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Walling: It's a Merry Christmas for the Halifax Mooseheads

Alex J. Walling
12/25/2012 7:44:14 PM
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The biggest news this Christmas season in Atlantic Canada is the Halifax Mooseheads.

Over the past few years Newfoundland had the return of the IceCaps to the AHL and then there was the arrival of the Saint John Sea Dogs, who were top hockey news with their junior success including a Memorial Cup a few years ago.

But over the last few months the Halifax Mooseheads, for so many reasons, have become the talk of the hockey world in Atlantic Canada; in fact there are few sports stories that can knock them off the perch this season.

For starters, for the first time since their inception in 1994 the Mooseheads hit the number 1 spot in so far as Major Junior hockey teams in Canada and have kept that honour for the last seven weeks.

Now mind you, no trophies are bestowed to the team that finishes in first spot in those rankings but it is a measure of a team's success and let me tell you that Mooseheads hockey and success have not been synonymous over the last few years.

This team for four of the last five years has finished in last place or very close to it.

But last year one could see the improvement. They made a big, big trade prior to the draft for Nathan MacKinnon who lives in nearby Cole Harbour, a suburb of Halifax and the same town where Sidney Crosby played his minor hockey.

That was a big move.

They also drafted in the spring of 2011 another kid - a then-unknown player called Jonathan Drouin.

The MacKinnon-Drouin combo continued a week ago when both 17-year olds were selected by Team Canada. It was a first of having any team getting two 17-year olds on Team Canada.

But Drouin wanted to play midget and elected not to come to Halifax. In fact rumour was he wanted to play for a Quebec team or even look at the NCAA route.

Negotiations continued between Moosehead GM Cam Russell and the Drouin family.

One of the thoughts being thrown out by the Moose was "Drouin is an exceptional talent and the kid is not doing himself any favours by staying in midget hockey."

Ultimately the Drouin clan got it and realized that Halifax may be the best place to play in the Q.

Jonathan Drouin became a Moosehead around a year ago and he has flourished since.

"He was good from the start and had exceptional skills and they showed from the beginning," Moosehead GM Cam Russell told TSN.ca. "There are few players who can see all the ice on plays. He is a very rare one."

Drouin had a good first rookie season as a 16-year-old but his play picked up in the playoffs.

The Mooseheads won the first round but then played the prohibitively favoured Quebec Remparts.

It was no contest early as the Remparts took a 3-0 lead and fans were yelling sweep.

But not so fast. The Moose weren't finished - after all a team must win four games and as they say the fourth is the hardest to win.

With Drouin and Nathan MacKinnon, a pair of 16-year olds leading along with some vets and a 16-year old goalie called Zachary Fucale, the Mooseheads started an improbable comeback and on Quebec ice, in Game 7, in overtime Drouin scored the overtime winner.

Welcome to the NHL draft project list, Mr. Drouin.

Drouin's status has been rising since then.

He has been enjoying an amazing start to this season and he is averaging two points per game which is the highest in Canada.

Then he makes the World Junior team while not going to the summer camp.

And now goes from #13 to #4 in Craig Button's projected draft picks list.

So how much further can this story go? That depends on how serious his "Charley-horse injury" is with Team Canada.

Time will tell. It may be a couple of games but if he can play against the strong squads you can bet he will and don't be surprised if he continues to produce.

He has from the minute he's joined the Mooseheads.

It seems like it's a story that has more to tell, and maybe even a golden junior ending.

For TSN.ca I'm Alex J. Walling.

Alex J. can be reached at:  ajw@eastlink.ca




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