The very next day, it was Day 1 of preparation for the 2017-18 season for the Dineen Cup champion Islanders Hockey Club.
The Islanders defeated the Junior Bruins in a 2-0 championship series in Marlboro, Mass., for the 2016-17 USPHL Premier title. Both teams are moving up to the USPHL’s new tuition-free National Collegiate Development Conference for 2017-18.
“We’ve been ordering championship rings, yes. I wish I could say we’re basking in the glow, but the very next day [owner] Richard Gallant and I were in meetings from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.,” said Islanders Hockey Club general manager/head coach Sean Tremblay.
The Islanders Hockey Club are, along with all other NCDC teams, planning on spending April reviewing players in camps that they will hold, as well as recruiting across the country ahead of the May 17 NCDC Entry Draft.
“Our preparation for the NCDC has been going on for a while. We’ve been signing tenders since January. We’re still identifying our final tenders, sitting down with our Futures Draft picks, and getting ready for the Entry Draft and our main camp, which will be held June 8-11,” said Tremblay. “It’s a little bit longer process than normal, but our camp will be far greater than it has ever been.”
Recruiting power only goes so far in a league with a draft, and Tremblay knows that. He says that has made this recruiting season one of the most exciting in his 23 years of being involved with junior hockey.
“Our main camp will be a harder camp to make. I haven’t previously had to wait for a draft to hand out contracts, but players we’re looking at drafting might get drafted by other teams,” said Tremblay. “That makes it harder for the ‘big four’ in our league, but we want that. We want more parity. We want every night in the NCDC to be a challenging game.
“It is interesting, too, because you’re thinking about a far different business model. You’re running more like a pro team – we’re looking at corporate sponsors now. We’ve never charged a gate [admission fee] in five years, but we’ll begin charging a gate this year,” said Tremblay. “We’re going to be hiring someone to do public relations and marketing. It is a whole different model. The hockey games may have stopped [for 2016-17], but the work continues every single day.”
The Dineen Cup championship showed Tremblay that, unlike the 2016-17 season for the most part, he’ll have a great base to build around for the first NCDC season.
“Everyone has to go through the tryout and camp process, but there are certain guys who no question are going to be returning from the championship team to the NCDC team,” said Tremblay.
He sees Justin Ferguson as being potentially the best goalie in the inaugural season, as Ferguson prepares one more year for a college hockey career at Dartmouth College. Other Division 1 commits for 2018 that project to be cornerstones of the 2017-18 Islanders Hockey Club include Liam Darcy (New Hampshire), Jack Moran (Maine) and Matt Thomson (Northeastern). Justin Pearson, an uncommitted ’98 who scored 33 points in 43 games this past season, is another player Tremblay is excited to bring back.
“We really have a power play and a No. 1 goalie to start, where last year, I only had one forward and three defensemen,” said Tremblay. “We’ve added five tenders out of our eight allowed, and I love all five. They have really rounded out our defensive corps and goaltending, and now we’re mostly looking for forwards.”
He will certainly use his returning aces as gauges against which he can measure lesser-known prospects.
“Without question, we are expecting guys to come in and be on the same level as
Jack Moran, at left, is expected to be a top player in the new tuition-free National Collegiate Development Conference in 2017-18. He is committed to the University of Maine for 2018-19. Photo by Joshua Boyd.
The Islanders Hockey Club’s top team won the Dineen Cup in its final act before moving up to the NCDC for 2017-18. Photo by Joshua Boyd
Road to the NCDC:
Islanders Hockey Club already working to follow up Dineen Cup titleDarcy, Moran and that group. I know I can’t have 13 Matt Thomsons, but we do a pretty good job of identifying a team,” said Tremblay. “Certain guys are going to have to come in as big, defensive defensemen, or as depth defensemen.
In addition to next year, we’re also looking a year and even two years out. For 2018-19, we’ll have to replace Liam Darcy, who ran our power play to perfection last year. We’ll look to our Futures Draft pick Ryan Johnson, an ’01 from Anaheim, Calif. We are utilizing those Futures Draft picks to build our depth charts for multiple seasons.”
The Islanders Hockey Club not only has to identify the players for its NCDC team, but also its USPHL Premier team.
“That top pair of defensemen on the Premier team have to be able to step up and play with us. They’ll practice with us at least once a week,” said Tremblay.
All of this keeps the Islanders Hockey Club coaches and other scouting staff hitting the road all the way until the puck drops in September.
“With our entire organization, there are at least 10 tournaments that our staff will go to this summer,” said Tremblay. “After our main camp in June, we’ll have 35 players identified that we’ll have play in the Islanders Summer Showdown and in the USPHL Summer Showcase. From there, we’ll whittle it down to 30 guys and we need to get to 23 by Sept. 1.
“It’s going to be like playoff hockey at those summer tournaments,” Tremblay added. “Before, they already had a roster spot with us. Now, they’d better play hard if they want to be looked at for a spot.”