The Halifax Mooseheads shook up their roster on Saturday to bring in highly-touted forward Brent Andrews.

But when the team’s brass went to the stage at the QMJHL draft at Moncton Coliseum and called Andrews’ name, the Hunter River, P.E.I., native was nowhere to be found.

Andrews was a gamble for the Mooseheads. They traded veteran defenceman Gabriel O’Connor for the 15th overall pick to select him, but he is threatening to go the NCAA route with a scholarship offer from the University of Maine.


“When you see someone of Andrews’ status still available, you’ve got to take a risk,” said Mooseheads general manager Cam Russell, who raved about the 11th-ranked prospect’s combination of strength, skating, skill and work ethic.

Andrews, along with hot-shot defenceman and 19th overall pick Jamie Bishop, would provide the backbone of Halifax’s ongoing rebuilding effort. The Mooseheads say they “feel good” about the talks they’ve had with Andrews, but the 15-year-old described his stance on the decision as “50-50.”

“I don’t know yet,” said Andrews by phone, “but there’s a lot more chance of me going to an English team than going somewhere in Quebec. I’ll probably decide in about a month.”

Either way, the Herd came away from the draft with a decidedly younger feel. They entered the day with no first-round picks and ended it with two players ranked in Central Scouting’s top 11. Bishop was ranked seventh and is the type of player who could help ease the sting of trading O’Connor.

“We were amazed he was still there,” Russell said.

“He plays hard in every area of the rink,” added Mooseheads chief Atlantic scout Allie MacDonald. “He shoots the puck hard, he’s mobile, and he’ll go face-to-face with anyone.”

The Mooseheads picked two more 15-year-olds and one 16-year-old in the top five rounds and hope all of them, along with some later picks, contend for 2009-10 roster spots.

But ultimately, the success of Halifax’s weekend will be determined by Andrews’ decision.
“I can’t guarantee it,” said Russell, of whether his calculated gamble will pay off. “Time will tell.”

Also see: Mooseheads draft: Pick-by-pick

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