HALIFAX – After falling short last season, the Halifax Mooseheads are aiming to return to glory as the QMJHL regular season gets underway.
The Herd opens the season Thursday against the Sea Dogs in Saint John.
“It’s been a long training camp, and I know the guys are looking to get going (Thursday night) for real,” said Mooseheads head coach Jim Midgley.
Last year saw the Herd knocked out in the first round of the QMJHL playoffs, a disappointing but not entirely unexpected result for a young team just squeaking into the post-season. But the coach says that experience will help this year.
“I think we learned a lot as a group,” said Midgley. “Our young guys learned what it takes to play in the playoffs.”
YOUNG GUNS LOOK TO GROW
Training camp has seen the return of two players heading into their sophomore seasons with high expectations. Forward Benoit-Olivier Groulx and defenceman Jared McIssac, both selected at the top of the 2016 QMJHL draft, will look to build on impressive rookie campaigns.
But Midgley isn’t putting any extra pressure on his young stars.
“We understand it’s still a process,” said Midgley, talking about the room for his young players to grow. “But any coach out there says they love to work with skill, and that’s what we have here.”
The coach also praising the club’s goalies, saying Alexis Gravel and Blade Mann-Dixon give the team two potential starters.
Groulx, McIssac and Gravel are all early candidates to go in the first round of the 2018 NHL draft.
ANOTHER IMPORT STAR?
With last year’s breakout star Nico Hischier expected to make the jump to the NHL after being selected first overall by the New Jersey Devils at the summer’s NHL draft, the Mooseheads are looking to another European import to continue the trend of impressive drafting from across the pond.
Filip Zadina, a native of the Czech Republic hyped as a big man with a big shot, will look to fill some of the production that’s left with Hischier’s departure.
“He’s been everything as advertised on the ice,” said Midgely. The coach lauding his team’s welcoming of Zadina, including team-building. “First time he went out in the ocean, they went fishing, had a team barbecue.”
Zadina is also expected to push for a first round selection in the next NHL entry draft.
MOOSEHEADS WAITING ON PLAYERS AT NHL CAMPS
A few Mooseheads veterans won’t be in the opening night lineup as they try to crack AHL or NHL clubs.
Max Fortier (Montreal), Otto Somppi (Tampa Bay) and Arnaud Durandeau (New York Islanders) are all still with their major league teams as NHL pre-season continues. Midgley says it’s not clear when or if they will all be back.
Thursday’s season opener goes at 7:00 p.m. in Saint John. As always, the broadcast will be live on NEWS 95.7.