The 2019-20 QMJHL regular season begins for you Halifax Mooseheads with a pair of games on the road against divisional rivals this weekend. First up, the Moose will visit the Saint John Sea Dogs on Friday at 7pm before heading to Charlottetown to face the Islanders on Saturday in a game that also starts at 7pm.
On paper this year’s edition of the Mooseheads will feature one of the strongest goaltending tandems in the league along with a very strong group of defencemen and a high-end top line that could go toe-to-toe with any line in the Canadian Hockey League. The team also has several new faces, 11 in total that will be playing their first full season in Halifax.
The Maritimes Division is shaping up to be extremely competitive this year with the Mooseheads in the thick of it. Cape Breton, Charlottetown and Moncton all look to take steps forward in terms of their place in the standings while Saint John has had several high draft picks over the past couple of seasons and hope to see their rebuild start to produce results in the win column. The Mooseheads may not be considered as deep as one year ago at this time as they prepared for a Memorial Cup hosting season but several star players are not only one year older, but ready to fight for another division title.
Alexis Gravel is entering his fourth season between the pipes for the Mooseheads and is fresh off his second training camp with the Chicago Blackhawks after being selected in the sixth round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Gravel was outstanding last season with career highs in wins (33), goals against average (2.49), save percentage (.913), shutouts (5) and minutes (2869:39). His 70 career wins are second only to Zach Fucale in franchise history and he was named the Most Outstanding Goaltender of the 2019 Memorial Cup presented by Kia. Gravel is ready to start the season as one of the best at his position in the QMJHL.
Cole McLaren is back for his second full season in Halifax and had a breakout year as an 18-year-old with a 16-3 record. His numbers were dazzling in 1225:54 minutes of work. He had four shutouts, a goals against average of 1.81 and a save percentage of .930. The Annapolis Royal, NS native has the capabilities to step in as the number one goaltender should Gravel miss time for injuries or international tournaments.
Jared McIsaac begins the year on the injured list after undergoing shoulder surgery in June. The star blueliner and Detroit Red Wings prospect is expected to be back in the lineup sometime before Christmas. McIsaac put up a career-best 62 points last season after scoring 16 goals and adding 46 assists. He is only nine points away from tying Konrad Abeltshauser for most career points (150) by a Mooseheads defenceman.
Justin Barron will have plenty of eyes on him this season as he enters his NHL draft eligible year. He is already projected by many NHL insiders to be as high as a top 10 pick in June of 2020. Barron possesses elite skating ability and great size at 6-foot-2 and nearly 200 pounds. He is one of the best two-way defencemen in the league and his development is expected to be taken to another level this season with the Mooseheads. His 41 points were second on the team for defencemen last year and although he is entering his third season with the team, Barron won’t turn 18-years-old until November.
Patrick Kyte is one of two overage defencemen for the Mooseheads and will continue his leadership role in the room. Kyte brings great defensive skills to the team and is expected to see more time in offensive situations this season. He has contributed 55 points in 123 games and is a +38 in two years since being added as a free agent from Ontario prior to the 2017-18 season. The 20-year-old from Pembroke, ON was invited to participate in Florida Panthers development camp this past summer.
Walter Flower has the honour of playing his fifth season with the Mooseheads, joining only a handful of players to accomplish the feat. The 20-year-old Lunenburg, NS native brings experience and stability in the defensive zone. His 208 career games has him sitting 23rd all-time on the franchise list but a full season in 2019-20 would put him into the top five. Flower attended rookie camp with the Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues on a free agent invitation.
Cameron Whynot came to the team in August as part of a blockbuster trade that sent forward Xavier Parent to Sherbrooke. Whynot is a 16-year-old rookie who was the highest ranked defenceman in June’s QMJHL Entry Draft. The Kentville, NS native ended up being selected ninth overall by the Phoenix. He was a point-per-game player during two seasons of Midget hockey with 58 points in 58 games. Playing with a team deep in veteran defencemen, Whynot will have the opportunity to develop properly without being prematurely thrust into the limelight.
Jason Horvath was picked up in another August trade by General Manager Cam Russell and brings additional veteran stability to the team as a 19-year-old. Horvath spent that last two years with the Shawinigan Cataractes and brings some added grit to the lineup. He showed off a two-way game during the preseason with the Mooseheads and looks primed to be a thorn in the side for the opposition.
Lucas Robinson cracked the team out of camp after being picked in the eighth round by the Moose in June’s QMJHL Entry Draft. He is a 17-year-old rookie out of Rocky Harbour, NL who will be counted on to play a reliable game in front of the goalies. His size and strength are key attributes and he projects to play on the right side of the third pairing.
Brendan Tomilson is the newest member of the Mooseheads after he was added as a free agent from Ontario in September. He joined the team in time for the final preseason game versus Moncton where he had four penalty minutes. He gives Coach J.J. Daigneault a fourth right-handed shooting option on the blueline and is expected to split time with Lucas Robinson. The soon-to-be 18-year-old played last season with the Lindsay Muskies of the OJHL.
Benoit-Olivier Groulx leads this team on and off the ice and has grown into one of the most difficult players to play against in the QMJHL. He has been enjoying a successful second training camp with the Anaheim Ducks but will center the top forward line for the Herd once he returns to Halifax. The former first overall pick in the QMJHL stepped up his game with a career-high 80 points last season and scored nine game-winning goals. He is projected to play with Maxim Trepanier and Raphael Lavoie on his wings to form one of the most lethal offensive lines in the QMJHL.
Raphael Lavoie was already known as a sniper around the league with 34 goals last season before lighting it up with a franchise record 20 goals in the playoffs. At 6-foot-4 Lavoie has intimidating size and will feed off the talent and creativity of Trepanier and Groulx. He was a second round draft pick of the Edmonton Oilers in June and like Groulx, McIsaac, Barron and Gravel, is hoping to land a spot on Team Canada for the 2020 World Junior Hockey Championships.
Maxim Trepanier is one of three 20-year-old overage players this season and will be playing his first full year in Halifax after being acquired at the deadline last season from Gatineau. Trepanier’s offensive skill was on full display during the playoffs when he produced 20 points in 22 games and added another six points during the Memorial Cup. The Mooseheads should expect to get career-high numbers this season from a healthy Trepanier.
Senna Peeters was Halifax’s first round pick in the CHL Import Draft in June with GM Cam Russell taking him 47th overall. The forward from Belgium has good size and speed and showed a knack for scoring in the preseason by tying for the league lead in goals with six. He is not currently on the radar for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft but a strong season with the Mooseheads could change things for 17-year-old. He is likely to begin the year playing right wing on the second line.
Marcel Barinka fills the other import roster spot as he returns for his second season in the QMJHL. Barinka is expected to play a much more prominent role than he did as a rookie and will be given plenty of time on the ice both in five-on-five and power play situations. He showed a renewed confidence level during the pre-season and is pegged as the second line center to begin the year. Barinka had eight points in five pre-season games.
Samuel Dube will start the season on the left wing with Barinka and Peeters and is another player who will receive much more playing time in his second season with the team. The 2018 first round pick by the Herd put in plenty of work in the gym throughout the offseason in an effort to improve his strength. The 17-year-old scored two goals and two assists in the preseason.
Cole Stewart is back to full health after missing a big chunk of the second half of the 2018-19 season recovering from shoulder surgery. Stewart will use consistent playing time to fine tune his game after the injury cut short what would have been his first full season in the QMJHL. The Moncton, NB native has some speed and an accurate shooting ability that will see him likely bounce between the second and third lines.
Cole Foston is a local forward from Beaver Bank, NS that fulfilled his dream of becoming a member of the Mooseheads when the team selected him in the fourth round of the QMJHL Entry Draft in June. The left winger plays with an edge and will slot into the lineup in the bottom six this season. He has been an offensive player in minor hockey and will provide the Mooseheads with a hard-working player who will bring energy to the forward group.
Sonny Kabatay of Mebertou, NS is ready for his rookie season after spending an extra year of development in Midget with Dartmouth. The 2018 fifth round pick of the Moose is another hard-working forward who will look to contribute whatever he can to the team both offensively and defensively. Kabatay was a Second Team All-Star in the NSMMHL last season with 44 points in 32 games. He is strong on the puck and possesses some speed that will help him adjust to life in the QMJHL. He is a right-handed shot that can play both the wing and center positions. He will see bottom six minutes but is also likely to spend time on the penalty kill.
Zack Jones is the lone American on the Mooseheads roster. The younger brother of former defenceman Cooper Jones made the team as an 18-year-old and will be another player that brings some energy to the bottom six forwards. He was drafted in 2017 by Halifax and is now ready to take the leap to Major Junior hockey. Jones has shown a tenacious style of play and it’s obvious that he’s not afraid to go to the tough areas of the ice.
Gavin Hart has been called up on a few different occasions since being drafted in 2017 but is now a full-time member of the Mooseheads. The Bible Hill, NS right winger has a nose for the net and has scored once in his six career games. He is small in stature at 5-foot-5 so keeping up with the fast pace of QMJHL hockey will be key to his success. Hart is a player who will work hard whenever he steps on the ice and will be a welcome option for Coach Daigneault and his staff and will help fill out the bottom six forwards.
Jeffrey Burridge projects to be a nice free agent addition for the Mooseheads after he was brought to training camp from Ontario. Burridge adds size and strength at 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds and some offensive ability. The 18-year-old fit in well during the preseason and will look to continue to improve his skating.
Said Abi-Faycal was a pleasant surprise at training camp as a free agent invite and impressed enough to crack the final roster for the Mooseheads after playing Junior A for both Saint-Jerome and Montreal-Nord last season. He is an 18-year-old right winger with offensive skill. Abi-Faycal played his QMAAA hockey with Saint-Eustache and is a former teammate of Rimouski star Alexis Lafreniere.
Individual tickets are on sale now at the Ticket Atlantic Box Office, TicketAtlantic.com, select Superstore outlets, or by calling 902-451-1221.