Cape Breton Screaming Eagles Season Preview

By Ryan Milley

The “rebuilding” theme has gone through the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles organization since the end of last seasons run to the Conference Final where the team lost to the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.

Gone from the blueline are top scoring defencemen David Cloutier, who is now in the San Jose organization, and Mathieu Dumas who was traded to Val d’Or as future considerations in the deal that brought Cloutier to Cape Breton. Also gone are defensive specialists Carl McLean and Rodrigue Boucher who were traded to conference rivals Moncton and Chicoutimi respectively.

Lost up front was leading scorer Dominic Noel who graduated as an overager and is now playing at Dalhousie University , Andre Martineau who also graduated as an overage player and is now playing for Thetford Mines in the Quebec Semi Pro Hockey League, Pierre-Luc Laprise who was also send to Val d’Or as future considerations in the Cloutier trade, super pest Pascal Morency who was traded to Hull, and european Martin Kasik who was traded to Acadie-Bathurst.

This years team is being led by 2003 draft eligible 18yr old goaltending sensation Marc Andre Fleury who led the QMJHL with a .915 save % in the 2001-2002 season. In front of Fleury, an inexperienced defence is led by 20yr old veteran JP Cote, as well as 19yr old Steve Villeneuve. The team is relying on 2000-2001 Quebec Midget AAA defenceman of the year Marc-Olivier Vary to make an impact, and 2002 2nd round draft choice Vincent Zaore-Vanie was one of the suprises of training camp. 18yr old Maxime Robert, acquired in a trade with Shawinigan, and walk on Michel Charrette round out the defence.

Up front the Eagles are led by 20yr old forwards Stuart Macrae and Edmonton Oilers draft choice Jean Francois Dufort. Young 17yr old forwards Steve Dixon, who played on Canada’a Gold Medal Winning National Under 18 team at the 8 nations tournament this summer, Kevin Asselin, and 1st round draft pick Jared Vokey will all get a chance to contribute, as well as 18yr old sophmore Guillame Demers and Grant Thomas, acquired in a trade with Montreal, who is a big physical presence. 1st round European draft pick Jan Velich will also get ice time. Physically the Eagles are led by Anaheim Mighty Ducks draft pick George Davis who is one of the QMJHL’s toughest. Defensive players Maxime Lessard and David Philpott as 17yr old rookie Samuel Beland and 18yr old rookie Gary Matheson round out a solid but inexpereinced forward group.

After 2 solid seasons the Eagles will take a step back in the standings this season. Many experts are predicting the team to finish 8th and miss the playoffs but the spectacular Marc Andre Fleury could be the difference in making the post season. The Eagles will no doubt be in a rebuilding mode this season and will trade experienced players for the future. The Quebec Remparts are said to be interested in Fleury, but Eagles GM Pascal Vincent has said his star netminder will not be moved this season.

The Eagles should have a young and entertaining team that concentrates on working hard and always giving 100% effort and will rely a lot of the goaltending. The scouts will be out in full force to watch 2003 NHL draft eligibles Marc Andre Fleury, Steven Dixon, Kevin Asselin and Jared Vokey. It will definitely be an interesting season on Cape Breton Island for the Screaming Eagles.