Oliver Cooper doesn’t mind getting his nose dirty.
One of the Charlottetown Islanders newest additions scored 28 goals in 68 games for a rebuilding Saint John Sea Dogs club that finished second last in the 18-team Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
“They’re not highlight-reel goals, that’s for sure. They’re more goals that are just coming from the dirty areas and getting to the net,” Cooper said. “I’m not flashy by any means, but I like to get in the corners and I like to create space for my linemates.”
Cooper, a six-foot-three, 197-pound left-winger, ended his third season with Saint John with 57 points and 105 penalty minutes.
“I haven’t really set any benchmarks for myself yet. I just want to go there and contribute as much as possible in all aspects,” the 19-year-old Fredericton native said. “They have a good group of guys there. I think they’re set up pretty nicely for the next couple of years,” he said. “It should be a good experience for me.”
The Islanders traded two first-round picks to acquire Cooper. Islanders general manager said Cooper is a 30-goal scorer with size, grit and character.
“Those are really good qualities that you need in players,” he said.
Cooper said it was “flattering” than Islanders pushed to acquire him.
“Having a team approach Saint John and want me is definitely a confidence booster,”
Cooper broke into the league as a 16-year-old on a deep Sea Dogs club, coached by Islanders Gerard Gallant and Mike Kelly. The 2011-12 team won the league championship by defeating the Rimouski Oceanic, a team that included Cooper’s new teammate Ryan MacKinnon, and went to the Memorial Cup. While Cooper only dressed for a half a dozen playoff games, he said, he learned a lot from the playoff run.
“It showed me what it takes to win and what kind of guys you need on a team to make it all the way.”
Jonathan Huberdeau, who was Saint John’s captain, left Cooper with some lasting impressions.
“He really set the tone for all the young guys and really led the way on how to act on and off the ice.”