CHARLOTTETOWN – It was a customer service experience Ed McNeill will always remember.
The 15-year-old defenceman from Summerside was one of three members of the Charlottetown Bulk Carriers Pride to be selected in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Draft on Saturday. The Blainville-Boisbriand Armada called McNeill’s name in the 11th round, 198th overall.
“I was actually helping a customer when my brother (Sam) told me the Armada took me, and it pretty well made my day,” said McNeill, who works at Source for Sports in Summerside.
In 34 regular-season games in the New Brunswick/P.E.I. Major Midget Hockey League, McNeill registered 15 points – four goals and 11 assists.
“I thought I had a really good season, offensively as well as defensively,” assessed McNeill, who is five foot nine and 150 pounds. “I had an unbelievable coaching staff. Travis (MacIsaac) was our D coach, and every day we took 10 minutes in practice to work on defensive zone coverage, getting shots from the point and mainly focused on our skill set on the point.”
McNeill admitted that while it was “an unbelievable feeling” to be drafted in the Q, he still wants to consider his options. Players cannot spend more than 48 hours at QMJHL training camps without losing their eligibility for college hockey in the United States.
“I am not certain yet what I am going to do,” said McNeill, who describes himself as a two-way defenceman.
Pride defenceman Cole Larkin of Mermaid and goaltender Erik MacInnis of Stratford were also drafted on Saturday.
Covehead’s Keiran Gallant, who is attending Stanstead College in Stanstead, Que., was taken as well.
Larkin, who was the third Prince Edward Islander drafted, was selected by the Halifax Mooseheads in the second round, 34th overall.
“I was hoping I would always get drafted by a Maritime team,” said Larkin. “The Mooseheads are a great organization, and I’m very happy to get drafted by them.”
Larkin is planning on attending the Mooseheads’ training, but he is going in with realistic expectations.
“I know they are hosting the Memorial Cup this year, so it might be tough for a 16-year-old to make the team,” explained Larkin. “I will go there and give it my best effort, but if not I will come back here and play midget next year.”
Larkin, who recorded one goal and 11 assists for 12 points in 33 regular-season games in his rookie season with the Pride, describes himself as a defensive defenceman.
“I can see the ice well, create plays and make a good first pass getting out of our own end,” he said in describing his style.
The six-foot-one and 167-pound Larkin enjoyed his first full season with the Pride.
“My year with the Pride was great,” said Larkin. “The coaches were really good to me, they taught me lots and I found my game really improved.
“At the start of the year I wasn’t really sure how it was going to go as I was a first-year midget. As the year went on I started getting a lot more comfortable and started playing better hockey. Towards the middle and end of the year, I felt the coaches really trusted me in big situations.”
It has been a long road back for MacInnis, who was selected by the Victoriaville Tigres in the 10th round, 175th overall.
“I felt very honoured to be picked,” MacInnis told the Journal Pioneer in a phone interview. “I am pretty excited that I am being noticed, and have the opportunity to make a Q team.”
MacInnis, who was sidelined for nine months with a knee injury suffered during the 2016-17 season, returned to the Pride lineup halfway through the 2017-18 campaign.
“I didn’t get an opportunity to get drafted my first year (of eligibility), but it was not the end of the world,” said the 17-year-old MacInnis, who is five foot 10 and 165 pounds.
“You just keep moving on. I just put in a lot of hard work, it paid off and it feels good.”
MacInnis, who went 7-1-3 (won-lost-overtime losses) while registering a 2.55 goals-against average and .915 save percentage in 12 regular-season games, pointed out he was “very thankful” for how the Pride stood behind him during his recovery.
“Especially the way (head coach) Luke Beck believed in me,” added MacInnis. “That meant a lot.”
The Charlottetown Islanders drafted Gallant in the 13th round, 226th overall.
“I was pretty surprised,” added the 15-year-old forward, who registered two assists in 14 games with Stanstead College. “I didn’t know if I was going to get drafted or not. It was a pretty nice surprise.”
Gallant, who is from Covehead, said it means a lot to be drafted by his hometown team.
“It makes it more special because it’s close to home, and I grew up watching the (P.E.I.) Rocket and Islanders the past couple of years,” said Gallant, who has given a lot of thought to going the major junior route or keeping his options open for U.S. college hockey.
“I haven’t decided yet,” said Gallant. “We will see how it goes.”
Asked to describe his style, Gallant answered, ““I bring energy, keep it simple and make plays.”