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SPORTS CHAT: 2020 QMJHL Entry Draft brings added importance as Halifax Mooseheads rebuild takes shape

Halifax Mooseheads defenceman Cameron Whynot, right, takes the body on Cape Breton Eagles forward Félix Lafrance during Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action last season at Centre 200 in Sydney. Whynot, a 17-year-old Kentville native, will be a key part of the Mooseheads' rebuild moving forward. JEREMY FRASER/CAPE BRETON POST
Halifax Mooseheads defenceman Cameron Whynot, right, takes the body on Cape Breton Eagles forward Félix Lafrance during Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action last season at Centre 200 in Sydney. Whynot, a 17-year-old Kentville native, will be a key part of the Mooseheads' rebuild moving forward. JEREMY FRASER/CAPE BRETON POST

The rebuilding phase is part of the junior hockey cycle and comes every so many years for each team in the Canadian Hockey League.

Sometimes the phase comes after success on the ice with a winning team, while other rebuilds come after the disappointment of not reaching the goals that were set while going "all-in" for a championship run.

Currently, the Halifax Mooseheads are in the rebuilding process, which is something that became relevant during the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's winter trade period over the holidays.

After hosting the 2019 Memorial Cup and having limited assets in the cupboards, it didn't come as a shock to many when the Mooseheads unloaded star players Raphaël Lavoie (Chicoutimi), Benoit-Olivier Groulx (Moncton) and Jared McIsaac (Moncton) during the trade period.

At the time, the team acquired multiple draft picks in the three separate deals.

Combined, the team received three first-round draft picks (2020, 2021 and 2022), four second-round picks (2020 (2), 2021 and 2022), three third-round picks (2020, 2021 and 2022), and a fifth-round pick (2021).

Although it's believed some of those picks may be traded back to either the Moncton Wildcats or Chicoutimi Saguenéens to complete trades, it's unknown what picks will be returned for assets.

The league's entry draft — the virtual event, a result of COVID-19 protocols, takes place this weekend — is where the rebuilding process begins. It's an event where those picks received in trades evolve into players who teams hope will help them move the process forward for years to come.

The draft is important every year, but with 18 picks and 12 of those currently being in the first five rounds, this year's draft brings added importance to the Mooseheads organization.

Halifax has two picks in the opening round Friday. The club holds selections at No. 14 overall, originally belonging to the Charlottetown Islanders, and No. 18 overall, originally owned by Chicoutimi.

The Mooseheads also have four picks in both the second and fourth rounds as well as single selections in the third and fifth rounds. Meanwhile, six other picks are slated between the eighth and 14th rounds.

Like every team, the Mooseheads will want to make every draft pick count. The real impact of this year's draft will be known, for the most part, in a couple of years.

Combined, the team received three first-round draft picks (2020, 2021 and 2022), four second-round picks (2020 (2), 2021 and 2022), three third-round picks (2020, 2021 and 2022), and a fifth-round pick (2021).

Halifax has been through the rebuilding process before and always seems to find their way back to the top of the league standings and contender status.

After the 2007-08 season, which saw NHLers Brad Marchand and Jakub Voracek in their lineup, the Mooseheads turned to a rebuild, which saw the club finish dead last in back-to-back years in 2008-09 and 2009-10.

The rebuild continued during the 2010-11 season, but the club was fortunate to secure a berth in the playoffs as the No. 15 seed.

The tide turned during the 2011-12 season with a sixth-place finish, before wrapping up the 2012-13 campaign with a first-place finish during the regular season. The team went on to capture the league's President Cup and the 2013 Memorial Cup in Saskatoon, Sask., with future NHLers Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin in their lineup.

The years that followed the franchise's first Memorial Cup title weren't nearly as bad as the 2007-08 playoff run. Halifax would finish second in the league in 2013-14, before falling to 12th place in 2014-15.

Halifax finished towards the bottom of the standings in 2015-16 and 2016-17, but in trusting the rebuild process, were able to climb back to the top five in back-to-back years with fourth-place and third-place finishes in 2017-18 and 2018-19, respectively.

If those rebuild trends continue moving forward, the Mooseheads are in prime shape to once again be back at the top of the league and serious contenders in the near future.

The important step forward truly begins this week in Moose Country.

Jeremy Fraser covers sports, including the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, for the Cape Breton Post and Saltwire Network. He can be contacted by email at [email protected]. Follow Jeremy @CBPost_Jeremy on Twitter.

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