2018-19 Season Preview: Eastlink North Division

The Edmundston Blizzard captured the 2017-18 MHL Championship in six games over the Yarmouth Mariners

Campbellton Tigers
2017-18 in Review
Record: 24-22-2-2 (3rd in Eastlink North)
Playoffs: Lost in five games to Summerside in 1st Round
Goals For: 134 (10th)
Goals Against: 158 (T-6th)
Powerplay: 12.2% (12th)
Penalty Kill: 77.1% (10th)
Leading Scorers
Pierre-Luc Lurette (19-22-41)
Pascal Valcourt (16-16-32)
Tommy Callaghan (14-10-24)

Can they score?
Campbellton have been among the lowest scoring teams in the MHL for the past two seasons, and with high powered teams like Edmundston and Summerside, the Tigers will have to be able to keep pace in a few “whoever scores last, wins” games. They have nine returning forwards, so the chemistry they gained last season will go a long way to where Campbellton ends up in the standings.

Mix on Defence
Last year’s leading scorer Pierre-Luc Lurette is back, along with Francis Thibeault and Pier-Olivier Michaud.  2018 draft picks Sam Dow and Logan Kelly-Murphy will round out the blueliners with 2017 draft picks Lucas MacAulay and Hunter Martin, who was selected that year by Amherst.

Solid in Goal
Forget everything said above about the forwards. Sometime defence wins the day. Combined with the returning Tristan Gray, Campbellton should stack up as one of the better defensive squads in the division. Gray posted a 2.90 GAA and .910 save percentage. Isaac Pelletier, a 2017 draft pick by the Tigers, joins him in goal.

Edmundston Blizzard
2017-18 in Review
Record: 36-10-4-0 (1st in Eastlink North)
Playoffs: MHL Cup Champions
Goals For: 180 (5th)
Goals Against: 137 (T-3rd)
Powerplay: 24.4% (2nd)
Penalty Kill: 84.0% (T-3rd)
Leading Scorers
Logan Johnston (25-40-65)
Alexandre Jacob (16-47-63, not returning)
Kyle Ward (31-16-47, not returning)

What’s in Store for Season Two?
The Blizzard couldn’t have asked for much more from their first season in Edmundston. They won their division and captured the MHL Cup before losing to in the semifinals of the Fred Page Cup. Logan Johnston is back to lead the way along with five other returning forwards such as Maxime Grandmaison  and Pierre Bourgoin. If the Blizzard aren’t the favourites to repeat, they’re not far behind.

A Familiar Group on the Blueline
Blizzard fans will also recognize a number of the defencemen who are back for 2018-19, including Alex Lavoie and Tristan Mercure. The addition of the 6’3” Nicholas Richards from Brantford (GOJHL) brings some size and skill to boot.

Confidence in Goal
Edmundston were so confident in Francis Asselin that they dealt Myles Hektor to Truro, and with good reason. The 20-year-old posted a 24 wins in 35 games played, with a 2.60 GAA and .912 save percentage. His numbers were basically the same in the playoffs.

Grand Falls Rapids
|2017-18 in Review
Record: 13-29-6-2 (5th in Eastlink North as Woodstock Slammers)
Goals For: 120 (11th)
Goals Against: 188 (10th)
Powerplay: 15.2% (10th)
Penalty Kill: 80.7% (7th)
Leading Scorers
Brendan Bornstein (11-28-39)
Samuel Cameron (12-22-34, not returning)
Conor MacLean (16-11-27)

Veteran Defence
The Rapids have created a buzz in Grand Falls, and the team is likely to see big crowds at the E.& P. Sénéchal Center. Fans will see three 1998s on the blueline with Kyle Anderson and Jarrod Isley alongside last season’s leading scorer Brendan Bornstein.

New Faces To Watch Up Front
There are five returnees from 2017-18, and three others who were listed as an affiliated player last season. Conor MacLean brings scoring touch and grit to the lineup, while Brennan Laverty and Dawson Wood are also back. Bryce Tracey spent most of last season with Bracebridge in the Canadian Premier Junior Hockey League, putting up 21 goals and 31 assists. Jean-Simon Belanger has been a point per game player throughout his career.

Rose Returns
Andrew Rose posted a 3.56 GAA and .887 save percentage for the Slammers last season, on a team that managed just 13 wins and had to take chances as they played from behind a lot. If the defence can tighten up, Rose should see an improvement in those numbers and Grand Falls will see more wins.

Miramichi Timberwolves
2017-18 in Review
Record: 23-21-3-3 (4th in Eastlink North)
Playoffs: Lost in four games to Edmundston in 1st Round
Goals For: 163 (6th)
Goals Against: 162 (8th)
Powerplay: 20.8% (5th)
Penalty Kill: 85.9% (1st)
Leading Scorers
Mitchell Kreis (21-32-53, not returning)
Dillon Boucher (24-23-47, not returning)
Matthew Kreis (16-29-45, not returning)

Miramichi have just seven returnees and just three 1998s. Young teams are always fun to watch as they find their stride and come together as a group. For the Timberwolves, that includes a number of players new to the MHL. The five forwards back in the mix combined for 16 goals, five of which came from Johnny Foley. 2018 draft picks Kennedy Gallant and Brendan Milson are in the mix. Ayden Fillmore was the 6th overall pick by St. Stephen in 2017.

Somers is Back
Now in his 4th full season in Miramichi, Tanner Somers is as steady as they come. He has 95 games of MHL experience entering this season. If nothing else, he’ll be a great mentor for the 2002-born Tommy Rolin.

Bringing in Experience
There’s no substitute for experience, and a trade with Grand Falls for 20-year-old Elijah Francis is just that. Francis captured the Memorial Cup with Acadie-Bathurst last season and will be a boon to a young defence. Jack DesRoches returns after a solid 2017-18.

St. Stephen Aces
2017-18 in Review
Record: 12-36-0-2 (6th in Eastlink North)
Goals For: 112 (12th)
Goals Against: 215 (12th)
Powerplay: 14.4% (11th)
Penalty Kill: 74.8% (12th)
Leading Scorers
Evan White (4-26-30)
Ryan MacDonald (9-17-26)
Brandon Dauphinee (2-13-15, not returning)

Playoffs or Bust
St. Stephen made the playoffs for the first time two seasons ago, but slipped back into last place in 2017-18. They look to be led by the defence. Four players have returned, including Evan White and Michael Waugh. Alex Saunders was acquired from the Weeks Crushers, and Patrick Musico brings some size and scoring touch. The 2nd overall pick in June’s draft, Zach Morris, is also in the mix.

In From Alberta
The Aces brought in two goaltenders from Calgary in camp. 20-year-old Joel May spent most of the last three seasons between the Calgary Mustangs and Camrose Kodiaks in the AJHL. Shaun Wiranta should push May, coming in after a season at Edge School Prep where he posted a 2.17 GAA and .920 save percentage in 19 games.

Plenty of Opportunity
Speaking of the 2018 draft, 1st overall pick Zach Alchorn and 3rd overall selection Ethan Stuckless are joined by 2nd rounder Andrew Antle, 4th rounder Nick French, and 6th rounder Liam Smith up front. Ryan O’Toole is the lone forward back from last season after posting six goals and an assist in 22 games. Like Miramichi, this is a young team that will be fun to watch.

Summerside Western Capitals
2017-18 in Review
Record: 33-16-1-0 (2nd in Eastlink North)
Playoffs: Lost in seven games to Edmundston in 2nd Round
Goals For: 213 (1st)
Goals Against: 142 (5th)
Powerplay: 25.6% (1st)
Penalty Kill: 85.4% (2nd)
Leading Scorers
TJ Shea (43-62-105)
Brodie MacArthur (29-60-89)
Jordan Spence (13-39-52, not returning)

Summerside lost a heartbreaking North Division Final to Edmundston last season, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to predict they could meet again this season. TJ Shea put up 43 goals and 62 assists in 48 games and is the early season favourite to lead the league in scoring once again. Brodie MacArthur will be right there with him, along with players like Kallum Muirhead. They’re three of eight returnees, and three of June’s draft picks are on the roster: Bennett MacArthur, Colby MacArthur, and Marc Richard.

Revamped D
With Jordan Spence on board with the Moncton Wildcats, a big piece of Summerside’s blueline is missing. However, Jesse Annear has another year under his belt and Brodie MacMillan also returns. Ed MacNeil was a 2nd round pick in June. Michal Sivek is an intriguing player, having played in for an Under-19 team in Germany last season.

No Worries Between the Pipes
Reigning Goaltender of the Year, Dominic Tmej, can’t possibly be better than in 2017-18, can he? A 17-2 record, a 2.06 GAA, and a simply mind-boggling .941 save percentage would be hard to top. In a run-and-gun division, the Capitals are loaded. No one would be shocked to see them at the Fred Page Cup in Amherst.

James Faulkner
Director of Communications
Maritime Hockey League