CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – Hunter Drew learned lots from the overagers he has played with during his time with the Charlottetown Islanders.
The list includes Kameron Kielly, Carl Neill, Francois Beauchemin, Olivier Desjardins, Cam Askew and Pascal Aquin.
Two years ago, when Drew came to Charlottetown from Kingston, Ont., he didn’t expect to be one of the three guys filling an overage spot in his final junior season. But his game has grown significantly during the past year and now the Anaheim Ducks draft pick is looking to pass on his knowledge and help the Isles win.
“I want to help the young guys like the older guys helped me when I was younger,” he said before Tuesday’s practice.
Drew said Kielly, who was his roommate on the road two years ago, helped him significantly as he worked through being a major junior player and fought to get in the lineup on a deep squad. He was really close with Aquin, a heart and soul player, who, like Drew, turned many heads last year.
“He showed me what it’s like to be true leader at 20, so even though I didn't expect to be here a couple years ago, I’m here now,” a pleased Drew said.
The physical defenceman who improved the offensive side of his game a year was assigned to Charlottetown Saturday night and will be in the lineup Wednesday night when the Isles host the Saint John Sea Dogs. Game time is 7 p.m. at the Eastlink Centre.
While some players are disappointed to return to junior, don’t count Drew in that group.
“We’re going to have a good team this year and a really good group of guys, so it’s going to be exciting not just for us (players), but everyone in the province,” he said.
Islanders captain Pierre-Olivier (P.O.) Joseph was returned to Charlottetown by the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday. He had not been to Charlottetown this summer for training camp, so he had to return home to pick up his personal belongings and drive to Charlottetown. He was expected to arrive in town late tonight or early Wednesday and make his season debut Thursday on home ice against the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.
“It improves our room with two guys coming back in, (including) our captain coming back. Nothing but positives coming from this,” head coach Jim Hulton said.
The general manager said the team had Oct. 1 in its plans as when it hoped to have everybody back and be able to finalize its first-half roster.
With Drew back, the Islanders are trying to find a home for Sam King within the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. If that doesn’t happen, the Hampton, N.B., native could play junior A in the Maritimes or elsewhere.
“We’re going to try to accommodate his wishes to stay in the league,” Hulton said.
He said he was forthright with King’s agent about this possibility, but the team has seen NHL teams the past two seasons send Samuel Blais and Alex Dostie to the AHL as opposed to back to junior, leaving the club working on secondary plans as it builds its roster.
“It was an awkward situation for everybody because we didn't know 100 per cent Hunter was coming back,” Hulton explained. “We had to make sure, from a business standpoint, we covered all of our bases.”
Matthew Welsh will get the start tonight against the rebuilding Sea Dogs squad that has a win and an overtime loss in its first two games this season.
“The one thing you can’t do with this team is open it up,” Hulton said. “If you’re not diligent away from the puck, on you angles and checking properly, this young team can burn you. We have to make life difficult for them.”