AMHERST – While he only had eight picks, Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers coach and GM Jeff LeBlanc feels he made the most with the selections he made at the 2018 Maritime Junior Hockey League entry draft in Berwick.
“I thought we did pretty good with the picks we had,” LeBlanc said. “We tried very hard to move up in the draft and pick someone in the first round, but the asking price was just too high.”
In what will be a busy summer for the Ramblers in preparation for the 2018-19 season, LeBlanc said the first three players he picked could be in a position to step into the club’s lineup in September as it prepares to begin a new season and host the 2019 Fred Page Cup next May.
With his first pick of the draft, the Ramblers’ GM selected forward Joe Bouchard from the Halifax McDonald’s Macs while taking Charlottetown Pride defenceman Cole Larkin with his second selection and forward Mark Rumsey from Rothesay Netherwood with his third pick.
Bouchard was also picked by what will be a very strong Drummondville Voltigeurs team in the QMJHL draft while Larkin was selected by the Memorial Cup hosts, the Halifax Mooseheads, and Rumsey was taken by the Moncton Wildcats.
“Bouchard was one of the best players on a very good Halifax Macs team and he’s a kid that’s a leader. We feel he will be playing junior next year, either in Drummondville or with us,” LeBlanc said.
Other selections include: defenceman Nicholas Yuill from the Cape Breton West Islanders, goalie Ethan Pearson from Newbridge Academy, forward Alex French from the St. John’s Maple Leafs and defenceman Brandon Casey from Newbridge Academy.
LeBlanc also announced a pair of deals on Monday, including the acquisition of 2016 draft pick forward James Walker, who the club picked up from Brockville, Ont. in exchange for future considerations.
Walker, a graduate of Rothesay-Netherwood with Jacob Myra, elected to go to Ontario last year in hopes of landing an NCAA scholarship offer but had decided to come back to the Maritimes. The Ramblers owned his MHL rights.
“He’s a power forward with lots of skill,” LeBlanc said of Walker. “He’s gritty, rugged and will bring some offence to our lineup.”
In the second move, the Ramblers picked up forward Nicholas Snow from St. Jerome of the Quebec Junior A league. He amassed 86 points in 88 games with St. Jerome and LeBlanc said he is a natural leader.
“He has been captain on three of the four teams he’s played with and he reminds me a lot of a Matt Lapointe, but he’s a better skater,” LeBlanc said. “He’s a guy who will go into the dirty areas to make things happen.”
LeBlanc said the club is close on several other moves and expects to be in a position to announce several more acquisitions over the summer and heading into training camp in late August.
There has been some speculation about QMJHL players Noah Corson and Cooper Jones being picked up. LeBlanc said he can’t comment on the two players specifically because they are property of other teams, but added the Ramblers have both players’ MHL rights, but not their CJAHL rights.
The league also hosted its annual meeting on Friday with Dave Ritcey being re-elected as chairman of the board of governors and the league deciding to bring back the three stars of the week award.
The 2019-20 MHL annual meeting and draft has been awarded to the Edmundston Blizzard while the 2018-19 season will see the reduction of 20-year-old roster spots reduced from nine to eight.
The league, in partnership with the CJHL, has also adopted the head injury protocol system devised by HeadCheck Health, a British Colombia based company that specializes in advanced concussion technologies.
The company provides software and services to teams, leagues and medical clinics looking for a complete concussion solution. As a partnered league, the MHL will be provided with all necessary components of an effective concussion program, including Certified Medical Professionals to onboard, mobile software for quick sideline testing, and monthly reports documenting adherence to concussion protocols and policies.
The goal of this partnership is to standardize the level of concussion care across the CJHL. All Athletic Therapists across the MHL will be trained on the proper usage of the HeadCheck software and will be provided with Certified Medical Professionals early in the season to help baseline test every player on their respective teams using HeadCheck software.
Ben Chipman of Yarmouth was named the recipient of the league’s Community Spirit Award, the Edmundston Blizzard were named the Executive of the Year and Mitch Bonnar of the Yarmouth Mariners was presented the Moe Bent Builders Award.