Andrew Picco, one-half of a rookie Newfoundland tandem with the Rimouski Oceanic, is feeling healthy these days and ready to play a full season after sitting out half of 2012-13.
Picco, from Marystown, and St. John’s native Tyler Boland made the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Oceanic out of training camp, no small feat considering Rimouski was the fourth-ranked team in the pre-season Canadian Hockey League rankings, behind No. 1 London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League, the QMJHL’s Baie-Comeau Drakkar and the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League.
Picco and Boland are two of 17 Newfoundlanders on QMJHL opening-day rosters.
The mere fact he’s on the ice and skating is in itself good news for Picco, the big defenceman from Marystown.
Picco played in Minnesota the past two years, with Shattuck-St. Mary’s prep school. Last season, as a member of the under-16 team, Picco collided with a teammate in practice shortly after Christmas.
To add insult to injury, the following day when he was returning from the doctor’s office, the car in which he was riding struck a deer on a Faribault, Minn., road. Picco did not suffer any injuries, although doctors acknowledged the blow didn’t help an already-woozy Picco.
“There’s a huge difference in how I feel now and how I felt even six months ago,” said Picco, just 16 but already standing 6-3 and tipping the scales at 215 pounds.
“It’s all good now, and I’m thankful just to be back on the ice again.”
Picco was the Oceanic’s fifth-round (90th overall) pick in the June midget draft.
Boland, 17, arrived at Rimouski’s training camp as the team’s 10th round pick (180th overall) in June, but beat the odds by winning a roster spot.
“I was told coming into camp this team would be very difficult to make,” said Boland, who scored 15 goals and 27 points in 23 provincial major midget games with the St. John’s Maple Leafs last season.
“This is not a team that’s rebuilding.
“So I came in here as an underdog. The game is much faster (than major midget), and the players are stronger. But after a couple of exhibition games, I started to settle in, and now I feel I belong.”
Rimouski is located near the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, on the south side of that waterway. A city of about 45,000, Rimouski is predominantly French, but Boland and Picco are managing to get by with the help of their Oceanic teammates, all of whom speak English.
In fact, Boland is staying with Labrador native Leona Lavallee. Lavallee and her family also billeted two other Newfoundlanders who toiled for the Oceanic — Mark Tobin of St. John’s and Ryane Clowe of Fermeuse.
It was in Lavallee’s kitchen, in fact, that Clowe signed his first pro contract with the San Jose Sharks.
Boland was drafted second overall by the Bridgewater Lumberjacks in the Maritime Junior Hockey League’s draft, held a week after the QMJHL lottery.
“But my goal since last year,” he said, “was to play in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.”
Great start for Drover with Wildcats
Cody Drover of Grand Falls-Windsor had memorable Quebec Major Junior Hockey League debut for the Moncton Wildcats last Thursday night.
Drover, the MVP in the Newfoundland Major Midget Hockey League last season for the Central IcePak with 18 goals and 20 assists in 23 games, scored twice in the Wildcats’ 4-0 win over the Halifax Mooseheads.
Drover was one of 17 Newfoundlanders on opening-day QMJHL rosters. There could be 18, depending on what happens to Lucas Batt of Lewisporte. Batt played parts of the past two seasons with Moncton and the Victoriaville Tigres, but was cut by the Wildcats two weeks ago.
Highly-touted Nathan Noel of the Saint John Sea Dogs also scored in his first game, which was also his QMJHL debut after the Sea Dogs made the St. John’s native the third overall pick in the June draft.
Defenceman Michael Abbott of St. John’s had a goal and an assist for the Sea Dogs in their 5-3 win over the Wildcats. Noel and Abbott are two of four St. John’s natives on the Sea Dogs, joining Marcus Cuomo and Connor Donaghey.
A look at the Newfoundlanders in the QMJHL:
Name Birthplace Team Position 2012-13 stats (GP-G-A-Pts-PIMS/Team
Aaron Hoyles Gander Blainville-Boisbriand Armada Defence 66-0-6-6-104/Blainville Boisbriand
Clark Bishop St. John’s Cape Breton Screaming Eagles Centre 58-8-14-22-33/Cape Breton
Nathan Yetman Mount Pearl Charlottetown Islanders Centre 52-4-8-12-6/Charlottetown
Andrew Ryan Paradise Halifax Mooseheads Left-wing 56-21-18-39-32/Halifax
Liam Hynes Ferryland Moncton Wildcats Right-wing Stats NA/The Hill Academy prep (Vaughan, Ont.)
Cody Drover Grand Falls/Windsor Moncton Wildcats Left-wing 23-18-20-38-NA/Central IcePak major midget
Adam Holwell St. John’s Moncton Wildcats Defence Stats NA/Mississauga Senators midget minor
Kurt Etchegary St. John’s Quebec Remparts Centre 31-9-16-25-56/Quebec
Cody Donaghey St. John’s Quebec Remparts Defence 38-3-4-7-8/Quebec and Rouyn-Noranda
Tyler Boland St. John’s Rimouski Oceanic Right-wing 23-15-12-27-NA/St. John’s Maple Leafs major midget
Andrew Picco Marystown Rimouski Oceanic Defence 36-3-22-25-40/Shattuck St. Mary’s U.S. prep
Marcus Power St. John’s Rouyn-Noranda Huskies Left-wing 66-17-42-59-30/Rouyn-Noranda
Marcus Cuomo St. John’s Saint John Sea Dogs Left-wing 63-6-11-17-31/Saint John
Connor Donaghey St. John’s Saint John Sea Dogs Right-wing 15-3-3-6-2/Saint John
Nathan Noel St. John’s Saint John Sea Dogs Centre 52-10-40-50-41/Shattuck St. Mary’s U.S. prep
Michael Abbott St. John’s Saint John Sea Dogs Defence 52-5-8-13-10/Saint John and Gatineau
Kris Hodge C.B.S. Shawinigan Cataractes Centre 42-6-8-14-36/Shawinigan and Moncton