CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – Matthew Welsh’s journey to Charlottetown wasn’t simple.
The Islanders owned the fifth overall pick at the 2015 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League draft, but the player they were targeting (Shane Bowers) was taken fourth by Cape Breton. The Islanders decided to trade back and found a partner in the Val-d’Or Foreurs, who parted with the 13th overall pick and a 2016 first-round selection.
Val-d’Or selected goalie Dereck Baribeau and the Isles took centre Shawn Boudrias.
With the first-rounder in the war chest for 2016, then Isles general manager Grant Sonier flipped a second in 2016 and a fifth in 2015 for a 2015 second-round pick (37th overall) with Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.
“When they called my name, I was ecstatic,” Welsh recalled. “I knew ever since I came here this is where I wanted to be.”
But sometimes the business of hockey and the typical cyclical nature of junior hockey doesn’t allow players to stay in one community. Two years ago, as the Isles loaded up for a run built around its 1997-born nucleus, Welsh knew he could be a piece going the other way.
“When they told me that I wasn’t getting traded, and that I was staying here, I was really happy because this is where I wanted to be.”
Welsh and captain Pierre-Olivier Joseph both have played for the Isles for three years while Keith Getson has four years under his belt. They are a big part of the club’s success the past two years and are leaned on heavily.
“We’re all happy to be Islanders for this long,” Welsh said. “This is home for us.”
Sonier said Welsh was one of the players the team was targeting at the 2015 draft.
“There was a little bit of criticism because he was a smaller goaltender in an age where bigger goaltenders were having success, but we really, really liked Matty Welsh and we did some manoeuvring to make sure we could get him,” he recalled.
Size was raised by the Islanders brass during their pre-draft interview with Welsh and the youngster handled the question straightforward and honestly.
“If I play my angles right and I read the play properly, my size shouldn't matter,” Sonier recalled Welsh saying.
And while his numbers speak for themselves, Sonier pointed to Welsh’s work in the community to show his true value to the franchise.
“His parents deserve a lot of credit, they raised a great kid,” Sonier said.