The QMJHL draft can be a game, but Halifax Mooseheads general manager Cam Russell doesn’t intend to play.
Russell enters his first draft as GM at Moncton Coliseum on Saturday seeking players who are eager to come to Halifax to further their hockey careers. He talks as though he will ignore any prospect playing the NCAA card, looking for exorbitant education packages and special side deals.
“I’m not going to beg anybody to come and play for one of the best franchises in North America,” Russell said. “It’s ridiculous when you’ve got to beg a 16-year-old kid to come here. They shouldn’t be the ones holding all the cards.”
Every year, the draft is littered with blue-chip prospects who say they’re headed the NCAA route, only to have last-minute changes of heart after falling to a team they “just couldn’t say no to.” But there are no guarantees. Halifax got burned when they picked U.S. prospect Mike Cichy 44th overall in 2006 and have taken numerous late-round U.S. no-shows.
Russell doesn’t see a downside to red-flagging prospects.
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“There are lots of players out there,” said Russell, head coach since 2006 and GM since January. “You can’t get caught up with one guy who is asking for ridiculous things.”
He hopes his approach will play a big role in helping him put his own unique stamp on the hockey club.
“We want to have players who want to be here, who are proud to wear the Mooseheads jersey, who are excited to come play at the rink every night,” said Russell.
“Hard work, character and honesty are the three things we’re looking for.”
Russell said that current Mooseheads Travis Randell, Gabriel Desjardins and Gabriel O’Connor, among others, are examples of the type of player he wants to acquire.
“You love (those types of guys),” he said. “Kids who are happy to be here and very respectful young men.”
He added he has been careful to ensure that everybody on his scouting staff is on the same page.
“We’re going to work as a team,” he said.
“We’re all after the same goal, and that’s to be known as a hard-working, exciting, honest hockey team to watch.”