You couldn’t wipe the smiles off the faces of the Halifax Mooseheads when the QMJHL draft opened Saturday morning in Drummondville, Que.
The Mooseheads got their man, gifted goal-scoring left-winger Luca Ciampini, second overall in the draft after the Lewiston Maineiacs made waves with two blockbuster deals that moved them up to the No. 1 spot in place of the Baie-Comeau Drakkar.
General manager Cam Russell and majority owner Bobby Smith were ecstatic at the Mooseheads’ draft table, knowing Ciampini would still be available as Lewiston went off the board to select defenceman Dillon Fournier, ranked eighth.
“We had it narrowed down to two players and we expected Baie-Comeau to take one of those two players,” said Russell. “They didn’t (take either), so we took the player we had ranked first. So yeah, we’re thrilled.”
Ciampini gave the Mooseheads’ logo a confident tug on the stage after throwing on his new sweater and appears ready to be the cornerstone of the struggling club’s rebuilding effort.
“There’s nothing wrong with that,” said Ciampini, who speaks polished English. “It’s a rebuilding team and hopefully in the future they go up to the top again. It’s a great organization and hopefully everything goes well.”
The Mooseheads, coming off back-to-back last-place finishes, hadn’t had a pick this high since they took Etienne Drapeau first overall in 1994. Ciampini knows there are high expectations but the pressure isn’t fazing him.
“You can’t pay attention to what others think,” he said. “You’ve just got to play your own game and do what you’ve got to do.”
The Mooseheads needed a natural sniper and Ciampini is billed as exactly that.
The six-foot, 190-pounder scored 30 goals and 32 assists for 62 points in 55 games for the midget AAA Chateauguay (Que.) Patriotes last season.
“He’s going to bring an element to the game that we haven’t had in a while,” Russell said.
“He’s a pure goal-scorer, you can kind of compare him to Luc Robitaille but more of a power forward … He plays with an edge, he’s a physical player and he wants to score.”
The Chicoutimi Sagueneens took defenceman Dominic Poulin at No. 3.
The Halifax Mooseheads had one of their quietest draft weekends in recent memory on the trade front. The Mooseheads made just one minor deal, moving right-winger Jessyko Bernard to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies for a 2011 fifth-round pick. Mooseheads general manager Cam Russell said he and Bernard agreed a change of scenery was in the 19-year-old’s best interests after he scored just eight goals and eight assists in 56 games. The Huskies expect to put Bernard on a scoring line, while the Mooseheads expect younger players to take his ice time. The Mooseheads now have seven picks in the first five rounds of the 2011 draft.