There were nearly 30 trades just before and during the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League draft held over the weekend in Shawinigan, Que., with six of the deals made by the new Memorial Cup champion Acadie-Bathurst Titan and two of those involving Newfoundland hockey players.
One saw centre Jordan Maher of Gander sent to the Halifax Mooseheads, where he will play for the 2019 Memorial Cup hosts as an overager. The other Newfoundlander on the move was forward Nick Gosse of Paradise, whose rights were dealt from the Rimouski Oceanic to the Titan for a 10th-round draft pick.
The 18-year-old Gosse had spent the entire 2016-17 season in the QMJHL with Rimouski, who made him a third-round pick two years ago, but he was back home playing with the major midget St. John’s Maple Leafs last year.
“I haven’t 100 per cent made a decision (to go to Bathurst),” said Gosse, “but it’s a good opportunity, one that I have to consider.”
That last part is more than a throwaway quote. There will be opportunities in Bathurst this fall, what with a huge turnover this off-season and resulting vacancies on the Titan roster. The team’s three overagers, including defenceman Adam Holwell of St. John’s, are definitely gone, as are Maher and four others traded over the weekend. And there will be more who will join the Canadian college ranks or turn pro, like St. John’s goaltender Evan Fitzpatrick, who has an entry-level deal with the NHL’s St. Louis Blues.
Gosse had 36 points (20G, 16A) in 27 regular-season games for the midget Maple Leafs, sixth-best in the league, but really turned it up in the post-season, leading all playoff scorers with 22 points (including 13 goals) in 11 games, and helping St. John’s to a provincial title.
Two seasons ago, he had a goal and two assists in 42 games with Rimouski.
Bathurst general manager Sylvain Couturier told L’Acadie Nouvelle he sees the 6-foot, 180-pound smooth-skating Gosse as a player who with the potential to immediately help the Titan as a top-nine forward.
Gosse, who is graduating from Mount Pearl Senior High and played for the Huskies, has applied to the kinesiology program at Memorial University, but did say he is “leaning toward’ attending the Titan training camp in the latter part of the summer.
If he does, he’s likely to encounter two other Newfoundlanders vying for places on the Bathurst roster. Like Gosse, defenceman Zach Bennett of Bay Roberts and forward Liam Leonard of Clarenville were acquired by trades — in both cases during the 2017-18 mid-season transaction period. The 17-year-old Bennett (he has a birthday in four weeks) started with the Drummondville Voltigeurs and spent all season in the ‘Q’, but saw action in just nine games between the Voltigeurs and Titan. Nevertheless, he was part of the Titan roster throughout and is officially listed as a Memorial Cup champion.
Leonard, 18, whose rights were acquired from the Quebec Remparts, only played one game with Bathurst, skating the rest of the time with the Maritime Hockey League champion Edmundston Blizzard.
The deal that saw Maher and Bathurst leading scorer Antoine Morand joining Halifax (and draft picks going the other way) was concluded days prior to gathering in Shawinigan, but was only made official with the start of the trading period just prior to the draft.
Mooseheads general manager Cam Russell told the SaltWire Network he’s counting on versatility from the 20-year-old Maher, a right wing/centre who had 61 points in 63 regular-season games for the Titan.
“He’s going into his fifth year in the league, so he has a lot of experience,” Russell said. “He filled a lot of different roles in Bathurst, especially after they brought in some new players at Christmastime, so we know we can put him anywhere in our lineup and he’ll help us.
“We’re excited about the different ways he can contribute.”