CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – The boys are back in town.
The Charlottetown Islanders open main camp today with fitness testing. The rookies were here alone since Wednesday and some have stuck around for main camp with others being re-assigned.
Today will be the first opportunity for head coach and general manager Jim Hulton to address his club.
“You’re hoping that they won the summer with their fitness level,” he said. “I’m hoping to see a team . . . that's already in elite shape. That tells me, No. 1, there’s a been a real true commitment during the summer.”
Here are a few more news and notes heading into Day 1.
One of the off-season’s biggest acquisitions was the drafting of Nikita Alexandrov, a 16-year-old German. Hulton said he was the Islanders best player at the rookie tournament during the weekend in Moncton and reminded the coach of a Czech pivot with blond hair and an eastern European look.
“Not to put the burden of that expectation on him, because we don't expect him to come in and be Filip Chlapik,” Hulton said, but “I think he’s going to be a real high-end offensive player throughout his career here.”
While there has been an exodus of talent from the organization after last year’s visit to the league semifinal, there remain plenty of building blocks for 2017-18.
Hulton likes the core, including defenceman P.O. Joseph, a first-round pick of the Arizona Coyotes, veteran forwards Keith Getson and Pascal Aquin and goalie Matthew Welsh.
“It's going to be fun group to coach,” he said. “I really think it’s going to be one the fans are going to fall in love with. It’s going to be that little, scrappy underdog group. . .
“(With) those kids leading the ship, we’re in pretty good hands.”
The Islanders completed the rookie tournament in Moncton Sunday with an 8-2 loss to the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.
They went 1-2-0-0 during the three-day event.
“It’s really not about the result, it’s more of an evaluation tool,” Hulton said. “We were quite happy with it and pleased with our younger players.”
He liked what he saw out of goalie Daktoa Lund-Cornish, a third-round pick in 2016, and the hussle, drive and determination of centre Zac Beauregard, a 10th-round pick in June out of Esther-Blondin College.
“The early grades on our draft, I think, are very favourable. You could see a lot of promise from some of our depth picks,” Hulton said.
On Sunday, the Titan held period leads of 2-0 and 6-1.
Drew Johnston and Evan Gallant scored for Charlottetown with assists to Nathaniel Doyon, Antoine Leblanc, Jason Gallant and Zachary Arsenault. Hugo Duteau allowed five goals on 15 shots in 30:26 before giving way to Nathan Boyd, who allowed three goals on 21 shots.
This is the second year for the rookie format. Hulton said from talking with some of the rookies on Sunday it helped show them the speed and skill of junior hockey. He used the analogy of climbing stairs towards main camp and regular season games.
“You can go a step at a time,” Hulton said. “You don't have to jump up a couple.”
The Islanders have added two free agent defencemen from Ontario.
Jaimen Allison, who turns 18 Nov. 1, is a six-foot-four, 210-pound, right-shot defenceman. He played in the OHL with the Oshawa Generals and in the GOJHL with the London Nationals.
Taylor Egan, 19, is a six-foot, 190-pound, left-shot blue-liner who has played with the OHL’s Erie Otters and the CCHL’s Pembroke Lumber Kings.
Hulton said they had been working on getting both to come since May.
“You plant a lot of seeds (and) you never know when they’re going sprout. These both came up in the 11th hour.”
The Islanders hoped forward Alex Dostie would return this season as one of their three overager (OA) players.
That now looks unlikely after he signed a pro contract with Anaheim.
“The OA situation is still up in the air,” Hulton said.
Adam Marsh didn't sign and is coming to camp, but will be a few days late due to a family function.
He attended Coyotes development camp and was invited to the main camp.
Forwards Aquin, Will Bower and Dillon Boucher are all coming to camp while defenceman Tyler MacArthur wants to play in Ontario.
A couple of returning players won’t be on the ice for the next few days.
Defenceman Hunter Drew re-injured an ankle injury while running the other day while winger Boucher has a knee injury.
The team will be on the ice at the APM Centre in Cornwall for scrimmages on Tuesday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 7-9 p.m.
A look at the roster for the Charlottetown Islanders main camp that begins today in Cornwall.
Matthew Welsh, Dakota Lund-Cornish, Hugo Duteau, Marc-Antoine Dufour and Thomas Gayle.
P.O. Joseph, Dominic Hachey, Noah Massie, Antoine Leblanc, Dominic Argento, Brandon Clavelle, Taylor Egan, Saku Vesterinen, Hunter Drew, Jack Desroches, Alexis Gaudreau and Jaimen Allison.
Adam Marsh, Pascal Aquin, Dillon Boucher, Sam King, Nathaniel Doyon, Drew Johnston, Connor Peveril, Will Bower, Keith Getson, Gregor MacLeod, Evan Gallant, Eli Di Meo, Sam Meisenheimer, Matthew Grouchy, Zac Thususka, Thomas Casey, Nikita Alexandrov, Johnny Foley and Cameron Bisson.