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Luke Coughlin will lean on his past as he prepares for the biggest weekend of the young hockey season.
The 15-year-old defenceman and his Charlottetown Bulk Carriers Knights’ teammates will host the New Brunswick/Prince Edward Island Major Under-18 AAA Hockey League showcase this weekend at MacLauchlan Arena.
“It’s obviously a great opportunity,” the Charlottetown native said Wednesday. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Coughlin is one of five first-year players who made the Knights this season along with Central Attack major under-15 teammate Brett Arsenault and a trio from the Eastern Express (Harry Clements, Jude Campbell and Caleb MacDonald).
They will all be eligible for junior drafts at year’s end, and many of those teams will have eyes in the stands this weekend. The tournament provides scouts a chance to catch three games on Saturday and three more on Sunday under one roof. The league announced Friday mornning that Moncton will not be able to attend the tournament due to COVID-19.
Major U18 Showcase still a Go!— NB PEI Major U18 Hockey League (@NBPEIMU18HL) November 20, 2020
Unfortunately games with the @MonctonFlyers will be removed from the schedule. Stay safe Flyers!
Saturday 3pm @moose_aaa vs @KensingtonWild 6pm @U18AAACAPS vs @sjvitoshockey
At a glance
Here’s a look at the schedule for the New Brunswick/Prince Edward Island Major Under-18 AAA Hockey League showcase taking place this weekend at MacLauchlan Arena.
Northern vs. Kensington, 3 p.m.
Fredericton vs. Saint John, 6:30 p.m.
Kensington vs. Fredericton, 10:15 a.m.
Saint John vs. Charlottetown, 1:30 p.m.
• League president Barry Thompson said: “The league was keen to do it just from the idea of showing the quality of players we have in this league.”
• With the limited number fans allowed in the rink, the six weekend games will be broadcast on the Charlottetown Bulk Carrier Knights Facebook page.
“I believe there’s a bit of pressure, but I think I am pretty good with dealing with that. I will kind of push it to the side and just go out there and play hockey,” said Coughlin, a five-foot-nine, 165-pound left-shot defenceman.
“I don't think I change my game at all. … I am just going to keep doing what I am doing and keep my game pretty simple.”
He has played in a number of big tournaments in the past, including the bantam Atlantics two years ago, the Monctonian, the Chronicle Herald East Coast IceJam and the Spud. He said past experiences are important in preparing for competitions like this weekend.
“I have been fortunate enough to play in some big games over the years, so I think that does come into play.”
The six-team league hosted its first showcase in February in Kensington. It plans on hosting two this season with the second coming in February in New Brunswick.
“We thought it would be kind of cool for the scouts to see the players early in the season and then again later in the season,” said league president Barry Thompson.
While it is an opportunity for scouts to get a good look at players eligible for the draft for the first time, they will also be keeping an eye on second- and third-year players.
Head coach Luke Beck noted 10 of his Knights have already been drafted by major junior clubs and a handful more with junior A squads.
“It’s an opportunity for (the players) to showcase themselves to the teams that drafted them (and show) where they’re at,” he said.
While it is a showcase weekend, the games all count in the standings and Beck isn’t expecting a skills competition.
“If you ask any scout, they want to see guys that can play within a team concept,” he said. “They want to see guys who have short, hard shifts. They want to see guys who are going to backcheck hard late in a game. They can identify your skill pretty quick, but it’s the other intangibles that come with it that usually are the difference for players.”
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, only 100 spectators are allowed into MacLauchlan Arena, located at the Bell Aliant Centre on the UPEI campus, and half of the spots were reserved by scouts.
“It would be lovely to have that Bell Aliant Centre full, top to bottom, with the scouts sitting in a corner somewhere,” Thompson said. “We are limited somewhat this time around, but I think it’s still an excellent opportunity.”