The Halifax Mooseheads were thrilled to make it to the third round of this year’s QMJHL playoffs, but their plan all along was to try to win the President’s Cup in 2012-13.
Halifax general manager Cam Russell always had that as his target year when he started rebuilding his team back in 2009 so it was a bonus when the Mooseheads went on their run this past spring. They beat the Moncton Wildcats in the first round and the Quebec Remparts in the second round before being eliminated by the Rimouski Oceanic in the semifinals.
“We had one of the youngest teams in the league this year,” Russell said. “We thought the second round was a good goal for us so it was great when we went an extra round. We obviously would’ve liked to go even farther but we were satisfied with what we accomplished.
“Our young guys gained a lot of experience and we feel like they’ll be better prepared for next year.”
The Mooseheads first came up with a blueprint three years ago after finishing last in the league. Russell’s objective was to build through the draft and he selected current Mooseheads Brent Andrews, Trey Lewis, Matthew Boudreau and Steve Gillard that year in Moncton. The following year, the Mooseheads picked Luca Ciampini, Andrew Ryan, Darcy Ashley and Anthony Terenzio.
With that core already in place last summer, Russell got aggressive in making his finishing touches. He acquired the No. 11 pick in the draft through the Lewiston Maineiacs dispersal and also traded up from No. 4 to No. 2 in the overall order. He used the No. 2 pick to select Jonathan Drouin and picked goalie Zachary Fucale at No. 11. Later in the summer, Russell traded Carl Gelinas, Francis Turbide and three first-round picks to the Baie-Comeau Drakkar for Nathan MacKinnon, who was the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft. Those three star players added to an already deep core of talent in Halifax.
“When we decided to rebuild our team a couple of years ago we knew it was going to take time to do it right,” Russell said. “We wanted to be in a position to compete every year and the only way to do that is by drafting players and then letting them mature with your team. We feel like now we’re in position to make a serious run at a championship but we don’t want to go back to finishing last the year after that.”