CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – Derek Gentile was looking for a change a year ago.
He found that and more when he was dealt Jan. 2 by the Quebec Remparts to the Charlottetown Islanders.
“It’s completely different,” he said Wednesday. “Anyone will tell you there’s no place like the Island when you’re playing hockey here, especially the people that surround the team that are so great. It changes your career for the better.”
Gentile had played the first 2 ½ seasons of his Quebec Major Junior Hockey League career with the Remparts. His name was out there in the rumour mill this time a year ago as the trade window was about to open.
“It’s a weird feeling for sure,” Gentile said, while acknowledging young hockey players must remain professional. “We have to find a way to bring that same level of compete and composure every night regardless of what’s happening off ice.”
Tonight, Gentile and his Isles teammates will play his former team. The squads only see each other twice a year but have a history with the Islanders eliminating the Remparts in the first round of last year’s playoffs.
“It’s always going to be weird, I think. . . no matter how long you’re away,” Gentile said. “You have to keep it serious. You still play with a purpose. You’re still out there to do a job.”
A year ago, the Islanders were a defence-first team looking to boost its offensive production. The Sydney, N.S., native has helped, scoring at a point-per-game clip regardless of who he has played with.
“He’s a versatile guy in terms of he can (play) in a lot of different places,” head coach Jim Hulton said. “He’s one of those kids that flies under the radar sometimes, but then you step back and look at the stat sheet and the numbers are there.”
Gentile is second to Daniel Hardie on the team in scoring with 27 points in 27 games.
Gentile’s calling card has always been his speed.
“Derek’s biggest attribute is his legs,” Hulton said. “When he attacks with quickness, his skill comes into play after that.”
Islanders goalie Matthew Welsh, a Halifax native, started playing against Gentile in atom hockey. They became teammates with under-14 and under-15 provincial teams and then with Team Nova Scotia at the 2017 Canada Games in Prince George, B.C.
“We’ve been friends for a long time,” Welsh said, noting his excitement a year ago to hear they would be teammates again. “He’s a special player, and we were really happy to acquire him.”
Welsh said Gentile has an offensive pedigree that can be a game changer in tight games. Hulton said he was one of the team’s best forwards in the playoffs and the squad is looking for a big second half from him.
“He ended up being a huge part of our playoff run,” Welsh said.
“He plays with a lot of grit. He plays that Cape Breton style where he doesn't take anything from anyone. He plays with a chip on his shoulder, and I love his style of play.”
Need to know
Who – A member of the Charlottetown Islanders.
Size, position – Five-foot-eight right-winger.
Personal – Gentile is a 19-year-old Sydney, N.S., native.
Drafted – The Quebec Remparts selected Gentile in the fourth round (70th overall) at the 2015 draft.
Acquired – The Remparts dealt Gentile and a third-round pick in 2019 to Charlottetown on Jan. 2 for forwards Matthew Grouchy and Gregor MacLeod. The third was flipped to Shawinigan for Cam Askew.
Season GP G A Pts.
2015-16 54 6 14 20
2016-17 66 22 13 35
2017-18 37 14 19 33
2017-18 30 9 19 28
2018-19 27 6 21 27
Heading towards the break
A look at the Charlottetown Islanders remaining games before the Christmas break.
7 p.m. – Quebec at Charlottetown.
7 p.m. – Charlottetown at Moncton.
3 p.m. – Halifax at Charlottetown.
Wednesday, Dec. 12
10 a.m. – Moncton at Charlottetown.
Friday, Dec. 14
7 p.m. – Charlottetown at Saint John.
Saturday, Dec. 15
7 p.m. – Charlottetown at Halifax.