When Taylor Burke went seventh overall to the Gatineau Olympiques in Saturday’s QMJHL draft, the floodgates opened for Nova Scotia.
The Halifax native was the first of a whopping 12 Bluenosers selected in the prestigious first five rounds, not to mention one of 29 overall, on a memorable day at Marcel Dionne Centre in Drummondville, Que.
Liam O’Brien, another Halifax native, went 10th overall to the Rimouski Oceanic, while Stellarton’s Brent Turnbull made it three in the first round by going 13th overall to the Bathurst Titan.
Only once in league history has their been a better draft day for Nova Scotia, and that came in 2005 in Chicoutimi, Que., when 32 were selected.
“We had three of us go in the first round and we’re all great players,” said Burke, who piled up 53 points in 34 games with the Cole Harbour major midget this season. “We’re going to do our best when we get to the Q and I hope it’s a good experience for all of us.”
Burke sat in the crowd watching trades get announced as the first six picks roll by, wondering when he’d get his turn and where he’d end up.
The Olympiques, who recently brought back legendary head coach Benoit Groulx after a two-year absence, were one of Burke’s top choices among QMJHL destinations, especially among the teams picking in the top 10.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “I hear it’s a great city and they have a coach who knows how to win. He’s phenomenal. I’m looking forward to the experience.”
Olympiques head scout Renaud Lemay said Burke was appealing because of his work ethic and skill.
“No doubt he will eventually be on the first line for us,” Lemay said.
O’Brien, meanwhile, hopes to follow in the footsteps of fellow Maritimers Brad Richards and Sidney Crosby, both of whom enjoyed outstanding junior careers with the Ocenanic.
“A lot of great Maritimers have played there and I hope to be the next guy who has success in Rimouski,” said O’Brien, who had 38 points in 41 games with the midget AAA Notre Dame (Sask.) Hounds. “It’s probably one of the best organizations in the league.”
Turnbull gives the Titans one of the best pure power forwards in the draft, according to Central Scouting. He collected 39 points in 33 games with the Pictou County major midgets last season.
Cole Harbour defenceman Brendan Duke went in the second round (32nd overall) to the Quebec Remparts.
Goaltender Jacob Brennan, a Hammonds Plains native and Halifax major midget standout, went in the fifth round (84th overall) to Bathurst.
Brennan was ranked in the first round (18th overall) but slid because of his stated intention to play NCAA.
“I told him we’ll wait and if he’s not coming, he’s not coming,” said Titan general manager Sylvain Couturier. “I’m not going to put any pressure on the kid. We respect his decision to go to college, but if it doesn’t work out, he’ll always be welcome in Bathurst.”