Lots of work done previously to put Islanders in position to add: Hulton

Jason Malloy jmalloy@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on January 8, 2017

Charlottetown Islanders assistant captain Kameron Kielly, left, meets new head coach Jim Hulton following an introductory news conference at the Eastlink Centre in 2015.

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – Charlottetown Islanders general manager Jim Hulton was thinking of his predecessors on Thursday after closing a handful of deals he hopes help take the team on a Presidents Cup run.

The first-year Islanders GM completed eight deals since Dec. 22 that landed the team overagers Francois Beauchemin and Carl Neill, 19-year-olds Adam Marsh, Alex Dostie, Dillon Boucher, William Bower, Nicolas Meloche and Jean-Sebastien Taillefer as well as 18-year-old goalie Mark Grametbauer.

“Without Grant Sonier none of us are in this position,” Jim Hulton said. “I feel like I am the lucky guy that gets to run the last leg of a relay race, but not to be forgotten are the legs that were run before. Without that there is no sprint down the finish.”

Sonier was the GM for three seasons, 2013-14 to 2015-16. He hired Hulton as head coach before the 2015-16 season. The Islanders didn’t renew Sonier’s contract after last season. Hulton picked up the GM duties and implemented a new structure.

Hulton said Sonier laid the foundation for the team from the drafting of Daniel Sprong and trading for Kameron Kielly in 2013, the year the former P.E.I. Rocket franchise became the Charlottetown Islanders.

Hulton also included the work of coaches Gordie Dwyer, Luke Beck and Connor Cameron in helping the young players develop. Some of those players were used to acquire veteran players this season.

“You have to live through the pains to have the rewards,” Hulton admitted. “The hard part of the business is when you’re not there to see the rewards.”

And while the Islanders have mortgaged some of the future with the deals during the past few weeks, the general manager said the cupboard isn’t empty.

The team can return goalies Matthew Welsh and Mark Grametbauer, defencemen Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Saku Vesterinen and Hunter Drew, as well as forwards Keith Getson, Gregor MacLeod, Matthew Grouchy and Sam King as a foundation. It also has the potential of having some high-end overage players and if there’s a surplus, they could be used to acquire other assets like the team did at the draft with Bradley Kennedy.

“We don't want to take a run and then be horrible,” Hulton said.

It still has Baie-Comeau’s second-round pick this year and Val-d’Or’s first-round pick in 2018. Baie-Comeau and Val-d’Or are currently among the bottom five teams in the league.

While some of the Islanders top prospects from last year’s draft are also potential players, Hulton acknowledged the team will have to replenish the system through free agency and by hitting on some mid-round picks. The team did that in 2015 when it drafted Joseph in the fifth round and Grouchy in the sixth.