The Charlottetown Islanders turned to an area of strength to fill a void on its back end on Monday.
The Isles acquired defenceman Félix Tremblay from the Baie-Comeau Drakkar for right-winger Max-Antoine Melançon in a swap of 2001-born players as the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) trade window opened.
“We were looking for kind of an older, veteran defenceman to come in and stabilize some things on the penalty kill and just play a steady Eddie role,” Islanders’ head coach and general manager Jim Hulton said.
“Baie-Comeau thought they had an excess of that type of player, and we’re looking for a forward, and the fit was there for both of us.”
Tremblay, a six-foot-three, 203-pound, left-shot blue-liner had an assist and 14 penalty minutes in 37 games last season for the Drakkar. The Baie-Comeau, Que., native, who turns 19 in December, has played 67 games in the league.
“He’s a big body (with) good reach, a solid and steady type of player,” Hulton said. “I think that is the type of guy we need with some of the dynamic skaters that we have.”
The Isles can return five blue-liners from last year, but Noah Laaouan is the lone 19-year-old in that group, which includes a trio of 2002-born players (Lukas Cormier, Will Trudeau and Anthony Hamel) and one 2003 (Oscar Plandowski).
Luke Vardy, a Nova Scotian who turns 17 on Thursday, is returning to St. Andrew’s College in Aurora, Ont., to start the season. The Islanders selected him in the third round of the 2019 draft.
Charlottetown also reached back into Ontario for a defenceman, bringing Ryan Maynard into training camp for a tryout. The 18-year-old Cochrane native had 27 goals and 47 points in 36 games for the Kapuskasing Flyers of the Great North Midget League in 2019-20. Kapuskasing is the home of former Islanders’ captain Brendon Clavelle and associate coach Guy Girouard.
Rob Ridgley, the Islanders’ Ontario and United States scout, noticed the six-foot-two, 192-pound Maynard during the past couple of seasons, and the team had conversations with him a year ago.
“The combination of his size and his mobility was really, really attractive,” Hulton said.
Melançon, 19, was acquired from the Shawinigan Cataractes in November for a sixth-round pick in 2020. The Isles’ lineup was depleted at the time due to injuries and both Nikita Alexandrov and Gaetan Jobin were preparing to head to national team camps for the world junior tournament.
Melançon, a six-foot-three, 198-pound forward from Drummondville, Que., had two goals and three assists in 24 games.
“Max was good for us,” Hulton said. “We think he’s a really good player, but we do have an excess of forwards, especially with signing the two import picks.”
The Islanders recently announced forwards Jakub Brabenec and Matous Mensik had put pen to paper and will be here for training camp. It was an expected move as a lot of work is done prior to the Canadian Hockey League import draft, where both were selected, to ensure players’ willingness to sign.
“The signings of Jakub and Matous are an important step in our roster build for the next three seasons,” said Hulton. “Both are elite level 17-year-old players who will play a significant role on our team now and for future seasons.”
The trade window closes on Sept. 4.