Screaming Eagles’ Season Preview

As the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles celebrate their past, they’ll do so with an eye to the future.  The 2016-17 campaign will mark two full decades of QMJHL hockey at Centre 200.  When the Eagles take to the ice for their 20th season, almost half of the lineup will be comprised of new faces.

A famous hockey cliche says that teams built from the net out, and the Screaming Eagles are laden with highly touted youth in the crease.  Standing 6’2, Kevin Mandolese brings height and skill to the position after being selected at pick #13 in June’s entry draft, the first goaltender selected by Cape Breton in round one since Marc-André Fleury.  Mandolese will battle for time with Kyle Jessiman, who began last September with the Eagles before being re-assigned to his Châteauguay midget club.   Jessiman was tabbed by Cape Breton in the second round (#22) of the 2015 QMJHL draft.

While the team is set in goal, there are still questions to be answered about the forward core and the defense group.   Currently the Screaming Eagles still have four overagers on their roster: Forwards Massimo Carozza and Giovanni Fiore, along with defensemen Olivier LeBlanc and Duncan MacIntyre.   In 2015-16 the Screaming Eagles iced an experienced team, with eleven 19 year olds in the lineup in a hard fought second round seven game loss against Saint John.

With Fiore (Montreal) and LeBlanc (Arizona) attending camps, it will give the club time to figure out the dilemma of which player to part ways with.  Fiore & Carozza solidified the team’s secondary scoring down the stretch last winter.  LeBlanc, a former Columbus draft pick attended Hockey Canada’s world junior summer camp in 2015.   MacIntyre, a Sydney native, seems to elevate his game in the playoffs.

Cape Breton will look to replace some of its departed offense and leadership.  Maxim Lazarev is now in the KHL, while Evgeny Svechnikov, Micahel Joly, and Clark Bishop (the team captain) appear bound for the AHL.  And of course, the fall will feature discussion about whether Pierre-Luc Dubois will return to Cape Breton after being chosen #3 in the NHL draft in June by Columbus.   General manager and coach Marc-André Dumont’s club is prepared for life after Dubois, a 42 goal scorer, but would welcome his return as a bonus.
One player who should make a big offensive impact is import Russian forward Vasily Glotov.  The speedy 19 year old was taken by Buffalo in the seventh round of the NHL draft.  He impressed at Sabres summer camp with a big personality and a goal scoring touch.   Glotov and quarterbacking defenseman Leon Gawanke of Germany (a 17 year old) will bring a new European flavour after Lazarev and Svechnikov filled Cape Breton’s import spots the preceding three seasons.

Improvement from within should come from sophomore forward Peyton Hoyt.   Hoyt impressed management and fans in Sydney alike with his skills and work ethic as a 16 year old, but as is the case for many young rookies, that wasn’t fully reflected in the point totals.  The sixth overall pick in the 2015 draft produced 11 points in 40 games.  The native of Fredericton, New Brunswick, should now be given ample opportunity to produce.

Phélix Martineau, a centreman with strong defensive instincts, discovered an offensive touch with 20 goals in 2015-16 and he’ll be one of the leaders in the dressing room and on the scoresheet in Sydney this season.   Another gritty 19 year old, Ty Fournier, will get a chance to rebound- he netted 13 goals as a rookie in Victoriaville but only six in his first campaign in Cape Breton.  Dillon Boucher (19), Yannik Bertrand (19) and Declan Smith (18) round out the returning forwards.   Last season Boucher lit the lamp ten times while being an effective presence on the third and fourth lines.

There is a pair of returning 19 year olds patrolling the blueline as well in Maxim Baillargeon and Tobie Bisson.  Bisson is eager to be back after missing the last three games of the playoffs with a concussion.  He’s a physical defenseman who will have increased responsibility on a younger club.  Baillargeon became a regular in the Cape Breton lineup in the second half of 2015-16 after a series of trades the Eagles made at Christmas time.

Dumont continued to wheel and deal in the off-season to add experience to the current squad.  On the back end Marcus Tesink (18) has come over from the rival Moncton Wildcats.   Marcus’s brother Brad played for the Screaming Eagles in 2009.

Up front Cape Breton added an intriguing piece to the puzzle in dealing for Blainville-Boisbriand’s Tyler Hylland.   Hylland produced at over a point a game in the national midget championship in 2014 and skated for Canada Red at the World Under 17s in 2015.  Another third year 18 year old forward, Anthony Beauchamp, was acquired from Baie-Comeau.
In addition to goaltenders and imports, there will be six other rookies on the roster.   There was fierce competition in training camp for spots with 2015 draftees battling with the 2016 draft crop, including seven players chosen in this June’s opening four rounds.  Olivier Bourret impressed up front, scoring five goals is his first five pre-season games.   Drake Batherson, whose father Norm played in the AHL’s Atlantic Division, cracked Cape Breton’s roster after playing 17 games as an affiliate player in 2015-16.

On the blueline the Eagles will have instant chemistry on the lower end pairings with 17 year olds Alexis Sansfaçon and Sacha Roy.  The two played together in Magog in the Québec midget AAA ranks.   Rounding out the blueline will be 16 year old Adam McCormick of New Brunswick.

With the team getting younger in the off-season, there might not be as many wins to celebrate as last season.  But there will be certainly prime young talent to watch develop.  Fans will get their first chance to see faces new and old in action on Friday, September 23rd, at 7 PM, when the Eagles open their season at Centre 200 against the Bathurst Titan.

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