It all started the day of the 2011 QMJHL Draft. The first overall pick belonged to The Baie-Comeau Drakkar and it was not a shock to who they were selecting. A young Nathan MacKinnon was set to become a Baie-Comeau Drakkar, but it was MacKinnon who would shock the franchise, as he would follow in the footsteps of Eric Lindros and refuse to report for the Drakkar.
It was where the Halifax Mooseheads would create their revolving door of producing Elite junior Hockey prospects. The Mooseheads would give up an arm and a leg to acquire the phenom from Cole Harbour Nova Scotia, but the Mooseheads would build an amazing core with Jonathan Drouin and Zach Fucale, who were selected second and seventh overall in that draft, respectively. This trio of MacKinnon, Drouin, and Fucale would lead the Mooseheads to a QMJHL and Memorial Cup victory in 2013, while all three would later be selected in the NHL Draft.
It was evident that MacKinnon would depart the Mooseheads for the NHL, meaning the Mooseheads were working hard to find a replacement, and a line mate for CHL Player of the Year Jonathan Drouin, who ended up staying with the club, even after being drafted 3rd overall to the Tampa Bay Lightning. With all of this coming to fruition, the Mooseheads selected with the 6th overall pick of the CHL Import Draft, Nikolaj Ehlers, which proved to become a more than capable replacement for MacKinnon.
The outstanding duo of Ehlers and Drouin would be three and four in points that season, and would combine for 212 points, leading Halifax to the top seed in the Maritimes division and the #2 seed overall. Although the Mooseheads would lose out to Val-D’or who ended up winning it all, and headed to the Memorial Cup, it was still a productive season for the Mooseheads, as the excellent play of Ehlers skyrocketed him into becoming a top-10 pick with the Winnipeg Jets (9th overall).
Heading into that off-season, the Mooseheads were dealing with a changing of the guard. Jonathan Drouin was set to join the Lightning full-time, meaning the torched was passed on the Ehlers to become the face of the franchise. With that being said, the Mooseheads were looking to add some more offensive firepower to pair with the Danish superstar, following the loss of Drouin. Rather than looking at other organizations, the Mooseheads got that help they were looking for from within.
Timo Meier was another player the Mooseheads snagged up in the CHL Import Draft, selecting him 12th overall in 2013. In his rookie year with the Mooseheads, Meier tallied 17 goals and 17 assists in 66 games. However in his second season with the Mooseheads, Meier took advantage of the situation and filled the gaping hole that Drouin left. Meier finished the season with 90 points (44 goals, 46 assists), ending up in the top 5 in goals, and top 10 in points. Meier and Ehlers combined for 191 points, while Meier would follow in the same footsteps as Ehlers did the year before, as he was selected to the San Jose Sharks 9th overall.
Shifting to the off-season of the 2016 season, and the Mooseheads would repeat history once more. Following a rebuilding season, the Halifax Mooseheads locked up the No. 1 pick in the draft, and were set on selecting Benoit-Olivier Groulx. However, the Mooseheads weren’t finished there. Looking to repeat to what they did five years before, the Mooseheads would also trade for the second overall pick, and did just that selecting Jared McIsaac (the Cole Harbour native) second overall.
Now, fast-forward to the summer of that season, the Mooseheads weren’t finished. Once again, the Mooseheads would look to the CHL Import Draft and select Nico Hischier 6th overall. With the hard work of Mooseheads General Manager Cam Russell, but as well as aid from fellow swiss Timo Meier, Hischier would commit to the Mooseheads for his draft year.
Now in the present, the Mooseheads continue to be in a positive spot. Following an 86 point season, Hischier raised his draft stock so high that he was the first overall pick in this season’s draft.
With McIsaac and Groulx as projected first round picks for next season’s draft, shows that the Halifax Mooseheads have come a long way since that 2011 QMJHL Draft. Since then, the Mooseheads have produced first-round picks such as MacKinnon, Drouin, Ehlers, Meier, and now a fifth in Hischier, with potentially two more in 2018.
When thinking about junior programs that produce the best prospects, teams that come to mind are usually the London Knights, the U.S. NTDP, and also Boston University. It’s now time to add the Halifax Mooseheads into that conversation.