Last year, the Charlottetown Islanders embraced their team mantra, “Find a Way”. The club embarked on a thrilling run through three rounds of the 2018 QMJHL playoffs, coming within one win of a ticket to the President Cup Final. This was on the heels of a regular season performance that came as a surprise to many.
Arguably, the biggest challenge facing the Islanders in 2018-19 will be maintaining whatever momentum they can earn; because now, they aren’t surprising anybody.
Isles Head Coach and General Manager Jim Hulton is up to that challenge. So too, he feels, are his players.
“It’s a mindset, really”, Hulton explained. “It was easy last year to play the underdog role. No one really cared about stats, which is rare at the junior level. We benefitted from a strong core last year and a lot of those players are returning.”
That returning core helped the team to a ninth-place finish in the regular season last year. Back in the fold are the club’s top four scorers from last year – wingers Derek Gentile and Daniel Hardie, center Keith Getson and defenceman P-O Joseph. Rejoining 2017 Arizona Coyotes first rounder Joseph on the blueline will be 2018 Anaheim Ducks draft pick Hunter Drew. Lukas Cormier, the fourth overall selection in last June’s QMJHL Draft, will be making his major junior debut on the island later this month. In goal, fourth year veteran Matthew Welsh will look to build off a combined 42 victories in the regular season and playoffs last season.
The Isles were one of the revelations of 2017-18, grinding their way to 37 regular season wins. Proving that this success was no fluke, they carried that momentum into the postseason, where they rallied to defeat the Quebec Remparts four games to three in round one, and the Halifax Mooseheads in a four-game second round sweep. They then took the regular season champion Blainville-Boisbriand Armada to the limit before falling in a Game 7 showdown in the league semi-finals. The club managed to earn two more postseason victories than the 2016-17 Islanders squad, which finished the regular season with 15 more points.
The Islanders organization has strived to create a consistent, winning identity. The reputation the club has earned as one that – true to its motto – will find a way to compete with their opposition is no longer a secret. Keeping this culture fresh within the team may be the most critical factor in how much it achieves in 2018-19.
If that is, in fact, the key to success, Hulton feels confident that it’s a situation that will largely take care of itself.
“[The returning players] want to push the bar higher”, he said. “Already, the veterans on the team are talking about it in the room.”
Regardless of how they are viewed by the rest of the league – be it as upstarts, contenders or anything in between – the Islanders will no doubt find the motivation to continue finding ways to make the game difficult for all challengers.
Lukas Cormier (1st Rd 2018 QMJHL Draft)
Xavier Fortin (3rd Rd 2018 QMJHL Draft)
Zachary Beauregard (2017 QMJHL Draft)
Drew Johnston (2017 QMJHL Draft)
Cole Edwards (OJHL Jr.A)
Greg Kehoe (2017 QMJHL Draft)
Alexandre Dersh (1st Rd 2018 Import Draft)
Kevin Gursoy (Saint John)
Colin Van Den Hurk (OJHL Jr.A)
Pascal Aquin (Rochester Americans – AHL)
Cameron Askew (South Carolina Stingrays – ECHL)
Saku Vesterinen (Liiga – Finland)
Olivier Desjardins (USports)
The Islanders in 2017-18:
Record: 37-24-7-0 (81 pts)
Goals for: 209
Goals against: 219
Derek Gentile (23-38-61)
Daniel Hardie (25-28-53)
Keith Getson (20-29-49)
2018 Playoffs: Lost to Blainville-Boisbriand Armada in semi-final (3-4)