Vanier has been 'rock solid' since joining Islanders: Hulton

Jason Malloy
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Alexis Vanier has found a home with the Charlottetown Islanders after being on three teams in a week earlier this season.

The hulking defenceman was traded from Sherbrooke to Blainville-Boisbriand on Dec. 29 and shipped to Charlottetown on Jan. 2 for a fifth-round pick.

"The trade was good for me," Vanier said before Thursday's practice.

"There were a lot of emotions in three or four days, but that's a part of hockey. I'm happy to be here."

The Islanders were in a bit of a bind during the Christmas break.

Defenceman David Henley had requested a trade home to Val-d'Or, Que., to be close to his family while captain Quinn O'Brien suffered a wrist injury that required surgery.

Vanier has provided the ruggedness Henley offered and a veteran presence to the Islanders dressing room to fill the void created by O'Brien's injury.

"Alex has been a huge bonus for us," head coach Jim Hulton said.

"He's been terrific for us. I think once he got past the jitters of the first couple of games, he's been really, really rock solid."

Vanier said he and Luc Deschenes have developed good chemistry as a pair on the Isles blue-line.

Hulton said Vanier's cannon of a shot and high hockey IQ have helped the power play while he defends well, is physical and brings intangibles to the team.

"He's a real team-first guy; a real, real popular guy in the dressing room."

Hulton has shown confidence in the six-foot-five, 235-pound defenceman playing him in all situations.

"To get back in a situation where he's trusted and believed in and playing a regular role, I think really helped his confidence. His game has really taken off in leaps and bounds."

Vanier suffered a shoulder injury in the Subway series during his NHL draft year.  He had two surgeries during the next two years on the same shoulder.

The San Jose Sharks took him in the fourth round of the 2014 draft, but Vanier has not inked a contract with the club. He would become a free agent if not signed by this year's draft.

Vanier is healthy now and not worried about contracts.

"The only thing I want is to win a championship," the overage defenceman said.

When Vanier was acquired the Islanders were near the bottom of the standings, but have gone 18-7-3-1 since Christmas.

"I knew Charlottetown was going to be good after Christmas. I was happy to join a good team," Vanier said. "Everybody wants to win and everybody believes we can win.

"We have fun and I think that's the key, just have fun, play hockey and work hard every practice."

The Islanders (31-26-5-2) travel to Saint John, N.B., tonight to play the Sea Dogs (41-17-5-0) at 7 p.m. The Islanders have three games remaining after tonight's contest.

Shawn Boudrias practice all week and will be available tonight while Mason McDonald practised Wednesday and Thursday and is expected to play one or both this weekend's games.

Captain Oliver Cooper remains sick and out of the lineup, as the team tries to keep it from spreading to others.

Defenceman Guillaume Beaudry has gone home for personal reasons, but Hulton said the team has left the door opened for his return.

By the numbers

26       Games with the Charlottetown Islanders

6         Goals

10       Assists

16       Points

16       Penalty minutes

Organizations: Islanders, NHL, San Jose Sharks

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Sherbrooke, Val-d'Or Saint John

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