As the temperature cools, Brett Budgell is set to heat up.
The Charlottetown Islanders left-winger has not gotten off to the start many expected, but there’s room for optimism given the Paradise, NL native’s performance last weekend against the Saint John Sea Dogs.
“The season obviously is just getting going so there’s lots of time for me to break out, and I think things are going in the right direction,” Budgell said.
He has a goal and two helpers in 10 games this season after recording 22 points in 32 regular-season starts in his rookie campaign, and adding 12 points in 18 playoff games.
Budgell said the start to his second Quebec Major Junior Hockey League season hasn’t been tough, noting he has a lot of teammates to lean on and seek advice.
“We’re all in it together, and we all want to win,” he said of the 5-5-1-0 Islanders. “I think if we stick together and keep working hard in practice day in and day out, things will turn around.”
Budgell wants to score and help the team win. He, like most players, said he tries not to get caught up with stats, but admitted it’s hard to ignore.
“You try to stay away from that stuff,” he said. “But it’s always there, and people are always going to talk.”
Islanders right-winger Derek Gentile is an offensive player who has gone through periods when the puck wasn’t going in for him during his career.
“Any goalscorer or any offensive guy will tell you, when you go through those stretches, it is tough,” the 19-year-old Sydney, N.S., native said. “For him, (he has) to stick to the same things (that got him here). You became that offensive player for a reason. In the tough times, in the good times, you have to stick with what you do.”
Head coach Jim Hulton said Budgell, not unlike a lot of players, tried to do too much to start his second campaign. He saw the young power forward trying to make more plays off the rush, while Hulton sees Budgell’s game working well when he uses his strength down low.
Another key for Budgell, like others on the team, is too shoot more.
“You’re not going to score if you don't shoot the puck. He quite simply wasn't shooting the puck enough,” Hulton said.
The trio of Budgell, Gentile and Nikita Alexandrov is expected to be a key cog for the Islanders offence this season. The trio got off to a slow start and had some bad luck around the net, ringing iron numerous times.
They were split up for a bit, but were reunited last weekend in a win over Saint John.
“We’ve always admired his character and it’s shone through here,” Hulton said. “The good part is his personality doesn't change. He doesn't become a selfish guy, he doesn't become a lazy hockey player. His solution is to dig down and work harder.”
Need to know
Who — A 17-year-old Charlottetown Islanders left-winger from Paradise, NL
Size — Six-foot, 192 pounds.
Acquired — The Islanders drafted Budgell in the second round (25th overall) of the 2017 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League draft. He was considered a first-round talent who slid because he was considering the NCAA route.
2017-18 — Budgell started the season with the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League but joined the Islanders after Christmas. He scored in his first two games and had points in each of his first four. After not scoring in seven straight games, Budgell took off in February with points in 10 of 13 games.
Season GP G A Pts.
2017-18 32 10 12 22
2018-19 10 1 2 3