Season Preview: Halifax Mooseheads

David Chan


The Halifax Mooseheads are busy putting the finishing touches on preparations for the 2017-18 QMJHL Season which begins in Saint John, New Brunswick on Thursday night at 7pm when the Moose face off with the Sea Dogs at Harbour Station.

The Mooseheads consider themselves to be contenders for the Maritime Division title this year under new Head Coach Jim Midgley. Halifax finished with a 27-35-3-3 record last season which was good for fifth in the division and 15th overall in the QMJHL. The team has seen plenty of change from top to bottom including star forward Nico Hischier who is almost certain to play in the NHL this season after the New Jersey Devils selected him first overall. General Manager Cam Russell didn’t waste any time bringing in a new star European by nabbing exciting forward Filip Zadina from the Czech Republic in the CHL Import Draft.

NHL scouts will be a frequent site at Scotiabank Centre with Zadina, Benoit-Olivier Groulx, Jared McIsaac and Alex Gravel all highly touted prospects for next June’s NHL Entry Draft, while Raphael Lavoie will be closely watched for the 2019 Entry Draft.

New Players Acquired Departed Status
F Filip Zadina 11th Overall CHL Import Draft F Nico Hischier 1st Overall NHL Draft – New Jersey
F Xavier Parent 4th Overall QMJHL Entry Draft F Keigan Goetz Graduated player
D Justin Barron 13th Overall QMJHL Entry Draft D Frederic Aube Graduated player
F Kyle Petten 95th Overall QMJHL Entry Draft F Caleb Rich Amherst Ramblers MHL
D Patty Kyte Ontario Free Agent D Mathieu Charlebois Traded to Gatineau
D Ryan Barbosa Ontario Free Agent

The team is armed with a solid goaltending tandem in sophomore Alex Gravel and 20-year-old Blade Mann-Dixon. Gravel proved himself worthy of the starting role when he carried the bulk of the load late last season after Mann-Dixon suffered a season-ending injury. The young goalie made a name for himself during the playoffs when Halifax took the defending President Cup Champion Rouyn-Noranda Huskies to six games. Gravel was named a star in five of the six games. Meantime a healthy Mann-Dixon not only gives the team some security in the position but he will push Gravel in a healthy competition on a daily basis.

“They’re both really good goalies. Blade has a lot of experience in this league and Gravel took the ball and ran with it last year,” Midgley said.

The Mooseheads won’t begin the season with a healthy group on defense as veterans Walter Flower and Jordan Lepage continue to rehab their respective injuries. Despite the absence of those two players, Halifax has a lot to be excited about on the back end this year. 17-year-old Jared McIsaac has proven to be able to control the flow of the game on offense while staying responsible in his own end. Jocktan Chainey was a draft pick of the New Jersey Devils in June and will play a major role for the team at both ends of the ice. Halifax had the good fortune of drafting Justin Barron 13th overall at the QMJHL Draft. The 16-year-old Halifax native was touted as one of the best defencemen available in the draft and performed well in the pre-season with six points and a +1 rating in seven games. There are two newcomers from Ontario in Mississauga’s Ryan Barbosa and Pembroke’s Patty Kyte. Barbosa is a right hand shot 19-year-old with some size while Kyte figures to be more of an offensive minded player. He had nine goals and 29 assists in 53 games last season for his hometown Lumber Kings in the CCHL. Cooper Jones brings speed and a strong shot from the point as he enters his 19-year-old season. The American spent time at the forward position last year but plans are to keep him as a blueliner with the Mooseheads in 2017-18.

The forward group is expected to be among the best in the league with improved scoring depth and experience. Featuring 20-year-olds Max Fortier and Connor Moynihan, the club also has a couple of likely first round NHL draft picks in Filip Zadina and Benoit-Olivier Groulx. Fortier was among the best in the league last year with 87 points. The maturation of Arnaud Durandeau will also be a bonus for the Mooseheads. The Beaconsfield, QC native is expected to take a jump in production and has gained great experience during his stint with the New York Islanders training camp. The Isles made him the 165th player chosen in the NHL Draft in June. Barrett Dachyshyn begins the year healthy after playing in just 35 games last year. With his size and reach, Dachyshyn could be a player that surprises as a 19-year-old for the Herd. Rookie Xavier Parent instantly made an impact during the pre-season with eight points in seven games after the Mooseheads selected him fourth overall in the QMJHL Draft. The speedy Parent has a competitive drive to his game and despite is smaller stature he can play in the dirty areas of the ice. Big Raphael Lavoie has grown to 6-foot-4 and doesn’t turn 17 until next week. The sky is the limit for sophomore forward who scored nine points in limited action last season. He appears primed for a breakout year and will be given the opportunity to do so under Jim Midgley. Tampa Bay prospect Otto Somppi brings scoring power once fully recovered from shoulder surgery rehab. Joel Bishop has a sandpaper to his game that is much needed among the forwards and will most certainly improve on his 23 point output of last year. Fellow Newfounlander Kyle Petten has similar skills as a rookie with the Moose. He was the surprise of training camp by making the team as a 16-year-old sixth round draft choice. Veterans Brett Crossley and Ben Higgins round out the forward group. Crossley is a steady presence with excellent skills in the face-off circle and on the penalty kill. He will find ways to contribute in all aspects of the game as a 19-year-old. Higgins injects speed and excitement on the offensive side and can be used in a variety of ways by the coaching staff.

The Halifax Mooseheads will play three road games before coming back to Scotiabank Centre for their own home opener on Saturday, September 30th at 7:00pm against the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.

Tickets are on sale now at the Ticket Atlantic Box Office, select Superstore Outlets, the Mooseheads Shop in Scotia Square, or charge by phone 451-1221.

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