Cape Breton Post
Eagles hold 18 picks at this year’s QMJHL entry draft.
Rebuilding Cape Breton Eagles hold 18 draft picks at 2021 QMJHL Entry Draft
SYDNEY — When a team is in the middle of a rebuilding process, it’s never a bad thing to be wealthy in draft picks. Just ask the Cape Breton Eagles hockey operations staff.
The Sydney-based franchise will enter this year’s Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Entry Draft with 18 selections, beginning with one selection in the first round of the event on Friday night.
Cape Breton held the second-overall pick at the draft but traded the selection to the Drummondville Voltigeurs on Wednesday.
Instead, the Eagles will hold the Voltigeurs pick at No. 8 overall — a draft choice the team intends to use and not trade at this point. The club has never picked at eighth overall in its 25-year history.
“We definitely want to add to our depth chart at this year’s draft,” said Eagles general manager Jacques Carrière. “We want those players to come to camp and show us what they can do.”
Like in previous years, Carrière plans to draft the best players available in the first and second rounds, before turning his attention to the team’s needs at various positions beginning in the third round.
“Unless there’s someone that we really, really like and we think he’s second-round calibre and slipped, we’d pick him,” said Carrière. “We’d typically work around our depth chart — if we had 18 picks and picked 18 forwards, we’d be in trouble down the road.”
BREAKING DOWN THE PICKS
Cape Breton enters the draft with six picks in the first five rounds.
Along with the No. 8 overall selection, the team will also pick twice in the second-round at No. 22 and No. 34. The club won’t have a third-round pick — the selection was traded to Blainville-Boisbriand Wednesday — before making a pick in the fourth-round, No. 59 overall, and two choices in the fifthround at No. 77 and No. 83 respectively.
The Eagles have three picks in the sixth-round, back-toback-to-back at No. 95, No. 96, and No. 97, as well as two selections in the 12th-round at No. 203 and No. 205. Cape Breton owns single picks in Rounds 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, and 14.
Despite the challenges of scouting in both Atlantic Canada and Quebec last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Carrière is confident in the list and players the draft has to offer.
“I always say there’s never a bad draft, you just have to find the best players, so that’s what the scouts are tasked with,” said Carrière. “I’m really confident in the list that head scouts Patrick Leblond and Jonathan Murphy have built.”
Although the team traded the second overall pick, which also included the acquisition of the No. 22 overall pick and 18-year-old defenceman Conor Shortall, the club isn’t actively shopping the eighth overall selection.
“I have to be prudent when I say that,” said Carrière. “Somebody could come in and surprise us with something, it’s always possible.”
Separate from the regular draft, the league will also hold its two-round American Draft. Cape Breton will have two selections at that draft.
In recent years, the team hasn’t had success attracting American-born players to its training camp. Since 2013, the team has only been able to get forwards Cameron Darcy (2013) and Luke Holyfield (2019) to report to camp.
LOOKING BACK AT THE DRAFT
Last season, the Eagles made 17 selections at the draft. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and a smaller training camp than usual, not all of the picks attended the camp.
Among the 17 players selected were goaltender Nicolas Ruccia, forwards Lucas Canning and Davis Cooper, as well as defenceman François-James Buteau, all of whom made the team in 2020-21.
Meanwhile, prospects Colby Huggan (Charlottetown), Jacob Long (Fredericton) and Keifer Lyons (Saint John) all had successful seasons in their respectively under-18 major hockey leagues in 2020-21.
Over the past five drafts, the team has taken two forwards, two defencemen and two goaltenders in the first round. The picks include Kevin Mandolese (2016), Noah Laaouan (2017), Brooklyn Kalmikov (2017), Alex Drover (2018), Jérémy Langlois (2019), and Ruccia (2020).
The last five eighth overall selections include Samuel Houde (Chicoutimi, 2016), Dawson Mercer (Drummondville, 2017), Jeremie Poirier (Saint John, 2018), Nathan Gaucher (Quebec, 2019), and Noah Warren (Gatineau, 2020).
The first round of this year’s virtual draft will take place on Friday at 7:30 p.m. Fans can watch the opening round on Eastlink Community Television or on the QMJHL YouTube channel. Meanwhile, rounds 2-14 and the American Draft are slated for Saturday, beginning at 10 a.m.