Ross Johnston, left, and Ryan MacKinnon were introduced as assistant captain and captain, respectively, with the Charlottetown Islanders during a press conference Monday in Charlottetown.
©Guardian photo by Heather Taweel
Homecomings always have a catch.
For Islanders Ross Johnston, 20, and Ryan MacKinnon, 20, that means leading the Charlottetown Islanders to Quebec Major Junior Hockey League glory.
“The pressure’s on,” said Johnston, a Suffolk native, with a smile, “but I’m looking forward to it.”
The QMJHL club unveiled the Island-born pair at a press conference Monday at the Eastlink Centre.
Charlottetown finished 15th overall last year and was swept in four games in the first round of the playoffs by the Halifax Mooseheads.
MacKinnon, the former Rimouski Océanic captain, will wear the captain's C for the Islanders while the behemoth Johnston, a six-foot, five, 224-pound left-winger, will carry an A as an assistant captain on his sweater this season.
MacKinnon, a five-foot-11, 193-pound defenceman, spent two years as Rimouski's team captain after being drafted in the fifth round in 2011.
Captainship is not a new role, but he realizes there is extra weight leading a team in his home province.
"There's definitely pressure (you can) feel, but we're anxious to finally get started," said the Summerside native, who has 10 goals and 57 points in three seasons and a career plus-24 ratio.
Both acquisitions weren't just made by the Islanders for show and for ticket sales.
The pair can play, too.
Johnston, a sixth-round selection of the Moncton Wildcats in 2011, will skate his hard-nosed, physical game with the Islanders as he did with Moncton and Victoriaville last season.
He has 24 goals and 35 assists in 151 career games and should carve out space for a young Islanders team bursting with potential.
MacKinnon is a solid defenceman who can jump into the play if needed and should stabilize the defensive corps in front of 18-year-old goalie Mason McDonald.
McDonald was a second-round pick of the Calgary Flames at the recent NHL draft.
In-season and off-season moves brought in several new players to the Islanders, including rookies Mitchell Balmas and Samuel Guilbault (via draft) and talented European forwards (Filip Chlapik, Filip Rydstrom), along with Johnston, MacKinnon and Saint John Sea Dogs' leading scorer Oliver Cooper, all in trades, to bolster a burgeoning, developing group.
For Johnston and MacKinnon that was part of the reason for coming home in their final year in the Q.
"I expect a winning team. I think this team can contend," said Johnston. "I know that's a bold statement."
There may be something to that reasoning.
Halifax may be depleted this season with the status of forwards Jonathan Drouin and Nicholas Ehlers and goaltender Zachary Fucale up in the air.
Throw in a rebuilding Sea Dogs and Acadie-Bathurst Titan teams and a hard-to-pin-down Cape Breton Screaming Eagles team, and the Islanders may have a shot at its first Maritimes Division title.
"The division really is up for grabs," said MacKinnon. "I've been on some good teams and this looks comparable to those types of teams. We'll definitely be a contender this year."
The Islanders' training camp begins next month in Pownal.
Their first pre-season game is Friday, Aug. 15, against the Wildcats in Moncton and they open the regular season at home versus Saint John on Sept. 12.
• Age - 20.
• Position - Defence.
• Hometown - Summerside.
• Height/Weight - 5-foot-11, 193 pounds.
• Career Numbers - 10 goals, 47 assists, 57 points, 84 penalty minutes, plus-24 plus-minus in 188 games with Rimouski.
• Age - 20.
• Position - Left wing.
• Hometown - Suffolk.
• Height/Weight - 6-foot-5, 224 pounds.
• Career Numbers - 24 goals, 35 assists, 59 points, 290 penalty minutes, minus-13 plus-minus in 151 careers games with Moncton and Victoriaville.