TORONTO — The Saint John Sea Dogs caught a break in their attempt to build a championship team.
The Sea Dogs didn't own their first-round pick for the 2019 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League draft after shipping it away three seasons ago when they loaded up for a Memorial Cup run.
But with some trades and some luck, team president Trevor Georgie ended up with the No. 1 pick, and a chance to add a major piece to a core that has been under construction over the past two seasons.
"I almost didn't go to the draft lottery, I was going to send someone else," said Georgie. "Our odds were around 4.9 or 5.1 per cent…. It was unbelievable."
Georgie selected forward Joshua Roy first overall, a player he considers a "generational talent" that is already drawing comparisons to NHLer Jonathan Huberdeau in Saint John.
Roy, six-foot, 180 pounds, produced 38 goals and a league-best 88 points in 42 games this past season with the Levis Chevaliers of the Quebec Midget triple-A Hockey League.
The St-Georges-de-Beauce, Que., native won four individual awards, including most outstanding player, while leading Levis to a league championship.
"I'm not a physical guy really, more a skilled guy. Won't be making a lot of checks," said Roy, who mentioned Sidney Crosby as is his favourite NHLer.
"I create a lot of offence, I'm a playmaker."
The rebuilding Sea Dogs entered last season as one of the youngest teams in the entire Canadian Hockey League after drafting three skaters within the top 15 picks — defencemen William Villeneuve No. 2 and Jeremy Poirier No. 8 and forward Josh Lawrence No. 15.
Veteran goaltender Alex D'Orio was the only remaining skater from Saint John's Memorial Cup run in 2016 to begin last year with the club, and he was traded in January for another first-round pick in 2020.
Saint John went 13-49-6 last season, finishing second last in the 20-team QMJHL.
It wasn't an easy season to be a part of at times, but Georgie reminded the players to trust the process. And now that Roy is part of the fold, expectations this season are to at least reach the post-season.
"If we want to go for a championship we need to take some steps forward this year," said Georgie.
"It's important to get that playoff experience, you can't just show up the first time and go four rounds, our goal this year is to not only make the playoffs but compete."
Roy will get his chance to show what he has when the Sea Dogs open their 2019-20 QMJHL season on Friday at home against the Halifax Mooseheads. The season begins Thursday with the 2019 President Cup and Memorial Cup champions Rouyn-Noranda Huskies hosting the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada.
"I don't have expectations, just a good performance and good things will happen if I do the right thing. Keep the right attitude, eat well, hard in the gym," said Roy, who added he understands English but is still working on speaking it.
"The guys have done well including me (as part of the team)."
Saint John is a very young squad and could have up to 10, 17-year-olds on the roster. Some of them will likely hear their name at the 2020 NHL draft, where Rimouski Oceanic forward Alexis Lafreniere is projected to go first overall.
Roy outproduced Lafreniere at the midget triple-A level, which has Georgie optimistic about what he will bring the Sea Dogs.
"It's a group that's coming together and pretty dynamic," said Georgie. "Speed and skill is there, just need to get the experience. We're on the upswing in Saint John."
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 18, 2019.