© Jason Malloy/The Guardian
Guillaume Rioux-Legault goes through a drill Monday morning at the Charlottetown Islanders practice.
Guillaume Rioux-Legault is changing provinces and going back to junior hockey.
The 20-year-old defenceman played the first semester with the UPEI Panthers after failing to win one of the three overage spots with the Charlottetown Islanders.
The Rimouski Oceanic acquired his rights Monday for a seventh-round pick in the 2016 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Rimouski had an overage opening after trading forward Michael Joly to Cape Breton on Nov. 28.
“Guy was playing some important minutes for us,” Panthers head coach Forbes MacPherson said Monday. “Guy was a well-liked guy in our dressing room, but the show must go on. It’s our job to try and secure a body or two here at Christmas.”
A call to Rioux-Legault was not returned by press time.
Injuries, suspensions and players deciding to leave university or not report have hurt the Panthers this fall. It has resulted in the team playing with a short bench many nights and defencemen playing as forwards at times.
Through it all the Panthers (8-6-1) have been able to keep afloat and are fourth in the Atlantic University Sport conference. They went 6-2-1 in November and received three votes in the recent Canadian Interuniversity Sport’s top-10 voting. UPEI was one of five universities to receive votes, but not make the top-10.
Losing Rioux-Legault will hurt, but MacPherson said they would move on.
“It puts us in a little bit of a bind here,” he said. “We’ll just have to roll with it, I guess. We don't have a lot of options in this situation.”
He said he was pleased with the first half his “resilient group” turned in, despite facing adversity on a regular basis.
“It has left the core group . . . just scratching and clawing to find a way every night to manufacture some points,” he said. “They’re to be commended for their efforts and contributions.”
MacPherson said third-year defenceman Derek Ryckman is expected to be ready to play in January. He has not played this season due to a lower-body injury sustained in the off-season. The coach said he was close to being ready before the Christmas break, but the team decided to keep him out of games to provide even more healing time.
MacPherson is looking to see what might be available to add to the roster, as players might decide to further their education after giving the pros a try this fall.
“It’s not easy,” MacPherson said. “There’s only limited players out there and all the schools are talking to the same players.”
The coach said the team is not sure what Darcy Ashley’s status will be after sustaining an upper-body injury late in the first half of the season.
The Panthers are holding a fundraising evening with broadcaster Ron MacLean on Monday, Dec. 14, at the P.E.I. Brewing Company. MacLean will be sharing stories and answering questions from the audience.
Who – A six-foot-four defenceman who played the first semester with the UPEI Panthers. He played the past two seasons with the Charlottetown Islanders.
Hometown – Beloeil, Que.
Age – 20, turns 21 on Jan. 15.
Acquired – The Islanders acquired him from Val-d’Or in August 2013 with an eighth-round pick for a fifth-round pick in 2014.
Numbers game – Rioux-Legault was the odd-man out in the Islanders overage battle this summer. The Islanders went with defenceman Dexter Weber and forwards Quinn O’Brien and Oliver Cooper.
Did you know? In Rimouski, Rioux-Legault will play with Carson MacKinnon, the younger brother of Ryan MacKinnon, who Rioux-Legault played with this year at UPEI and last year with the Isles.
Season GP G A Pts. PIM
2015-16 15 1 0 1 20
2014-15 63 3 12 15 97
2013-14 62 1 8 9 80