A Look Back at the Mooseheads Rookie Class

By Phil Laugher

Greetings folks,

The eighth year in the history of the Halifax Mooseheads has come to an
end, after the second round loss to our provincial rivals, the Cape Breton
Screaming Eagles. Though ending the season with a loss to our most heated
rivals can be considered a disappointment, there are still many positives
that can be drawn from the year. Jason King, Dany Dallaire, and Robbie
Sutherland, our departing overage players, each had tremendous seasons,
with King leading the CHL in goal scoring, Dallaire becoming one of the top
goaltenders in the Quebec league, and Sutherland providing leadership and
gritty play. We also saw the development of several stars of the future.
Today, we will take a look at the players who will lead the Mooseheads into
the next several years. Today we examine the 2001-2002 crop of rookies who
donned the red, white, and green this season.

Alexandre Picard, 16 (59GP, 2G-12A-14P, +16, 28PIM):
Alexandre Picard was
the Mooseheads’ first round selection in the 2001 Midget Draft, picked at
13th overall. The 6’2″, 200-pound defenseman looked solid in preseason,
not looking out of place at all skating with the big boys. He made the
final cuts, and joined the Mooseheads for the start of the season, albeit
as the team’s seventh defenseman. He saw sporadic duty in the first couple
months of the season, and appeared to be relegated to the spot as eighth
defenseman after the team’s acquisition of 19-year-old Patrick Gilbert,
however, Picard was kept on board, and ended up as the team’s sixth
defenseman, with Conor McGuire being affiliated to the Truro Bearcats
(MJAHL), and Michael Couch being moved to the forward checking line. With
his added ice time, Picard flourished. Noticeably absent from his
repertoire was the vast amount of mistakes that rookies his age tend to
make. Rarely would he cough the puck up, opting to make the safe play
rather than making a low-percentage attempt. He was a solid addition to an
already stellar blue-line. He quickly moved up the depth chart, thanks to
his physical play and his knack of keeping the puck in the offensive zone
at the blue-line. When playoff time rolled around, he took his game to a
new level, working on the second defensive unit with import Milan Jurcina,
and seeing occasional time on the second power play unit. In the Cape
Breton series, Picard ended up tied for third in team scoring.

Marc-André Bernier, 16 (49GP, 0G-6A-6P, +3, 20PIM):
Marc-André Bernier was
the Mooseheads’ second round selection in the 2001 draft, picked at 17th
overall. The hulking 6’3″ winger saw limited ice-time for much of the
season, a victim of the numbers game much of the time. He got into almost
fifty games, yet failed to score in his limited ice. Despite his lack of
numbers, Bernier showed solid hockey sense in the offensive zone. He has a
very powerful slap shot in his possession, which will no doubt prove
beneficial in the years to come. He saw mostly fourth-line duty when he
was not a scratch from the line-up, and also saw occasional time on the
second power-play unit. It can be said that he wasn’t given much of an
opportunity to work his way into the line-up, however he will play a far
more important role in the team next season, with only seven forwards
returning from last year’s team. Though he appears to be a bit sluggish on
his skates in game conditions (which will no doubt improve with age), he
showed flashes of blazing speed at times, as well as in the team’s skills
competition, where he put up a top-five time. Bernier, given extra
ice-time should develop into a bonafide scorer in his sophomore season.

Jonathan Boutin, 16 (11GP, 4-1-1, 2.35GAA, .902 SV%):
Jonathan Boutin
appears to be the Mooseheads’ goaltender of the future, following in the
footsteps of past keepers Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Pascal Leclaire, Alexei
Volkov, and Dany Dallaire. The 6’1″, 185-pounder was the team’s fourth
round selection, 56th overall. Boutin was a victim of Dallaire’s stellar
goaltending throughout the season. He only started six games, and there
are many fans that feel he may have been better served development-wise in
Midget AAA, rather than sitting on the bench behind Dallaire much of the
season. Boutin, however, given the time he did have, did not look out of
place at all, posting an impressive winning record, and an even more
impressive 2.35 goals against average, putting him up with the best numbers
in the entire league. Boutin will be thrown into the fire next season, as
the team’s 17-year-old number one goalie, and if this past season is any
indication, he should not disappoint, and should join the list of stellar
goaltenders before him.

François-Pierre Guenette, 17 (35GP, 2G-11A-13P, +13, 14PIM):
François-Pierre was the Mooseheads’ eighth round selection, 123rd overall,
in the 2001 Midget Draft. The 5’11”, 171-pound Guenette had a promising
pre-season with the Mooseheads, but was affiliated to the Dartmouth
Blizzards of the Maritime Junior A League. In 20 games with the Blizzards,
he put up a solid 17-point total, before receiving the call-up to the
parent club. Guenette spent his early Moosehead days as a healthy scratch,
before being inserted into the line-up full-time after star Sergei Klyazmin
suffered a season-ending knee injury. Guenette flourished with his added
ice-time, quickly working his way from the fourth line to occasional work
on the top two lines, playing on lines with stars such as Jason King and
Brandon Benedict. When playoff-time rolled around, Guenette took his game
up another notch, especially in the Cape Breton series, where Guenette tied
Jason King for scoring in the series, with six points. He finished the
playoff campaign with 3 goals, 4 assists, in 11 games. Guenette will be
looked upon to provide offence next season, and will no doubt be pencilled
into one of the top two lines when opening day rolls around.

Jordie Preston, 18 (3GP, 1G-0A-1P, +1, 0PIM):
Jordie Preston was a walk-on
to the Mooseheads training camp in 2001, and had himself a solid camp.
Despite his efforts, Preston was among the final cuts made to the team. He
joined F.-P. Guenette with the Dartmouth Blizzards for most of the season,
where he led the team in scoring with 26 goals, 31 assists, for 57 points
in 51 games. He saw a couple of call-ups during the season, and picked up
a goal in only his second Quebec league game. After the Blizzards were
eliminated from the playoffs, Preston was on full-time with the Mooseheads.
He saw time on the third and fourth lines, and impressed with his solid
two-way play. He picked up one assist in 10 playoff games. His age may be
a problem with next year’s team, as he will be a 19-year-old in a
rebuilding year, though there will be plenty of space for him on the sparse
forward lines. Assuming he makes the team next season, he should provide
continued great play, and make contributions in both ends of the rink.

Though the season ended bleakly, the future, with this core of rookies,
certainly looks bright. The next crop of rookies will be added at the
European and Midget drafts in mid-June.

Only sixteen weeks until training camp!

Until next time, this is Phil Laugher, bidding you all farewell.