The Moncton Wildcats might technically just be neighbours but they made themselves right at home at Harbour Station in Saint John in the opening round of the 2017 QMJHL Draft on Saturday in New Brunswick.
Holders of the 3rd, 13th and 16th overall picks heading into this weekend’s Draft, the Wildcats got the ball rolling by selecting forward Jakob Pelletier of the Séminaire Saint-François Blizzard of the Quebec Midget AAA League.
“One thing I really liked is that he’s a 100% proven winner”, said Wildcats GM Roger Shannon about his new 5-foot-8, 148 pound forward. “When the bright lights come on, Jakob comes to play. The bigger the game, the bigger he plays.”
Shannon didn’t hesitate to liken Pelletier to the Bruins’ Brad Marchand, who played two seasons in Moncton after the Wildcats picked him in the second round of the 2004 QMJHL Draft.
“Jakob is a fierce competitor and he is very skilled,” gushed Shannon. “I could have picked three or four first round picks if I was willing to trade him away, which I wasn’t. We wanted a number one leader to be the face of the team.”
The Wildcats were hardly done after their opening pick as they then got a call from the Mooseheads who wanted Moncton’s No. 13 pick in exchange for Halifax’s second and fourth round pick, and a first round pick in 2018.
Then three picks later at No. 16, Wildcats owner Robert Irving brought the crowd to its feet by announcing the selection of defenceman and Saint John native Jaxon Bellamy.
“I think for the fans here in Saint John, having a little guy to get picked added a little bit more excitement to it so I wanted to get the fans going,” said Irving with a smile.
“I was convinced until two seconds before that we were picking 13 and 16,” revealed Shannon. “I was ready to pick Bellamy at 13, and then I gambled because when you get a high second round, a first round pick next year and another pick, you really can’t refuse.”
“Now I’ve got three years in a row with two first round picks from 2017 to 2019. That’s how you lay the groundwork,” added Shannon.
Shannon had nothing but good things to say about Bellamy of the Saint John Vito’s Midget AAA club. A recent product of that same club to reach the NHL following a stint in the Q is the Montreal Canadiens’ Nathan Beaulieu.
“He’s a big competitive player and I see him at 18 or 19 being a guy that is just miserable to play against,” said Shannon.