The Charlottetown Islanders team that entered it’s second-ever draft in 2014 was far from the team that it was coming out of it’s first draft.
The nucleus of the team that kicked off it’s first-ever season was shipped out as the team fully began it’s rebuild. Gone were names that had donned both Rocket and Islanders jerseys such as Yan-Pavel Laplante, Jack Nevins, Alexis Pepin, Ryan Graves, and Antoine Bibeau. A number of young, future cornerstone pieces were acquired in the process; names like Kameron Kielly, Mason McDonald, Luc Deschenes, and David Henley replaced their veteran predecessors alongside rookie stars Daniel Sprong and Alexandre Goulet as the new guard for the new franchise.
Also moved by Charlottetown were a dearth of draft picks, particularly high picks. Over the 2013-2014 season, the Islanders traded for a total of seven first-round draft picks over three years, while also trading three first-rounders away. The wheeling and dealing left the Islanders with three first-round picks heading in to the 2014 Draft, along with three first-rounders in 2015.
That would very quickly change before the 2014 Draft even began.
As the pre-draft trading period opened up, Islanders general manager Grant Sonier went to work, utilizing their strong draft position to expedite the re-build process started the season before. Sonier began by sending the 15th overall pick, along with their own 2016 1st round pick, to Saint John to acquire Oliver Cooper, a hard-nosed veteran winger who broke out for 28 goals the season before.
Cooper would go on to become the captain of the Islanders in 2015-2016, but he wasn’t the only future Islanders captain acquired that day. The Islanders would then trade the 16th overall pick and a 2015 5th round pick to Rimouski for Summerside native Ryan MacKinnon. The quick-moving, overage defender immediately became the leader of a revamped Isles defense corps alongside Dexter Weber, acquired on the same day as MacKinnon, and the soon-to-be acquired Will Thompson.
Before the end of the day, MacKinnon would be joined by another friend from Prince Edward Island. Charlottetown would trade Victoriaville’s 2015 1st round pick back to the Tigres in exchange for towering Johnston’s River native Ross Johnston. The move, combined with the acquisitions of Cooper and MacKinnon, cemented the Maritime identity that Sonier sought from the beginning of the Islanders’ tenure in Charlottetown.
The final move involving 1st rounders for Sonier came on draft day; Sonier flipped Gatineau’s 1st round pick, 12th overall, back to Gatineau to move up to the 7th overall selection. Sonier used the pick to select a sharp-shooting winger from Sydney, Nova Scotia, Mitchell Balmas. Balmas was the player that Sonier coveted, working diligently to select the young player.
“We’re getting one of the premier goal scorers in this year’s draft,” Sonier said in an interview with The Guardian. “We couldn’t have been happier to have selected him.”
Balmas would go on to a prolific five-year QMJHL career across four teams, winning a President’s Cup and Memorial Cup with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan in the process.
The Islanders would select twice in the second round, picking forward Samuel Guibault 24th and big defender Andrew Smith 34th overall. Guibault would make the Islanders out of camp and play the season in Charlottetown before being traded to Shawinigan the following offseason. He’d spend parts of three seasons with the Cataractes before joining Longueuil Collège-Français of the Quebec Junior A league for good in 2018-2019, where he’d record an incredible 114 points in 48 games.
Smith, meanwhile, would play with the Islanders during the 2015-2016 season before two more seasons in Victoriaville, recording four goals and 20 points over a 172-game career in the QMJHL.
Not on the clock again until 48th pick, Charlottetown proceeded to pick a player that would become synonymous with Islander hockey. Keith Getson was ranked 35th overall by QMJHL Central Scouting ahead of the draft but fell a few spots from his predicted draft slot. The Islanders used the opportunity to land the Bridgewater native, and the rest is history. Getson now sits alone atop the list of games played as an Islander before his trade to Halifax this past season.
The Islanders would finish the draft with 15 new selections, including Balmas, Guilbault, Smith, and Getson. The foursome weren’t the only players to see QMJHL action of the draft class; fourth round pick Anthony Wojcik played parts of four seasons with Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, and Moncton before finishing his junior career this season in Quebec Junior A. 11th round pick David Comeau would see action over three seasons as well, starting with the Islanders and ending with the juggernaut that was the 2016-2017 Saint John Sea Dogs.
With 6 out of 15 draft picks playing at least three seasons in the QMJHL, it’s easy to argue that Charlottetown made the most of their picks in the 2014 QMJHL Draft. Alongside the trade acquisitions of Johnston, Cooper, and MacKinnon, this draft proved to be a turning point in the franchise and shaped the team identity for years to come.
Round 1, #7: F Mitchell Balmas
Round 2, #24: F Samuel Guilbault
Round 2, #34: D Andrew Smith
Round 3, #48: F Keith Getson
Round 3, #55: G Luke House
Round 4, #63: F Anthony Wojcik
Round 4, #73: D Frank Sullivan
Round 5, #84: D Lucas Sangster
Round 6, #97: F Ryan Brushett
Round 8, #140: F Matthew Jones
Round 10, #169: F Hunter Luhmann
Round 11, #187: D David Comeau
Round 12, #205: F Matthew Dumaresque
Round 13, #223: F Brady Griffin-Hefford
Round 14, #241: Ace Cowans
Other notable Islanders selected in the 2014 QMJHL Draft:
Jordan Maher – Round 1, #7, Acadie-Bathurst
Mark Grametbauer – Round 3, #41, Blainville-Boisbriand
Jake Barter – Round 5, #76, Victoriaville
Olivier Desjardins – Round 6, #96, Val d’Or
Sam King – Round 8, #143, Blainville-Boisbriand
Blade Mann-Dixon – Round 11, #185, Saint John