The Charlottetown Islanders have identified a handful of players they think could help address an element missing on their roster for three seasons.
They will roll the dice and see if one of them is still available early this morning when they make their first pick at the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League draft.
“Ever since Daniel (Sprong), we haven’t had that bona fide sniper,” head coach and general manager Jim Hulton said. “They’re very, very hard to find, so it’s a tall task to expect it to be there at 22, but there are a couple of scenarios that are possibilities.
“In the perfect world, one of them would be there.”
If not, they will likely take the best remaining player, whether that is a forward or a defenceman.
The franchise’s philosophy has been to draft a blue-liner with one of their top two picks in recent years.
“We’ll probably look to do that even though we have a very strong backend right now. We still think it’s important to keep stockpiling for the future,” Hulton said.
The Islanders will return five of their seven rearguards from last season.
Up front, the team isn’t tied to specific positions or needing right shots as opposed to lefties. Zac Beauregard is the only returning forward who is a right-handed shot. That might be something that helps the Islanders’ brass make decisions later in the draft, but early on they want to ensure they aren’t passing on talent to fill a specific hole.
“If this kid can score, we can pretty much put him where we want,” Hulton said.
The team’s need for a sniper isn’t surprising as Charlottetown has only drafted in the first round once in the previous three years. They took an offensive dynamo in defenceman Lukas Cormier fourth overall in 2018.
This year’s draft is being held online due to the coronavirus (COVID-19 strain) pandemic. The first round was last night while Rounds 2-14 are today. It could leave the Isles in an enviable position as teams have hours to think about players who slide out of the first round. Charlottetown has the second pick of the second round.
“We could be getting calls,” Hulton acknowledged. “That break from Friday night and Saturday morning could prove to be very eventful because people have time to really process things out … unlike when it is happening live on the draft floor.”
The team is open to all scenarios, including moving up or dropping back and collecting assets.
“It’s a read-and-react situation when you’re at 22.”
This year’s draft is considered deep on defencemen, in particular from Quebec.
Charlottetown has depth on its side this year, leaving the team options with the players it selects with its top picks.
“There is no extreme urgency to put any of these young men that we draft on Saturday into our lineup next year.”
The team had four true rookies in its lineup last season with forwards Justin Gill and Drew Elliott, defenceman Oscar Plandowski and goalie Jacob Goobie.
A look at the Charlottetown Islanders picks for Saturday's Quebec Major Junior Hockey League draft:
22 Acquired from Halifax in Keith Getson deal.
39 Acquired from Rimouski in Xavier Bernard deal.
76 Acquired from Sherbrooke for Dakota Lund-Cornish
130 Acquired from Sherbrooke in Xavier Bernard deal.
214 Charlottetown, Moncton, Charlottetown (Tyler Dam)
1st Traded to Chicoutimi for D Oscar Plandowski.
2nd Traded to Sherbrooke for D Carl Neill.
3rd Traded to Val-d’Or for F Adam Marsh.
4th Traded to Saint John for RW Kevin Gursoy.
5th Traded to Saint John for F Daniel Hardie.
A look at the Charlottetown Islanders/P.E.I. Rocket first picks during the past 10 years:
2019 – G Jacob Goobie, 31st overall.
2018 - D Lukas Cormier, fourth overall.
2017 - F Brett Budgell, 25th overall.
2016 - D Marc-Olivier Alain, 18th overall.
2015 - F Shawn Boudrias, 13 overall.
2014 - F Mitchell Balmas, seventh overall.
2013 - F Daniel Sprong, 13th overall.
2012 - F Alexis Pepin, second overall.
2011 - D Ryan Graves, ninth overall.
2010 - Victor Provencher, 11th overall.
Here is a look at the players who have been taken 22nd overall during the past five years:
2019 D Charles-Alexis Legault, Gatineau.
2018 C Simon Pinard, Blainville-Boisbriand.
2017 RW Alex Beaucage, Rouyn-Noranda.
2016 D Alexis Arsenault, Rouyn-Noranda.
2015 G Kyle Jessiman, Cape Breton.