The Charlottetown Islanders may have found their next captain.
The Islanders acquired Summerside native Ryan MacKinnon from Rimouski in a deal announced on Friday. The defenceman was the Oceanic’s captain this year when it tied for the second-best record in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
No decisions have been made, but MacKinnon’s leadership was key to the deal, which sees Rimouski obtain the 16th overall pick in today’s draft.
“He’s going to be such a huge addition for us,” general manager Grant Sonier said.
The Islanders didn’t dress a captain after Jack Nevins was traded on Jan. 7. Assistant captain Troy Vance has graduated from junior hockey while the other two players to wear As at the end of the season, Craig MacLauchlan and Spenser Cobbold, appear to be in a battle to be one of the final overage players with Mike DiPaolo and Anthony Cortese. MacKinnon is only worried about one letter – W – as in wins.
“There’s no doubt in my mind I want to be one of the last 20s on the ice at the end of the year,” he said.
“I know Charlottetown is pretty anxious to have a great year. I know they traded away some key pieces last year to set that up. If I was Charlottetown, I’d definitely be excited.”
MacKinnon said it was tough leaving a Rimouski organization that treated him well for three years, but he was “ecstatic” to think he’ll get more than one game in Prince Edward Island this season.
It’s been a long time coming. The last time MacKinnon played a home game on the Island, he was in Grade 8 playing bantam hockey. He played two seasons of midget hockey with the Notre Dame Hounds in Wilcox, Sask., before being drafted by Rimouski.
“I know my family is definitely excited to have me home. It will be nice to finally playing in front of them for a change.”
MacKinnon had four goals and 18 assists while amassing a +31 rating last season.
“I think he’s got underrated offence, but his strength for sure is his defensive play and his compete,” Sonier said. “We want our team to be harder to play against in our own zone.”
A high compete level and work ethic are items MacKinnon said are important for the club.
“We’re going to try to work as hard as we can, not only for ourselves, but the city of Charlottetown as well,” he said.
MacKinnon said he has learned a lot from players like current UPEI Panther Casey Babineau, former P.E.I. Rocket J.P. Mathieu, Jerome Gauthier-Leduc and Kevin Gagne. He hopes to be able to do the same for the young Islanders this season.
“I am considered one of the older guys now, which feels really weird,” he said. “If I can give them little tidbits along the way, that’s definitely what I expect to do.”
The move will also reunite MacKinnon with MacLauchlan and Ross Johnston. They played against each other in minor hockey with MacKinnon in Summerside while MacLauchlan and Johnston were with Sherwood. They all played spring hockey with the Riptide.