Nova Scotians show well in entry draft

Stephen Fox’s record-setting season hasn’t gone unnoticed by the higher-ups.

The Antigonish native — who recently starred as a member of the first Maritimes team (Cape Breton West Islanders) to claim the Telus Cup in the prestigious event’s 38-year-old history — was selected first overall by the South Shore Lumberjacks in the 2017 Maritime Hockey League entry draft in Miramichi, N.B., Saturday.

The top pick heads to the Lumberjacks organization, having recorded 36 points in 38 regular season games last year with the Islanders. The postseason was where the Bluenoser really was able to bear down and earn his recognition, however.

In advancing to the Atlantic Major Midget Championship, Fox notched 15 points in 11 postseason games, and added two goals and an assist at the top national midget tournament in the country.

“The thing with (Stephen) is that he plays bigger, the bigger the game is. One goal in particular in an overtime game probably was the one that sealed it and made us say we want him with the No. 1 pick,” said George MacIntyre, the Lumerjacks’ P.E.I. and Nova Scotia scout. “For this past week, I don’t think we heard one negative comment about the kid.”

With a 17-30-2 record last season (third worst in the league), Fox and the Lumberjacks will have their work cut out for them in the next MHL campaign.

Luckily for them, the next splash didn’t have to wait too long.

General manager Kyle McAllister grabbed 16-year-old Halifax native Ozzie King (43 points in 38 regular season games) of the Dartmouth Steele Subaru Major Midgets with the No. 3 pick, before snatching former Halifax Macs defenceman Josh Nicholson (18 points 91 regular season games) at No. 8.

“There was about seven or eight, and by the time we finished the discussions the night before the draft, we knew who we wanted with our first three picks,” MacIntyre continued.

“We’re more than satisfied, to be completely honest with you. Those were the top three guys we had on our board.”

Through a trade with the Campbellton Tigers, the No. 2 selection went to the Valley Wildcats, who promptly took Riley MacInnis of Truro, a forward who registered 14 goals and 13 assists in 36 games last season with the Pictou County Weeks.

Jeremie Jacob of Dieppe, N.B., was the first player outside of Nova Scotia taken. He went fourth overall to the Woodstock Slammers.

The St. Stephen Aces had a pair of successive picks in the No. 5 and No. 6 slots. Evan Gallant (Abrams Village, P.E.I.) and Ayden Fillmore (Fredericton, N.B.) went to St. Stephen via their former clubs, the Kensington Wild and Rothesay Netherwood Varsity U18, respectively.

Tim Noble (St. John’s, N.L.) and Jack Keough rounded out the top 10. Noble is off to Amherst. Keough is headed to Truro.

Outside of the draft, the weekend marked a number of other notable announcements.

The league’s annual general meeting signalled the continued effort, at least for another year, of the MHL Showcase — a two-day event that features all 12 teams participating in 25-minute periods for two games apiece.

“As a league we should always be striving to put our teams and our players in a position where they may gain notoriety from the hockey world,” league president Brian Whitehead said in an official press release.

“One of the primary focuses of the Showcase is to display our talent pool of players together for the benefit of scouts and recruiters. By moving to the two 25-minute period format, we will help ensure that our players gain more visibility from those within high levels of the game that wish to watch them.”

The Eastern Canada Cup All-Star Challenge also continues.

“The Eastern Canada Cup is a ‘go-to’ event for much of the hockey recruitment world,” Whitehead said. “Scouts and recruiters from NCAA, (U Sports), major junior, all the way up to the NHL head to Ontario each year to watch these players in action.”

2018’s AGM and entry draft will be hosted by the Valley Wildcats.

To cap off the weekend, a trio of MHLers were honoured with the last batch of league awards for the 2016-17 campaign.

Sebastien Cormier (Summerside Western Capitals) won the MHL Community Spirit Award, while the Miramichi Timberwolves took home the Roger Meek executive of the year award.

Doug Cooling, another Timberwolves member, won the Moe Bent Builders Award.

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