New Brunswick native has been key contributor team team's success in rookie season
Lukas Cormier’s abilities on a hockey rink belie his birth certificate.
The Charlottetown Islanders defenceman, who turns 17 on Wednesday, has been a key contributor for the Charlottetown Islanders since Day 1 of the regular season.
Head coach and general manager Jim Hulton said he tries to guard against having undue expectations with young players.
“(But) there’s an old expression, ‘You’re ready, you’re ready’,” he said. “As the coach, you have to force yourself sometimes to stay out of the way. I think that was the case with Lukas, keep feeding more rope and if he keeps climbing, keep giving him more and that’s kind of been the case with Lukas.”
The Sainte-Marie-de-Kent, N.B., native jumped off the page for the Islanders brass with his smarts and skating ability at the Monctonian. When he was available with the fourth overall pick at the 2018 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) draft, the Isles landed their guy.
They thought they were getting a cornerstone defenceman – a guy who could receive the torch from captain Pierre-Olivier (P.O.) Joseph as the next stud blue-liner to wear the white jersey with black shoulder tops and harvest gold trim, as announcer George Matthews describes them.
They were right but they couldn’t have anticipated the transition would occur so soon.
“It’s unbelievable,” 20-year-old defenceman Hunter Drew said.
“You don't even think he’s 16. If you look at his little baby face you do, but if you watch him on the ice, you think he’s been around for a couple of years. He just skates so well and moves the puck so well and continues to get better.”
Cormier is a level-headed young man who doesn’t get ahead of himself. He said he didn't set goals for himself entering the season because if he didn’t reach them, he might be disappointed.
“I just try to do the best I can to help the team win,” he said before Wednesday’s practice.
“It was a great year and we had of lot of fun and the work is not over,” he added. “We’re playing a good team (in Cape Breton), but I think if we play our game, we should be fine.”
The Islanders opened the first round of the playoffs Friday night, but results were unavailable at press time. Game 2 goes today at 7:30 p.m. at the Eastlink Centre before the best-of-seven series moves to Sydney, N.S., for the next two games on Tuesday and Wednesday.
While this is Cormier’s initiation to the QMJHL playoffs, he has played in big games before at the Telus Cup last season with the Moncton Flyers and the Under-17 World Hockey Challenge earlier this season.
“The impressive part with Lukas is he’s not a guy that is fuelled by emotion. His emotional demeanour stays the same,” Hulton said, noting the youngster doesn’t exhaust himself by riding highs and lows. “I don't think he’s going to be fazed by (the playoffs).”
Cormier had 15 goals, including seven on the power play, as part of a 36-point rookie campaign, but it was his plus-24 on a team that didn't have a high-octane offence which impressed his coach.
“He’s on the ice in the last minute in the most important game of the season because we believe in him – we trust him,” Hulton said.
“I can contribute to the offence (while) not sacrificing defensive play,” Cormier said. “I think I can make good passes and have a high hockey IQ.”
Cormier was elevated within the first few weeks of the season to play with Joseph.
“P.O. was a really good teammate and player to play with,” Cormier said. “I think he really helped me. It was sad to see him go, but we got some good players in return.”
Need to know
Who – A 16-year-old defenceman with the Charlottetown Islanders
Size – Five-foot-eight, 170 pounds.
GP G A Pts. PIM
63 15 21 36 46
Did you know? Cormier holds the franchise record for most goals by a rookie defenceman with 10, surpassing Adam Polasek’s previous high of seven set in 2009-10. Cormier is second to Polasek in points by a rookie defenceman with 36 to Polasek’s 41.
Teammate Jordan Maher said: “He’s so offensively gifted with the puck, so some of the stuff he does, makes me go ‘wow’.”