The Acadie-Bathurst Titan capped off a storybook season last May by capturing the 100th MasterCard Memorial Cup in Regina, Saskatchewan.
As it prepares to take the ice for the 2018-19 regular season, the organization has every intention of adding more success stories to the franchise’s history books.
Although the club stands to lose at least six of its top seven scorers from last year via trade or graduation from major junior, the Titan still welcomes back no less than eight players to the fold. A number of them were key players during the Titan’s march through the latter half of the 2017-18 season, all the way through to its first President Cup title in 19 years and a national championship.
“We have a number of good key returning players”, explained Titan General Manager Sylvain Couturier. “Guys like [forwards Liam] Murphy, [Ethan] Crossman, [Samuel] Asselin and [defenceman Michal] Ivan will bring experience and play big roles.”
The status of a ninth, critical member of last year’s team, defenceman Noah Dobson, remains unknown entering the season. The Summerside, PEI, rearguard will be looking to crack the roster of a New York Islanders squad that selected him 12th overall at the 2018 NHL Draft.
Additionally, the acquisition of a pair of veterans during the off-season – forward Evan MacKinnon from Sherbrooke and defenceman Alexis Sansfacon from Blainville-Boisbriand – are moves that Couturier feels will pay dividends for the Titan.
“With MacKinnon, it’s all about confidence”, he noted. “He’s been on three teams in the league over the last two years, which can be pretty discouraging for a guy, especially at that age. We feel he’s going to be a key player for us. So will Sansfacon, who’s been around the league for quite a while now.”
In addition to returning players and those acquired via trade, the Titan also managed to parlay a series of transactions into two early picks during the 2018 QMJHL Draft. Selecting 14th and 26th overall last June, the club added defenceman Benjamin Roode and center Alexandre David, respectively. The team also holds an array of picks for the QMJHL’s 2019 Draft.
“[Obtaining those 2018 selections] was big for us”, Couturier remarked. “[Roode and David] are key guys for us to build around. We also hold a first, two seconds and two third rounders in 2019, which we feel will be a deep draft. We like the base we have to work with.”
The changing of the guard in Bathurst also extends to behind the bench. With Mario Pouliot making his way to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in the off-season, Bryan Lizotte will make the jump from an assistant coach’s role with the Titan to become the new bench boss in Bathurst.
“He knows the league very well”, Couturier said of Lizotte. “His experience with our group as an assistant will be a huge asset. It was an easy choice to name him Head Coach.”
And so, as the dust settles on training camp and the Titan prepares to hit the ice as the defending Memorial Cup Champions, what can the GM offer for an outlook on 2018-19?
“It’s hard to top a season like the one we had last year”, Couturier observed. “However, I’d really be surprised if we were a last place team. We still think we can compete. We still have high expectations.”
Liam Leonard (Edmundston – MHL)
Evan MacKinnon (Sherbrooke)
Brandon Cianflone (Midget Espoir AA – Quebec)
William Champagne (Shawinigan)
Danill Vertiy (OJHL)
Kristian Kovacik (1st Rd 2018 Import Draft)
Alexandre David (2nd Rd 2018 QMJHL Draft)
Alexis Sansfacon (Blainville-Boisbriand)
Antoine Leblanc (QMAAA)
Benjamin Roode (1st Rd 2018 QMJHL Draft)
Alec Rheaume (2017 QMJHL Draft)
Andrew MacLeod (NSMAAA)
Tyriq Outen (National Collegiate Development Conference)
Antoine Morand (Halifax)
Olivier Galipeau (Providence Bruins – AHL)
Mitchell Balmas (Cape Breton)
Jeffrey Truchon-Viel (San Jose Barracuda – AHL)
Jordan Maher (Halifax)
Adam Holwell (USports)
Samuel l’Italien (Baie-Comeau)
German Rubtsov (Lehigh Valley Phantoms – AHL)
Elijah Francis (Miramichi – MHL)
Evan Fitzpatrick (San Antonio Rampage – AHL)
The Titan in 2017-18:
Record: 43-15-8-2 (96 pts)
Goals for: 270
Goals against: 183
Antoine Morand (26-50-76, not returning)
Olivier Galipeau (25-49-74, not returning)
Mitchell Balmas (42-30-72, not returning)
Defeated Blainville-Boisbriand Armada in President Cup Final (4-2)
Won 2018 MasterCard Memorial Cup