Eagles Set To Open 2023-24 QMJHL Season Against Wildcats
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Venue: Centre 200, Sydney, NS
Puck drop: 7 PM AST
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Hopes are high for the Cape Breton Eagles heading into the 2023-24 season, and the club doesn’t have to wait long for a big test as the Moncton Wildcats come to town for a pair of games on opening weekend. The two sides are expected to battle for positioning all year long in the Maritime Division. Last year it was the Wildcats finishing ahead of the Eagles in the standings, but the Eagles getting the better of Moncton in the season series, winning six of nine matchups.
The 2023-24 Eagles will have the opportunity to grow, with 13 returning players available to open the season, with four new players coming by way of trade and six rookies debuting. As the season unfolds, the Eagles stand by forward Jacob Newcombe as he battles Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Antoine Roy (19), Olivier Houde (19), Luke Patterson (18), Cam Squires (18), Jude Campbell (18), Angelo Fullerton (18), William Shields (17), return to the Eagles forward core while Cam MacDonald (20/Gatineau), Thomas Bégin (19/Chicoutimi), Cole Burbidge (18/Saint John), and Luke McPhee (18/Moncton) arrive via trade. New to the league are 12th overall pick Émile Ricard (16), rookie import Lubos Stahon (18), and 2022 fourth round draft pick Callum Aucoin (17).
MacDonald and Burbidge will be counted on to produce offense- last year MacDonald lit the lamp 29 times while Burbidge notched 50 points in his rookie season. Squires, a fourth round draft pick of the New Jersey Devils this off-season, will look to add to his 30 goal tally.
On the backend, five of the seven blueliners return from last year with a pair of rookies rounding out the corps. Returning are Tomas Lavoie (17), Xavier Daigle (18), Brayden Schmitt (19), Zach Biggar (20), and Conor Shortall (20), while 2022 third round draft choices Étienne Desjardins (17) and Lincoln Waugh (17) are ready for their debut QMJHL seasons.
It will be a year for Biggar, who yesterday was named the 31st captain in Eagles history. NHL scouts will be keeping a strong eye on Lavoie, the #1 pick in the 2022 QMJHL draft, and almost certainly a 2023 NHL draft selection.
Between the pipes, Nicolas Ruccia (19) is back for his fourth season in the QMJHL and will be sharing the crease with Jakub Milota (17), who was tabbed with the 23rd pick in the import draft. Ruccia has seen his numbers improve year over year, while Milota is coming off winning a silver medal with Czechia at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
It’s a familiar opponent that comes to down, and not just because it’s a divisional rival the Eagles will see nine times this season. The Wildcats return 12 players from last year’s side, in addition to adding a pair of former QMJHL first round picks to their roster- 20 year old defenseman Olivier Boutin from Gatineau & 18 year old forward Vincent Collard from Baie-Comeau.
Tonight will be a matchup of the #1 pick in the last two drafts, as this year Moncton tabbed forward Caleb Desnoyers with the top choice and he’ll make his QMJHL debut at Centre 200. Another forward, Shawn Carrier, was selected sixth overall by Moncton this year.
There is some star power among the returnees, as last season Yoan Loshing lit the lamp 33 times for the Wildcats and he’s back for his 19 year old campaign. Etienne Morin produced over a point a game on the blueline and was drafted by Calgary.
After being NHL drafted, both Morin & Squires were named made the main training camp for their respective teams and will not be available for this weekend. MacDonald is also not expected to return this weekend as he remains at Arizona Coyotes training camp. But there will be no shortage of excitement as the Eagles duke it out with one of their two original Maritime rivals on the opening night of the 2023-24 season.