Jack Nevins said it was tough saying goodbye to teammates he led during the past season.
The Charlottetown Islanders traded their captain and a fourth-round pick Tuesday to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies for forward Julien Avon and three draft picks.
“I built a lot of good relationships in that locker room and am leaving a lot of good friends,” Nevins said moments after the deal was announced to the team.
“I hugged it out with all of them and said a little thing to each one of them and wished everybody best of luck.”
While tough to be traded, Nevins looked relieved and admitted the past few days were hectic.
“Just knowing where I am going is a weight off my shoulders.”
The Islanders are 16-20-1-4 compared to the Huskies 24-11-3-2. Nevins, a 20-year-old left-winger from Stittsville, Ont., said he had mixed emotions on Tuesday.
“I had two great years, two that I’ll never forget,” he said. “(I’m) excited about the new opportunity to go to a contending team and excited for what that brings.”
Nevins played with three teams in two seasons in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) before being released by the London Knights.
The P.E.I. Rocket asked if he was interested in coming east. He accepted and quickly became a fan favourite with his physical brand of hockey.
He earned a spot in training camp this summer as an overager. He played in a scoring role and responded with 14 goals and 22 assist in 41 games. Nevins was named the Islanders’ first captain in October and signed a three-year deal through 2015-16 with the Montreal Canadiens in December.
“It’s been a whirlwind, but I’m happy where I am right now and this is just another challenge for me,” said Nevins, who was thankful the organization gave him the chances they did. “These guys cared so much about me. I appreciate everything they’ve done.”
With Nevins departure, the Islanders lose toughness and a guy who provided space for some of its young players. General manager Grant Sonier said he believes there is ample toughness in the likes of Zach Beaton, Liam Alcalde and Mike DiPaolo, who has quickly gained a reputation as one of the league’s heavyweights.
With Tuesday’s moves, DiPaolo could see some time on the wing as opposed to the blue-line.
Nevins smashed his stick on the glass as he left the Eastlink Centre with his former teammates practicing Tuesday afternoon. He was driving to Montreal to catch an early morning flight to Rouyn-Noranda and was hoping to play tonight against Drummondville at 8:30 p.m. Atlantic.
To Charlottetown – Julien Avon and first- (Blainville-Boisbriand), third- and fifth-round pics in 2014.
To Rouyn-Noranda – Jack Nevins and a fourth-round pick (Val-d’Or) in 2014.
Avon, 18, is a five-foot-11, 170-pound centre who had a goal and an assist in 21 games this season. The Candiac, Que., native was drafted in the 11th round of the 2012 draft by Rouyn-Noranda.
Nevins, 20, is a six-foot-two, 205-pound left-winger who has 14 goals and 22 assists in 41 games this season. The Stittsville, Ont., native has signed a three-year deal with the Montreal Canadiens.