Matt Greene is that he doesn’t take many penalties, and certainly doesn’t take dumb penalties. He has flirted with the 100 PIM mark once, many of those minutes due to his aggressive style of play. Finley is also a tough competitor. He was a feared fighter in the USHL and played part of a college game with a broken arm.
Though he possesses a heavy shot, Finley is seldom ever employed in an offensive capacity. His purpose is to play shut down hockey, a role he performs well. On a team mostly filled with offensive defenseman, Finley can be counted on to play in all important situations.
The Capitals are not likely to rush Finley, as he will need some seasoning to adjust to the speed of the professional game. It would be wise to allow him to finish his college career on a strong team where he can keep improving his skating and mobility. Watch for him to show up in Hershey in the 2009-2010 season.