The 2016 QMJHL Draft had a distinctly different feel for the Charlottetown Islanders.
For the first time in the team’s existence, Grant Sonier would not be behind the helm at the draft. That distinction belonged to Jim Hulton; the team’s head coach, fresh off of his rookie season in the Q, was given the general manager title after Sonier’s contract was not renewed at the end of the 2015-2016 season.
To add to the different feeling, the draft would be held in Charlottetown at the Eastlink Centre, gathering the entire league in the birthplace of Confederation.
“The draft is a great opportunity to showcase the province of Prince Edward Island and the city of Charlottetown,” said Islanders president of operations Craig Foster at the time of the announcement.
With a new person at the helm and the draft in their backyard, the Islanders were looking to capitalize on momentum they built the season before. The team finished in the middle of the QMJHL standings after some savvy acquisitions over the Christmas trading period that season.
The team had a number of picks at their disposal over the next three seasons and were returning much of their core players, including Filip Chlapik, Kameron Kielly, and Jake Coughler. Charlottetown’s youngest players were all progressing excellently, with Mitchell Balmas, Keith Getson, Shaun Boudrias, Matthew Welsh, and Pierre-Olivier Joseph all seeing regular ice time throughout the previous season. To top it all off, there was still the outside chance that Samuel Blais and Daniel Sprong, both believed to be nearly pro-ready, would return to the team for the 2016-2017 season.
As the Islanders stepped to the podium in front of their fans to make their first selection with the 18th pick of the first round, a lot of high-quality options remained. Names like Alexis Gravel, Raphael Lavoie, Luke Henman, Mathieu Desgagnes, and local product Chris McQuaid were all still in play. The Islanders though, went off the board and selected defender Marc-Olivier Alain out of Quebec City. The 5’11 defender was projected as a third-round pick by QMJHL Central Scouting, however Hulton told The Guardian afterwards that his scouting staff, led by Gilles Tremblay, were very confident in Alain.
“We stepped up on him because of the priority on defence and we thought that he was mis-rated and that’s why you have your own scouting staff,” Hulton said. “They were adamant this was our guy, so I was supportive.”
Alain wouldn’t remain in the Islanders system for a full season, being part of the package sent to the Gatineau Olympiques in exchange for Nicolas Meloche and Mark Grametbauer at the Christmas trading period. He’d play part of the 2017/2018 season with the Quebec Remparts and wasn’t active this past season.
That priority on defense would lead to Charlottetown’s first big splash at the draft. The Islanders would acquire Vancouver Canucks prospect Guillaume Brisebois, along with depth defenseman Jake Barter, from the Acadie-Bathurst Titan in exchange for defenseman Luc Deschenes, a 2017 2nd round pick, and a 2018 1st round pick. The move gave Hulton a captain and bona fide star defender to help nurture the growth of Joseph, along with some solid defensive depth in the form of Barter
“We think we’ve just acquired, arguably, one of the top-five defencemen in the league,” Hulton told The Guardian following the deal.
The Isles would select again in the 2nd round, this time taking forward Nathaniel Doyon with the 36th selection. Standing 6’0 and weighing 179 pre-draft, Doyon was heralded for his impressive size as a 15 year-old. He’d step in to the line-up in 2017-2018, playing 50 games and recording 6 points.
The next Isles selection made was a goaltender in the 3rd, round, 47th overall. Like Doyon, Dakota Lund-Cornish had impressive size and came from a well-known program with the Halifax Macs, the same organization that produced both Mason McDonald and Matthew Welsh. Lund-Cornish would make the Isles roster ahead of the 17/18 season, although would be hard-pressed to get regular ice-time backing up Welsh. He’d be traded to the Sherbrooke Phoenix at the 2018 Christmas trading period, where he has since taken the reigns in the crease on a young, up-and-coming team.
After Lund-Cornish, Charlottetown would go to work securing a number of depth draft pieces. They’d acquire three picks from the Halifax Mooseheads for Brad Kennedy, and three more late picks from the Baie-Comeau Drakkar in exchange for a 2017 7th round pick. When it was all said and done the Isles would pick three times in the sixth round. They’d select a trio of Atlantic Canadian-born prospects: defenseman Dominic Hachey from Moncton, forward Kyle McGrath of St. John’s, and Charlottetown native Thomas Casey.
McGrath saw parts of two seasons with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles following a 2017 trade closer to home, while Hachey didn’t play this season. Casey has since become an integral component of the Islanders, finding himself in the team’s top-six this season and earning a reputation for being one of the speediest players in the QMJHL.
The Islanders would select eleven more times in front of their home audience, however just Evan Gallant would play games for the club. While the team drafted just three players who have played at least a season for the Islanders, Hulton and company landed a future captain via trade, a speedy hometown favourite, and a future #1 QMJHL goaltender.
Round 1- #18 – D Marc-Olivier Alain
Round 2- #36 – F Nathaniel Doyon
Round 3- #47 – G Dakota Lund-Cornish
Round 6- #93 – D Dominic Hachey
Round 6- #101 – F Kyle McGrath
Round 6- #106 – F Thomas Casey
Round 8- #135 – C Liam Gorman
Round 8- #137 – C Matthew Barron
Round 9- #147 – C Isaac Knox
Round 9- #155 – RW David Gagne
Round 10- #171 – C Evan Gallant
Round 10- #173 – LW Ryan Breau
Round 11- #191 – C Nicholas Cardone
Round 12- #202 – D Alexis Gaudreau
Round 12- #209 – RW Sebastien Paquette
Round 13- #227 – LW Jake Di Girolamo
Round 14 – #245 – C Craig Needham
Notable Future Islanders:
Xavier Bernard – Round 1, #12 – Drummondville Voltigeurs
- 8th round pick Liam Gorman, one of Charlottetown’s two American-drafted prospects, is now a Pittsburgh Penguins prospect. The forward was selected in the 6th round, 177th overall, in the 2018 draft. Gorman kicked off three straight picks with ties to the Islanders – Hunter Drew was selected 178th by Anaheim, while the Minnesota Wild selected Shaun Boudrias 179th.