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 after the Lewiston Maineiacs made waves with two blockbuster trades 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 as Lewiston made its pick, selecting eighth-ranked Dillon Fournier, knowing they’d get Ciampini, the guy they’d targeted all week.
“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, so we took the player we had ranked first, so yeah, we’re thrilled.”
Ciampini gave the Mooseheads’ logo a confident tug 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 picked this high since taking Etienne Drapeau first overall in 1994. They needed a natural sniper in a big way and Ciampini fits the bill.
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 and scouts describe him as a power forward who bulls his way to the net and boasts a lethal scoring touch.
“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.”
Russell said he saw Ciampini play four times and didn’t have any criticisms of his work ethic, one of the knocks on the youngster early in the year.
“His work ethic is very good and it will continue to improve, especially when we work with him all summer,” Russell said.
The Chicoutimi Sagueneens took third-ranked Dominic Poulin at No. 3, the Val-d’Or Fourers took goaltender Francois Tremblay at the fourth spot and the Drakkar grabbed forward Frederick Gamelin at No. 5.