Ramblers blueline getting crowded with return of McLaughlin

Jody Jewers
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AMHERST - It's a good problem to have.
Ramblers head coach and general manager Corey Crocker will have to carve up the minutes among eight defencemen this Maritime Junior A Hockey League season with the news yesterday that Drew McLaughlin is returning from the Western Hockey League's Edmonton Oil Kings' training camp.
"It's the best defensive corps that we've had since I've been here," said Crocker, entering his fifth season behind the bench. "Internal competition (for playing time) is a good thing. It keeps everyone honest and working hard."
McLaughlin, who turns 18 in December, dressed for 40 regular-season games in 2008-09 with the Ramblers, recording two goals, three assists and 37 penalty minutes.
The Ramblers spent a first-round draft pick to bring in Ryan Matheson earlier this month, who, like Yoann Mathieu, brings major junior experience to the table. Derek Smith, 20, and Eric Boudreau, 19, are the incumbent veterans, and 2008 territorial draft pick Wes Herrett was in the running for a shot as the seventh defenceman with the Quebec major junior league's Cape Breton Screaming Eagles before deciding more minutes were available in Amherst.
That would likely leave rookie Newfoundlanders Greg Taylor and Brandon Mercer at the bottom of the depth chart when the regular season starts.
"The players will make that decision based on what we see in games and in practice," Crocker said. "Sometimes younger guys do have to pay the price, but I've never had a situation in my four years here where we've had all our defencemen healthy for an extended period of time. Guys will get their opportunities, and it's up to them to make the most of it."
McLaughlin is expected to arrive today, and Crocker says he should be ready for the home opener Saturday against the Yarmouth Mariners at 7 p.m.
The Ramblers are carrying 24 players, including injured forward Jonathan Pardy.

jjewers@amherstdaily.com

Organizations: Maritime Junior A Hockey League, Western Hockey League

Geographic location: AMHERST, Edmonton, Quebec

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