CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – The Charlottetown Islanders leadership trio is staying put.
Isles head coach and general manager Jim Hulton said the team has committed to defenceman Pierre-Olivier (P.O.) Joseph, the squad’s captain; goalie Matthew Welsh and overage forward Keith Getson for next season. It was a message delivered during exit meetings following the 2018 playoffs to help put the players’ minds at ease heading into the off-season when some teams decide to trade veterans to other clubs.
“We want to build on this year’s success. . . It’s not a step back time,” Hulton said. “There’s no reason to believe we can’t be an upper echelon team next year.”
The Islanders are getting set for the off-season after their deepest playoff run in franchise history – losing Game 7 of the semifinal to the top-ranked Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. It came after making the third round for the first time a year earlier.
“These three guys, in particular, have been through a lot of winning,” Hulton said. “Let’s try to finish the race.”
Hulton acknowledged Joseph’s mandate would be to try to make the NHL with the Arizona Coyotes in 2018-19.
“If you’re coming back to junior hockey, it’s going to be in an Islanders jersey,” Hulton said was his message to the captain.
Getson is looking forward to finishing his junior career where it began and is hoping his last season goes even deeper than this year.
“I’ve loved every season that I spent (there),” the veteran of four Quebec Major Junior Hockey League campaigns said Thursday. “My only goal now is to bring a championship to P.E.I. and . . . I’m sure that’s the main goal for everybody in the organization.”
The Bridgewater, N.S., native said he’s keeping track of the league final between the Armada and Acadie-Bathurst Titan, which was tied 2-2 heading into Friday’s game.
“It’s hard to watch, but going into next season, it’s a lot of motivation. I think all of the guys are hungry to kind of get to that position next year.”
Getson will be one of the team’s three overage players, while Joseph and Welsh will be playing their 19-year-old seasons. They played vital roles with this year’s squad and will be counted on for more of the same again next year.
“The loss from one of those guys (would be) more than double what you see on the ice,” Hulton said, referring to the character and leadership the trio brings to the squad.
The team will lose overagers Pascal Aquin, Olivier Desjardins and Cam Askew, while the club has five players who could fill the three spots next season. It means there will be some room for existing prospects to join the club.
“There’s a spot here for guys, but it has to be earned,” Hulton said.
The team also holds the fourth overall pick in the June 2 draft.
“That’s going to be a piece that’s going to be able to step in and play,” Hulton said.
The team would consider moving the pick, but only if it was a slam dunk including multiple pieces, and Hulton noted nothing was close. He said the top seven prospects in the draft are likely all on each teams’ list, but the order could be slightly different.
Hulton is not expecting any drastic changes this off-season as it looks to build on the buzz created by their season.
“It was electric. It was alive,” he said. “People embraced this team.”
After the draft, the team has the opportunity to add out-of-market free agents, which was a valuable route for the club last year.