CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – Pascal Aquin has earned his pro shot.
The Charlottetown Islanders left-winger has signed a one-year deal with the AHL’s Rochester Americans for the 2018-19 season. The Americans are the Buffalo Sabres affiliate.
“I want to thank Rochester for giving me the chance,” Aquin said Sunday night. “This wouldn’t be happening without the help of my family, my teammates and my coaches and, for sure, my billets too. (They) were there supporting me for the past two seasons with the Charlottetown Islanders.”
Aquin was in and out of the lineup for the Shawinigan Cataractes during the 2015-16 season as he dealt with a knee injury. He played against the Islanders in the second round of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs and when he became available in the off-season Jim Hulton made him one of his first acquisitions as team’s general manager.
“It changed my career,” Aquin said of the deal. “I had two great years in Shawinigan, but when I came to Charlottetown, Jim gave me his confidence, put me on the ice and helped me to play my game.”
Aquin wore the Isles jersey for two seasons, finishing this year with 24 goals and 19 assists for 43 points in 59 games as one of the team’s three overage players. The six-foot-one, 205-pound physical forward added eight goals and six assists for 14 points in 18 playoff games this season.
“I think it’s a perfect example of what confidence does for a player,” Hulton said. “He came in and was exactly what we were looking for: the big body, up-and-down winger, and he seemed to find that great chemistry with (Keith) Getson and (Matthew) Grouchy the first year and then just continued to grow and grow.”
Aquin said playing two seasons with Getson was “amazing.
“He helped me so much during the two years,” he said. “I’m sure, if he continues to work hard like this year, next year he’ll be signed too.”
Hulton said scouts asked about Aquin quite a bit this season and noted teams are realizing guys are being overlooked and scouting overage players more.
“It’s further proof, it’s never over. Just because you don’t get drafted, doesn’t mean the dream has to end.”
Aquin was handed an eight-game suspension that started in the final game of the pre-season this year. When he was eligible to return the Islanders were 1-6-1-0 and in need of a spark.
Hulton said Aquin’s return was “enormous” for a young squad. The team took off shortly after and just finished the deepest playoff run in franchise history — pushing the top-rated Blainville-Boisbriand Armada to Game 7 of the semifinal.
Aquin said the contract happened quickly and he met with Sabres amateur scout Kevin Devine on Saturday. The forward was on his way home Sunday and will be getting ready for development camp in June.
“It just fires me up. I’ll work hard to be in the best shape possible,” he said. “I’m so happy right now and I am grateful.”
The Islanders sent a ninth-round pick in 2017 to Shawinigan to acquire Aquin and will send another pick in 2020 to the Cataractes because the winger played as overage this season.
“We’d do it in a heartbeat again,” Hulton said. “We got way more out of him than he did out of us.”
And it goes deeper than goals and assists.
Hulton said the assistant captain has the ability to bridge the French-English, young-old gaps and does it while always smiling.
“He’s such a phenomenal kid,” he said. “He’s going to go down in a lot of people’s minds as one of their top favourites that they’ve watched over the years.”