MONCTON — Gabriel O’Connor came to
the QMJHL draft expecting to see trades, but not one involving his name.
The three-year veteran of the
Halifax Mooseheads was taking in the festivities at Moncton Coliseum
with several teammates when one of his coaches approached him told him
he was about to be traded. Five minutes later it was announced.
O’Connor, dealt to the Rouyn-Noranda
Huskies for the 15th overall draft pick, was whisked to his new team’s
draft table, where he met the staff and was given his new jersey, almost
as if it was his draft day all over again.
“I’m definitely in shock
right now,” said O’Connor, who had 14 points and 128 penalty minutes
in 68 games last season. “I did not expect that one bit. I knew there
were going to be some trades here. But I didn’t expect it to be me.
“I guess it’s business.”
O’Connor, who turns 19 in
December, came to Halifax as a 15-year-old and emerged last season as
the team’s top defenceman. The Mooseheads probably would have given
him the captaincy if they hadn’t traded him, but O’Connor was one
the only marketable assets for their rebuilding effort.
The good-natured O’Connor
said he’ll miss Halifax.
“It was a great place to
play junior hockey,” he said. “I’m really lucky to have played
there. They gave me a chance to play at 15 and I appreciate everything
they did for me.”
It probably isn’t much comfort
to the 6-foot-3, 200-pounder right now, but the Huskies wanted him badly
and say they’re ready to throw him right onto their top pairing.
Their head coach and GM, Andre
Tourigny, coached him on Quebec’s under-17 team a few years ago.
“We like his leadership,
his physical presence, his toughness, his experience,” Tourigny said.
“He can play against the best and he can play a huge role on our team.
We are so, so happy we were able to get him. It was a no-brainer.”
Also see: Mooseheads draft: Pick-by-pick