By Tina Comeau
Aside from hosting a successful event in itself, the Yarmouth Junior A Mariners came away from the MHL midget draft held in Yarmouth on June 16 celebrating success in their draft picks.
Among their draft picks were the MVPs of the Newfoundland and the NB/PEI major midget leagues.
Mariners head coach Laurie Barron said in this midget draft the team was looking to add some scoring up front, size on its defence and some solid goaltending, and the team felt it achieved all of these goals.
Prior to the draft getting underway, Barron – who coached the Mariners to triple overtime in Game 7 of the MHL finals last season – was named the Coach of the Year by the Maritime Junior Hockey League, much to the delight of the many Mariners fans who came to watch the draft.
Barron said the award is really a team award, saying it is a reflection of the hard work and effort by all of the coaching staff, the team staff, the team owners and the players.
The Mariners picked 10th in the first round, picking up Cody Drover from the Central Ice Pak, who was MVP of the Newfoundland major midget league. Drover had 57 points last season, 32 goals and 25 assists.
Barron admits the Mariners were a little bit surprised Drover was still available when their turn in the first round came up.
“But we were very happy,” says Barron.
The other major midget league MVP the team drafted was Matt Wright, who the Mariners got as 6th pick in the fourth round. With 69 points last season, 35 goals and 34 assists, Wright was his league-scoring champion and the top goal scorer on his team, the Fredericton Canadiens.
The Mariners’ second pick during the draft was Matthew Graham, who played major midget in Dartmouth last season and led his team in scoring with 45 points during the regular season and 16 points in the playoffs. Barron describes Graham as “a phenomenal player,” saying, though, he does have a commitment to play hockey at prep school next season.
The Mariners’ two territorial picks are not unfamiliar names in local hockey circles, with both players coming from Shelburne County.
Morgan Messenger was an affiliate player with the Mariners last season, and played with them throughout their playoff run.
Brendan Nickerson played with the Canadian Tire Mustangs last season. Both players also played AAA minor hockey in Yarmouth.
For Nickerson and Messenger this was the second consecutive weekend they were drafted. Both were drafted the weekend before in the QMJHL draft. Nickerson was drafted first pick in the third round by Sherbrooke. Messenger was drafted second pick in the sixth round to the PEI Rocket.
Both players said it was an honour to be drafted in both leagues. And if things don’t work out this year with the Q at training camp, they say it’s great to have this opportunity to perhaps play hockey so close to home.
“It’s great to be drafted close to home and have a fan base, family, come watch you,” says Nickerson. “It’s a great organization and I’m glad to be a part of it.”
Nickerson was at the Q draft, although Messenger had watched it from home. As luck would have it, Messenger had left the room when his name was called.
“I had been sitting there the whole draft and just left to get something to eat and soon as I left I got picked, people were in the room yelling,” he said.
Both will go to their respective Q training camps this summer so the Mariners will have to await the outcome of what happens there.
The Mariners also picked up two goalies in the draft, which, Barron says, is important since the Mariners are losing both of their goalies from last season. Charles Grant will be playing hockey at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and Chase Gaudet is being signed by Shawinigan, says Barron.
The overall first round pick of the MHL draft was Tyler Brown, a forward who played with the Valley Wildcats last season. He has also been drafted by the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in the QMJHL. Brown was drafted first overall by the Miramichi Timberwolves who, with trades, ended up with three picks in the first round. Asked what it felt like to go first overall draft pick, Brown said, “There’s a lot of good players in the Maritimes and to be picked first is a really big honour. I worked hard this year, but to be first, I didn’t think I’d go there.”
Meanwhile, asked to sum up the results of the draft for the Mariners, Barron says going into a draft you never know what the outcome will be but he says the Mariners are very pleased.
“We’re ecstatic,” he says.
The following is a list of the Mariners draft picks:
•Round 1, 10th pick: Cody Drover, Central Ice Pak, forward.
•Round 3, 10th pick: Matthew Graham, Dartmouth Taylor Flooring Major Midgets, forward
•Round 4, 6th pick: Matt Wright, Fredericton Canadians Midget AAA, center.
•Round 5, 3rd pick: Jack Flinn, Dartmouth Taylor Flooring Major Midgets, goalie.
•Round 6, 10th pick: Joe Chamberlain, Fredericton Canadians Midget AAA, defence.
• Round 7, 10th pick: Jeffrey MacMillan, Saint John Vitos Midget AAA, defence.
•Round 9, 4th pick: Justin Walsh, St. Johns Pennecon Privateers, forward.
•Round 9, 10th pick: Shane MacMillan, Eastern Shore High School, forward.
•Round 10, 11th pick: Maxxim Feener, Weeks Major Midgets, goalie.
• Territorial picks: Morgan Messenger and Brendan Nickerson.