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Cape Breton West players prove to be popular

Defenceman Jack Morris, from Antigonish, pictured in playoff action last season versus Dartmouth Steele Subaru, was selected second overall in this year’s Maritime Hockey League, held June 9 in Berwick. File
Defenceman Jack Morris, from Antigonish, pictured in playoff action last season versus Dartmouth Steele Subaru, was selected second overall in this year’s Maritime Hockey League, held June 9 in Berwick. File - Richard MacKenzie

10 Islanders selected in MHL draft

BERWICK, N.S. - Make it an even 10.

That’s the number of Cape Breton West (CBW) Major Midget Islanders drafted into the Maritime Hockey League, during the league’s annual draft, June 9 in Berwick, home of the Valley Wildcats.

Going second overall to the St. Stephen Aces, who had the top three picks overall in this year’s draft, was defenceman Jack Morris from Antigonish.

He was followed only two picks later by fellow rearguard Sean Stewart, also from Antigonish, who was selected by the Pictou County Weeks Crushers.

Another Antigonisher went in the third round; goaltender Ewan MacDonald to this year’s league champions – the Edmundston Blizzard.

Rookie D-man Dell Welton, from Baddeck, went in the second territorial round, to the perennially strong Truro Bearcats. Welton was also chosen in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) draft a week earlier (June 2), 190th overall, by the Charlottetown Islanders. 

In the fourth round, the draft host Wildcats selected forward Darren Waterman, who is from Antigonish.

A couple of players who, like Welton, were selected in this year’s ‘Q’ draft, were taken in rounds five and six. River Denys’ Matthew Ellis was selected in the fifth round by the Amherst Ramblers and his cousin, Chase Ellis, from Whycocomagh, went in the sixth to the Crushers. In the QMJHL draft, Chase went 50th overall to Drummondville and Matthew 110th to the Rimouski Océanic where his brother, and former CBW star, Colten, is the starting goaltender.

Rookie forwards Sam Grant, from Antigonish, and Matthew Raike, from Port Hawkesbury, were taken back-to-back later in the sixth round; by Valley and the South Shore Lumberjacks, respectively.

South Shore added defenceman Ben MacLellan, from Beaver Meadow, Antigonish County, in round seven.

Ben’s brother Ryan, also a defenceman, finished out his season with the Lumberjacks after playing the first half of the year with the Q’s Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. His Q rights were traded just before this year’s draft to the Memorial Cup champion Acadie-Bathurst Titan.

“It does say a lot for the program and it’s nice to see those players being rewarded … recognized by the teams at the next level,” Islanders head coach Kyle MacDonald said.

The back-to-back winner of the major midget league’s coach of the year award, MacDonald noted each player, whether a veteran or a rookie, improved while an Islander thanks to his hard work and dedication.

“Definitely,” he said of the individual development. “That is a goal for our team, and it’s something we, as an organization, can proud of.”

Noting the exposure the team has received over the past couple of years, two years ago winning the national title and last year being near the top all season before dropping a closely-contested semi-final playoff series to eventual league champion Dartmouth, MacDonald said all the big games played by his team definitely helps.

“It certainly helps our players, a lot, being one of the top teams in our league,” MacDonald, who has coached the team to consecutive East Coast Ice Jam tournament titles the past two seasons, said.

“That’s what we preach to them; commit to the team first and a lot of good things will happen for them … good things will come their way when they’re committed to that. Scouts want to come and see the good teams play.”

Another local player, Matthew Helpard from Mulgrave, was selected by the Yarmouth Mariners in the eighth round.

A defenceman, Helpard played this past season at Dartmouth-based Newbridge Academy.  

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