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Roster battle brewing for Charlottetown Islanders

The Charlottetown Islanders 2017-18 season came to an end in Game 7 of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League semifinal with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. How many will be back for the 2018-19 season will be determined in training camp in August and September.
The Charlottetown Islanders 2017-18 season came to an end in Game 7 of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League semifinal with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. How many will be back for the 2018-19 season will be determined in training camp in August and September. - Jason Malloy

Those wanting a spot with QMJHL team has to be ready when training camp opens in August

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – The math is simple: Not everyone is going to make the Charlottetown Islanders lineup this September.

The team lost its three overage players from 2017-18 (Pascal Aquin, Cam Askew and Olivier Desjardins), and only three out of Keith Getson, Sam King, Daniel Hardie, Hunter Drew and Taylor Egan can fill those roles this season.

The Isles lost one European defenceman (Saku Vesterinen) and replaced him with another (Alexander Dersch) during the past week.

So, there’s five available spots, if all the returnees make the team.

The Isles drafted Moncton midget Lukas Cormier fourth overall and is high on players it selected this spring and in previous years. It also signed Ontario free agent Cole Edwards, invited his former teammate, Colin Van Den Hurk, to camp and may not be done.

“You’re always looking and listening at any options that are out there,” Islanders head coach and general manager Jim Hulton said. “There’s spots to be had, but you have to earn them.”

Even in goal, where incumbents Matthew Welsh and Dakota Lund-Cornish are both eligible to return, there are no guarantees with others pushing for a job.

Hulton said all the players from last year have indicated they want to come back and fight for their job as the team looks to take the next step after back-to-back appearances in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) semifinal.

It is why the bench boss and architect is expecting a competitive training camp on Aug. 17 with about 50 players battling for one of the 22 coveted jerseys.

“There are going to be a lot of spots contested for and a lot of names for not a lot of spaces,” Hulton acknowledged.

He said they were upfront with players during exit meetings in the spring and noted the club has a responsibility to build the strongest team possible. It is why it has been active on the free agent market despite being able to return a large section of its squad.

“We hope that motivates them to train extremely hard in the summer,” Hulton said. “We have to win the summer first and foremost with our conditioning.”

And while younger guys might push veterans for jobs, the returnees can still retain their jerseys. Hulton pointed to the growth of King and Drew during the 2017 off-season as proof.

“We've used those examples of Hunter and King a million times with them,” he said.

The one big shoe to drop is Brad Morrissey, the Seacow Pond native who won the Telus Cup this season with the Notre Dame Hounds. He was selected in the third round of the 2017 QMJHL draft but has committed to the University of Maine Black Bears.

Hulton said they haven’t given up on landing the right-winger, who many have envisioned sliding in next to Nikita Alexandrov and Brett Budgell on a potent line of draft-eligible Isles.

Morrissey recently returned from Saskatchewan, and the team is preparing to speak with him during the summer.

“We’ll let him sit for a bit before we start pounding on the door, but we will be pounding,” Hulton said.

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