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The Steinbach Pistons have bolstered an already impressive blueline by adding the top defender from the SIJHL last season, 20-year-old Jack Cook.
The Pistons are sending a Player Development Fee to the Fighting Walleye.
“It’s awesome,” Cook says about becoming a Piston. “My time with the Walleye was an unreal experience. From winning the championship to getting to go to Centennial Cup, I’m grateful for everything they did for me. I was able to talk with (Pistons coach) Paul (Dyck), seeing how he approached the game and just how good the Steinbach program is, it seems like a perfect fit for me. The reputation they have of not only team success but player success, getting them on to D1 and USport programs is just everything I was hoping for.”
Cook put up an eye-popping 21 goals and 50 points in 43 games for Kam River last year, en route to the SIJHL Championship.
Last season combined, the Pistons had 25 goals from their blue line. Cook says he’s looking to bring an offensive punch while also keeping his defensive game well-rounded. “I really like to play offense. I’m an offensive defenseman. I like to use my skating ability and my hockey IQ to really put myself and my teammates in the best position to produce offense. I also take a lot of pride in the D-zone. I know that comes first. Having been to the Centennial Cup, I’m looking to bring some of that experience as well.”
Dyck says Cook checks a lot of boxes and he should fit in very well on the backend. “I wouldn’t consider him a one-dimensional defenseman. He defends well, I think when it comes to the power play he’s going to be a shooting threat, he can shoot it extremely well and we thought it was valuable to add his experience. From his time at the Centennial Cup, he’s also got over 100 games of JR. A under his belt. If you look at our forward group this year, we have a good number that don’t have a lot of JR. A experience. I know he’s not a forward but he’s making our backend that much deeper, smarter, and more poised. He’s going to be an asset for our forwards.
Having also been at the Centennial Cup, Dyck says getting to see Cook in person confirmed what he already had suspected. “We pay close attention during the tournament just in case any of those players ever become available, we want to have a pretty good read on them. When Jack became available, within an hour I let them know we were interested. A bit of time later, were able to come to an agreement and we’re pretty pleased with it.”
Coming in from Thunder Bay, Cook says another Thunder Bay product gave him a bit of the lay of the land once the deal went through. “I talked to Travis Hensrud, he gave me his sense of the team and his teammates, Paul, and the whole organization. He had nothing but great, great things to say and it got me even more excited. It helped me even more to know that it’s the perfect fit for me.”
It’s not just on the ice where Cook is looking to make an impact, he’s also very much looking forward to the charity work and community involvement that comes with being a Piston. “It seems like it’s a very tight-knit town and the Pistons are a big part of it. Getting to play with Kam River last year and getting a hint of the community involvement stuff, I enjoyed interacting with the fans and I can’t wait to do it in Steinbach.”
Heading into his final year of Junior, Cook has both team goals and personal goals. “Knowing that I’m on a winning team, on a team always looking to push every single year, it’s perfect. You play hockey to win, to win the league, and get to the national tournament. In that sense, I couldn’t find a better fit. Personally, right now my goal is to get to a D1 school. Steinbach has the track record that they do, they have a lot of commits every year. I know Paul has some connections and I’m hoping with the year I had last year, I got my name out and I’m looking to really do the same thing this year and get on some radars.”
Bringing in a veteran point producer like Cook is a piece to an evolving blueline that looks to be more of an offensive threat this season, according to Dyck. “I would anticipate Noah Szabo to take a big step in his offensive production from the backend. Spencer Penner and Parker Jasper, too. We should see a bump in our offense from the blueline and it won’t be all on Jack. We’ll have a few guys that can put up some numbers, for sure.”
Cook and his new teammates are expected to come into Steinbach over the next couple of weeks as camp is set for late August. He’ll be wearing his familiar number 26 and jokes, “I know I have some big shoes to fill following (Ty) Paisley last year.”