A pair of Island natives and two of the Charlottetown Islanders’ longest-serving members were released on Monday.
Charlottetown’s Craig MacLauchlan, Stratford’s Zach Beaton, Montreal’s Anthony Cortese and Nathan Yetman, of Mount Pearl, N.L., were the players let go as training camp entered week two with 29 players remaining.
“These are wonderful young men who gave their hearts and souls to us,” general manager Grant Sonier said. “This is not easy to tell kids they can’t play for us anymore.”
The Islanders, coming off a 21-39-3-5 season, added talented players to its roster during the off-season through trades and the draft.
“We’re trying to build something that’s going to really ignite the province,” Sonier said. “We think we’re on the verge of becoming a really, really good team.”
The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) trade window closed on Monday. The next trade period will come in December.
Both MacLauchlan and Cortese were battling for one of three overage spots following the off-season acquisition of captain Ryan MacKinnon and assistant captain Ross Johnston.
Spenser Cobbold and Mike DiPaolo remain in the hunt for the final position.
“I knew it was going to be a tough spot for me to crack,” MacLauchlan told The Guardian. “When I finally got the word, I understood where they were coming from.”
He had two goals and four assists in 57 games last season, but his value to the team went much deeper than what shows on a game sheet, Sonier said.
“He was wonderful for us last year. He’s touched a lot of these young kids and has made them better players,” he said. “This kid is a pro through and through.”
Cortese got caught in the numbers game with three top picks from last year’s draft, plus the addition of MacKinnon and Dexter Weber, who is a similar player and a year younger, on the blue-line.
“Anthony worked hard this summer, but we just feel we have assets that are a little more suited to the direction of our hockey club. Unfortunately, he’s the odd man out,” Sonier said.
Cortese had eight goals and 25 assists in 68 games last season. The five-foot-10, 183-pound blue-liner played parts of two seasons in Charlottetown after being acquired for Kelly Bent on Dec. 22, 2012.
The Islanders’ top pick in the import draft, Filip Chlapik, arrives in Charlottetown on Wednesday night, bringing the roster to 31. There is also the possibility another goalie could be in camp this week.
The team plans to carry 22 or 23 players during the season meaning four or five more players will be released.
“There are still decisions to be made,” Sonier said. “Camp didn’t get any easier, in fact it got harder.”
The full team will likely not be together for regular season games until later in September as five Islanders (Mason McDonald, Johnston, Oliver Cooper, Alexandre Goulet and DiPaolo) will be attending NHL camps.
Yetman was on Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) waivers on Monday while Beaton will go through the process today. The Summerside Western Capitals hold the junior A rights for all four of the players released on Monday.
MacLauchlan said he was talking to teams at different levels outside of the QMJHL and would take his time to make the right decision.
“It’s an unbelievable organization. I was lucky to play there,” he said of the Islanders. “My time there was great and I’ll never forget it.”
Remaining in camp
Players remaining at the Charlottetown Islanders’ Quebec Major Junior Hockey League training camp:
Dexter Weber Will Thompson
David Henley Ryan MacKinnon
Guillaume Rioux-Legault Luc Deschenes
Andrew Smith Lucas Sangster
Duncan McKie David Comeau
Alexandre Goulet Filip Chlapik Daniel Sprong
Ross Johnston Kameron Kielly Oliver Cooper
Spenser Cobbold Filip Rydstrom Bradley Kennedy
Samuel Guilbault Mitchell Balmas Keith Getson
Julien Avon Malik Johnson Josh Shatford
Liam Alcalde Mike DiPaolo