BY JUSTIN DICKIE
Although the 2008 NHL Entry Draft was a disappointment for the Quebec Major Junior League - which had no players picked in the first round - the draft should be considered a success for Atlantic Canada.
Six Atlantic Canadians became property of NHL teams Saturday. You could count seven Atlantic Canadians drafted in total if you include Chet Pickard, who spent the early years of his life in Moncton, N.B., before moving west where he made much of his progress as a hockey player. Pickard was drafted 18th overall by the Nashville Predators.
Pickard aside, Montreal Juniors’ goaltender Jake Allen was the first Atlantic Canadian taken, going to the St. Louis Blues with the 34th pick overall. He was thrilled with being tagged as the highest Quebec League kid drafted.
“That’s obviously a big honor for me, especially where nobody from our league got picked in the first round,” Allen said. “It was a little bit of a disappointment for our league, but it’s a huge honor for me to be the first guy picked.”
Ten picks later, the Buffalo Sabres called St. John’s, Nfld., native Luke Adam’s name.
“It’s a dream come true to be drafted by an NHL team and I couldn’t say enough about how honored and proud I am,” Adam said minutes after accepting his new Sabres jersey.
Adam is a big, strong forward who prides himself on his ability to work the puck down low. He spent a lot of time last summer working on his skating in an effort to get noticed by scouts. The next step for him is to work on his defensive game.
“I feel I can be a good two-way player and it’s something I’m going to continue working on and continue to improve,” Adam said. “One day I want to be known as a two-way, complete player.”
Ten picks after Adam, New Brunswick’s Patrice Cormier was taken by the New Jersey Devils with the 54th overall selection.
Cormier has been touted in the Maritimes as a future NHL player for years. He played two seasons with the Moncton Beavers of the Maritime Junior ‘A’ League, starting at age 14. He has always played an in-your-face, crash-and-bang style and he also has good offensive instincts. Cormier’s has high hopes for next season, as he believes he has an outside shot at making the Devils roster and will do whatever he can to make an impression.
“I’ll be looking to make a name for myself at camp,” Cormier said. “I’m going to give 100 percent and get my name out there right away.”
If he gets cut from the Devils, he’ll get his time in the spotlight, anyway, as his Rimouski Oceanic will host the 2009 Memorial Cup.
Lewiston Maineiacs goaltender Peter Delmas was the lone Nova Scotian taken in the draft, going 61st overall to the Colorado Avalanche. Delmas’ stock fell slightly in the second half of the 2007-08 season, likely because he didn’t see much ice as a backup to star goaltender Jonathan Bernier. But none of that matters now.
“It’s a very proud moment for me right now and I’m just speechless,” Delmas said after getting drafted.
Another New Brunswick kid was taken in the fourth round, as Kelsey Tessier went 110th overall to the Avalanche. Tessier was selected later than his pre-draft ranking suggested, but he wasn’t worried about where he was picked.
“You know you’re going to get drafted. It doesn’t matter which round, it’s what you do after the draft that counts the most. That’s definitely what I’m going to keep in mind,” Tessier said.
The final Atlantic Canadian taken in the draft was also the only Prince Edward Island kid selected. Chris Doyle, a forward with the PEI Rocket, was selected in the 5th round, 141st overall. Doyle has good wheels and is gifted offensively, putting up 63 points in 63 games in 2007-08.