By Michael Boriero - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Sherbrooke Phoenix were active participants in lead up to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) trade deadline, but they made their biggest splash with just hours to spare in the transfer window.
The Phoenix swapped two veterans, captain Samuel Poulin and hulking defenseman Xavier Bernard, to the league-leading Val-d’Or Foreurs for a slew of future draft picks. They also traded for a former QMJHL first overall pick, Joshua Roy, from the Saint John Sea Dogs.
Sherbrooke head coach Stéphane Julien addressed the media on Jan. 25 following a whirlwind evening that saw one of the team’s marquee players departing for a contender, but also managing to add a 17-year-old with tremendous upside in Roy.
“I can’t say this enough but [Poulin] really changed the culture of the team and our way of seeing things,” said Julien during a virtual press conference. “He worked hard at practice and he’s a guy that gave a lot to the younger players.”
There were plenty of discussions with Poulin prior to the trade deadline. Julien said this was a mutual decision, as the 19-year-old wanted another shot at competing for the championship. Poulin racked up 204 points in 173 games for the Phoenix.
Roy, a player Sherbrooke traded three first-round picks and a second round pick for on Monday, isn’t as polished as Poulin yet, but his ceiling is high. According to Julien, the young centreman is a key figure in his plans to rebuild the team.
“I think it’s a guy with a lot of talent for his age. Are there things [he needs] to work on? Yes, but I think he’s entering a place with a good chance to get a lot of ice time with a good supporting cast,” said Julien.
He added that Roy will have an opportunity to showcase his talents ahead of the 2021 National Hockey League (NHL) entry draft. When asked about the forward’s heavy price tag, Julien told reporters that this is what it costs to get an exceptional talent.
Other notable additions to the Phoenix squad include power forwards Milo Roelens, Justin Gill and centreman Stéphane Huard. Julien wants to add more size to his offence, as well as inject some youth throughout the lineup.
“My goal from the beginning is to rebuild this team quickly, we have 10 players that are 17 years old, so I already know next year we’ll take a step forward with a bit more experienced group,” said Julien.
With one win in seven games, Sherbrooke currently sits in last place in the QMJHL standings. However, they also have the least amount of games played due to a COVID-19 outbreak earlier in the season and a subsequent league-wide pause in action.
They recently split a back-to-back in Chicoutimi, losing 3-2 to the Saguenéens and then blanking Baie-Comeau 2-0 the following night. The Phoenix are back on the ice Jan. 30 against Drummondville to kick off a stretch of six games in nine days.