Hockey players wanting to know how to be a good team player could learn a lesson or two from Charlottetown Islanders Sam King and Hunter Drew.
The duo saw their playing time dwindle down the stretch last season after the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) squad loaded up for a deep playoff drive.
“They didn’t bitch and moan about it. They put their nose to the grindstone and made themselves better players, and their rewards are now,” head coach and general manager Jim Hulton said.
King and Drew both said it wasn’t easy being healthy scratches and watching the team down the stretch a lot of nights from the press box.
“It was definitely hard mentally, but I was just lucky enough to be there and be with that group of guys that are all skilled and talented,” King said. “Even just being on the ice with them in practice all year long . . . helped develop me as a player.”
“Not playing a lot helped me grow a lot as a player,” Drew added, “to go home and work a lot harder and come back this year and play a lot and play a bigger role.”
Drew showed his versatility a year ago, dressing for games as a forward when the team needed him up front. This year, he’s found himself a fulltime home on the Isles blue-line.
“It’s nice to know that coming to the rink every day you’re going to be playing and playing the same position,” he said.
Both players said they were lucky to have good lines of communication with the coaching staff last season.
“I knew we were going to end up going for it at the end and I was just hoping I could stay the rest of the season here and be in the league,” King said. “It was definitely hard knowing I wasn’t going to be in the lineup, but I just worked hard every day hoping I could get my chances.”
Drew said the coaches let him know they liked his game when he did play and his effort during practice.
“I think that helped me coming back (this year) to know, even though I didn't play a lot last year, that they still believed in me for this year.”
King was acquired from the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada in August 2016 for Sebastien Paquette while Drew came out of the dressing room after a camp in his hometown of Kingston, Ont., to find an Islanders scout looking to see if he would be interested in trying out with the QMJHL team.
“I was excited to get the opportunity, but I was a little confused. It was obviously far (from home and) I had never been to P.E.I. before, but I’m happy I came,” he said with a smile.
While the duo weren’t making a lot headlines for their play a year ago, they weren’t being a distraction either. It was noticed by their teammates who encouraged them along the way.
“They don't get as much credit as they deserve. They put time in each day,” assistant Kameron Kielly said during the playoffs.
Both appreciated the veteran’s words.
“It goes to show that they realize how hard it can be for us and that we’re out there pushing them as hard as we can to help them out and help our team win,” King said.
Drew said Kielly and Filip Chlapik were two of the guys who helped him last season.
“They told me just to stay with it and things will work out and, I guess, right now they’re working out,” he said.
Getting to know
A look at Sam King and Hunter Drew
Position – Left wing.
Height, weight – Five-foot-nine, 183 pounds.
Hometown – Saint John, N.B.
Season GP G A Pts. PIM
2017-18 28 5 6 11 17
2016-17 44 4 4 8 20
Head coach Jim Hulton: “Sam is a valuable, valuable player here who just kind of flies under the radar.”
Position – Defence.
Height, weight – Six-foot-one, 186 pounds.
Hometown – Kingston, Ont.
Season GP G A Pts. PIM
2017-18 27 2 12 14 55
2016-17 42 0 3 3 69
First goal – Oct. 29 at Halifax.
Head coach Jim Hulton: “Hunter has blossomed into a legitimate top-four junior defenceman and the majority of it is through hard work. He’s now to the point where he’s a mainstay on our penalty kill and he’s also seeing time on the power play.”