Moose Country is still reverberating from the shock of an early playoff exit in a championship-or-bust campaign.
But at this time next year, fans might just be dancing in the streets if the Halifax Mooseheads are able to make it back to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League semifinals.
The Mooseheads are expected to enter a rebuilding phase next season, as they will likely lose two-thirds of their top three forward lines and their top two defencemen.
“I guess we’ll be one of the league’s underdogs,” said goaltender Mark Yetman, projected to be part of the foundation of the team and one of three over-age players. “We’re losing a lot of players, but we’re still going to have a good team.”
Eight of Halifax’s top 11 scorers are expected be gone, including forwards Brad Marchand, Ryan Hillier, Bryce Swan, Colby Pridham and captain Andrew Bodnarchuk.
Jakub Voracek is pencilled in for NHL duty with the Columbus Blue Jackets, and failing that, may go to Europe.
Impact over-age players Peter-James Corsi and Guillaume Monast are believed to be headed out of town in June for draft picks. Corsi would go to the Drummondville Voltigeurs as part of the trade for David Bouchard, while Monast would go to the Quebec Remparts to complete a three-way deal for Marchand.
That’s a mass exodus of quality talent, and leaves Andrew White, Logan MacMillan, Tomas Knotek and Yuri Cheremetiev as the highest-scoring returning forwards.
Ben MacAskill, Gabriel O’Connor and a healthy Stephen Lund would anchor the blue-line, and they’ll get a major boost in ice time in the absence of Bodnarchuk and Monast.
Justin Pender and Graham Bona would fight it out for the final 20-year-old spot, along with Bouchard, a forward.
Yetman would handle the lion’s share of the goaltending work with incumbent Pier-Olivier Pelletier graduating.
He would also set the tone as a veteran leader along with White, MacMillan and MacAskill, among others.
“We’re going to be the older guys on the team, and with all the rookies we’ll have, we want to be leaders and show them what they have to do,” Yetman said. “We’re looking forward to next year, to coming in and having a good season.”
Yetman said he learned tough lessons from playing on this year’s team, which lapsed in and out in the season’s second half before collapsing at the finish in a four-game sweep.
“The ups and downs of the season, you just have to make sure you don’t get too low when things are going bad and not get too high when things are going good,” Yetman said. “Consistency is the biggest thing we learned from this year.”