If the Halifax Mooseheads ever want to dig themselves out of the basement, this weekend is the place to start.

It’s no secret that the Herd is not exactly positioned for success, coming off one of the worst season in franchise history and having traded the second overall pick in the QMJHL draft as well as the first overall pick in the import draft.

So swinging and missing at Saturday’s draft in Moncton is not an option, particularly when it comes to their two picks in the second round and two more in the fourth.

The Mooseheads don’t necessarily need to hit a home run — and judging by the disdain with which scouts talk about this draft, that might not even be possible — but unearthing a handful of capable, hard-working players is a necessity. That’s especially true if those players are ready to step in immediately.

“It’s important for us that of those four picks, at least three, and hopefully four, can come in and play for us next season,” said Mooseheads general manager Cam Russell. “We have to make sure our picks are going to play.”

Gabriel Desjardins, Jessyko Bernard and Alex MacDonald all cracked the Mooseheads out of last year’s draft and have become critical building blocks for the future.

Russell said he’ll be active on the draft floor in working to get higher picks if there’s a player he wants, but said he “won’t start trading a bunch of picks to get a first-rounder.” He also said nobody on his team is “untouchable.”

“Everything’s for sale,” he said, although he noted he won’t deal any future first- or second-round picks.

It’s Russell’s first draft as a GM. Some look at it as a big test, Russell looks at it as an opportunity to start filling in the blanks and molding the team how he desires.

“There are a lot of question marks right now,” Russell said. “Hopefully those question marks will be answered after Saturday. I’m ready to go. I’m excited. I can’t wait.”

For weekend coverage of the Halifax Mooseheads and the QMJHL draft in Moncton, visit www.metronews.ca/mooseheads or follow @metroqfiles on Twitter.

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