Islanders believe they got first-round talent in Brett Budgell
The move was worth it for Brett Budgell.
The St. John’s, N.L., native left home last summer to play midget hockey in Ontario while living with his aunt and uncle in London.
After recording 58 points in 32 games, the Charlottetown Islanders drafted him early in the second round of Saturday’s Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) draft.
Budgell, who registered 62 points in 23 bantam games in 2015-16 in St. John’s, said playing in Ontario was key for his development.
“It was an important step . . . to play against better competition and bigger, faster, stronger guys,” he said. “I think that has prepared me very well.”
The five-foot-11, 185-pound centre considers himself a well-rounded player, who is good in the faceoff circle and can both score and set up goals. He said it was a “great feeling” to be an Islander.
“I’m really happy to be part of the organization and I’m really looking forward to camp,” Budgell said. “The Q, obviously, is the fastest route to the National Hockey League and I want to be a professional hockey player.”
Budgell was ranked 18th overall by QMJHL central scouting, but the Islanders, who didn’t own a first-round pick, had him as the seventh-best player available.
“To walk out with him at 25, we’re thrilled,” Islanders head coach and general manager Jim Hulton said. “We’re walking away thinking we got a first-round pick in the second round.”
He said Budgell plays well at both ends of the rink while bringing grit and energy to the ice.
“He’s going to be a similar mould to how (Filip) Chlapik played,” Hulton said.
While Hulton has stressed patience with young players in two seasons with the Islanders, he said Budgell’s build gives him the ability to step in and play.
Budgell did everything while playing in the strong midget league in Ontario, his new head coach said.
“One of the things that kind of jumped out was his hockey IQ,” Hulton said.
“He stayed on the right side of the puck. . . He wasn’t just a one trick pony, all offence. He was very well-rounded, so he’ll be able to step in as a first-year player and contribute.”
Budgell played with Ryan Suzuki the majority of the season in London. Suzuki was taken first overall in the OHL draft by the Barrie Colts.
“He’s definitely a special talent and it was a pleasure to play with him and be part of the London Knights,” Budgell said.
NEED TO KNOW
Who – The Charlottetown Islanders first pick in the 2017 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League draft.
Need to know – A five-foot-11, 185-pound centre from St. John’s, N.L., who played midget hockey for the London Knights in Ontario last season.
Did you know? Budgell was named the top forward at the Chronicle Herald East Coast IceJam tournament in Halifax in 2016 while playing with the St. John’s Hitmen AAA bantam team. He had 17 points in seven games.
Budgell said: “I like to think that I am a two-way forward who takes care of both ends of the ice.”