CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – Brett Budgell has decided not to play for the Charlottetown Islanders this season.
The key part to that sentence, for head coach and general manager Jim Hulton, is the last two words.
Budgell informed the Islanders, who selected him with their top pick (25th overall, second round) in June’s draft, on Sunday night that he wasn't prepared to play major junior this season, but hasn’t committed to an NCAA school.on Sunday night that
The Islanders second pick, Seacow Pond native Brad Morrissey, has committed to the University of Maine. Both players are only entering Grade 11 and Hulton hasn’t closed the book on either playing in Charlottetown.
“Maybe it didn't work for the here and the now, (but) I’m not going to give up on the fight,” he said late Sunday night. “I still think at some point both Morrissey and Budgell will wear our jersey — it just might not be this year.”
The Islanders knew both players were considering the NCAA route when they drafted them, but considered selected them educated gambles. Hulton said Budgell and Morrissey are not posturing like other junior-age players have done in the past.
“Neither one asked for any more over and above their packages that were offered; nobody asked to be traded,” Hulton said. “There was none of that. In both cases, they didn't feel comfortable playing at our level this year.”
Hulton said Budgell’s father said they were exploring the possibilities of Brett playing in the BCHL this season.
While the Islanders felt both youngsters were ready to play for them this season, 16-year-old players rarely make huge impacts in major junior. If neither ever join the Islanders, it would hurt the team’s talent base for future seasons. Hulton said the team’s staff would meet and review their plans for future drafts after going through this process during the past couple of months.
Hulton, who also has experience from the OHL, said it’s not a new problem and it has been raised the past two years at year-end league meetings. There is no compensation for players selected in the second round or later who do not report to junior teams.
Hulton said he was looking forward to getting on the ice today and working with his players in preparation for the upcoming season.
“I’ll be Goddamned but there’s going to be a competitive team on the ice this year,” he said.
The Islanders reduced their training camp roster by six on Sunday, cutting goalie Marc-Antoine Dufour, 18, and forwards Cameron Bisson, Tyler Dam, Johnny Foley, Zac Thususka and Evan Gallant.
It leaves the Islanders with 25 players. Defenceman Pierre-Olivier Joseph is attending camps with the Arizona Coyotes while forward Adam Marsh will join him Sept. 5.
Dufour (Valleyfield, Que.), Gallant (St. Stephen) and Thususka (Summerside) will be junior A affiliate players.
The Islanders have two goalies, nine defencemen and 14 forwards vying for roster spots.
Hulton said he liked what he saw out of Dufour, but decided to go with returnee Matthew Welsh and rookie Dakota Lund-Cornish.
“He had a really, really good camp, but to me, it doesn't make much sense having two ’99 goalies,” Hulton said. “Dakota had a really good camp as well. We’re fortunate in the fact that, we think, we finally have some really good goaltending depth in our organization.”
The trade window closes this morning while there is a waiver process for 19-year-old players who are not signed with teams on Tuesday.
The Islanders gave up five third period goals to lose 6-1 to the Acadie-Bathurst Titan Saturday.
The Islanders are now 0-3-0-0 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League pre-season action.
Cayse Ton scored on a penalty shot in the first period for the Isles lone goal.
Welsh was peppered with 52 shots, including 22 in the final frame, in the loss.
Training camp roster
A look at the players remaining on the Charlottetown Islanders roster:
Pierre-Olivier (PO) Joseph
Up next – The Islanders return to action on Sept. 9 when they play the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in North Sydney, N.S. The teams play in P.E.I. on Sept. 16 at the Cavendish Farms Wellness Centre in Montague. The Isles complete the pre-season on Sept. 17 at the Eastlink Centre in Charlottetown against the Titan.