As the 2017-2018 season dawned upon the Charlottetown Islanders, the blueline featured a certain element of uncertainty. Gone were the likes of Carl Neill, Guillaume Brisebois, and Nicolas Meloche. Only Pierre-Olivier Joseph had more than one season of QMJHL experience on the backend. Free agent signing Taylor Egan had played parts of three seasons with the Erie Otters of the OHL. Otherwise, only three other players had QMJHL experience on defense: Saku Vesterinen, the newly acquired Noah Massie, and Hunter Drew.
For Drew, the upcoming season would afford him the opportunity to actually play a full season as a defenseman. In 2016-2017 he was by and large an extra body in the event of an injury, even suiting up for a number of games as a forward in a pinch. This season, however, he’d be relied on heavily as a top-4 defender for the Islanders.
He got off to a slow start offensively, posting just a goal and 2 assists in the first 15 games to start the season. That all changed in November, as Drew torched opponents for a goal and nine assists in just nine games.
While Drew made massive strides offensively, he certainly didn’t forget about the physical game that highlights his game. From the first game of the season on, Drew would make highlight-reel hits and settle scores with his fists. He was an intimidating presence both with and without the puck.
His offensive game continued to blossom through December, where Drew racked up 7 points in 11 games. The two goals he scored were both game-winners, including one of the top highlights in the Islanders season; during 3-on-3 overtime against the Acadie-Bathurst Titan in December, Drew picked off a pass in the defensive end and turned on the jets, blowing past Titan top defender Noah Dobson and sniped the puck low-blocker side on goalie Rielly Pickard.
As 2017 rolled into 2018, Drew’s offensive output remained constant. He posted five assists in ten January games before going on another tear in February, potting three goals and 11 points in 13 games. His mean streak didn’t take a backseat either, racking up 80 penalty minutes in 2018 alone.
By the end of the season, Drew would accumulate 8 goals and 31 assists for 39 points in 64 games. His 159 penalty minutes was tops in the league; it also helped him pull into a tie with David Henley for the most in Islanders history with 228, in 15 less games.
His production didn’t stop in the playoffs. He scored two goals and 11 points in 18 playoff games, including five points in the four-game sweep of the Halifax Mooseheads.
Hunter Drew’s breakout season opened the eyes of many not just across the QMJHL, but also the NHL. So much so that he was drafted in the sixth round, 178th overall, by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2018 NHL Draft. It was a culmination of hard work, determination, and trusting the process laid out by the Islanders coaching staff. At this rate, the sky is the limit for the right-handed defender as he enters his last year of major junior hockey!