By Andrew Rankin - Metro Halifax
HALIFAX - As a rule, Dominique Ducharme doesn’t talk to his players about statistics.
© Metro Halifax/Jeff Harper
Returning Halifax Mooseheads' defenceman Austyn Hardie skates over the new logo at centre ice during the teams first practice at the Metro Centre this week.
But now that his former top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin and Martin Frk have moved on, the Halifax Mooseheads head coach knows there’s one particular stat fans of the club are interested about: goal scoring.
Specifically, where the goals will come from.
But at this point, it’s not something Ducharme is particularly concerned about. For starters, he’s expecting a lot from returning veterans, including forwards Ryan Falkenham, Andrew Ryan and Darcy Ashley, who’s still on the mend with an injured hand.
“Those guys will be put in a position to pick up the slack,” said Ducharme. “Obviously, I think their numbers should be increasing; everyone is gaining a year, everyone is getting better.”
But of the Mooseheads’ 10 newcomers, there are reasons for optimism. Their Euro picks in the speedy Nikolaj Ehlers and power forward Timo Meier have shown plenty of promise and chemistry during the pre-season. The Moynihan bothers have been a bright light, too. The smaller but older of the two, Danny, is a playmaker, leading the team in pre-season points with seven, while his sox-foot-three sibling Connor has demonstrated a solid two-way-presence.
This time around Ducharme will be orchestrating a more offensively balanced team without the services of at least two game changers.
“We don’t have one guy or two guys that can change the game on one play, it will be a constant effort to be good on both sides.
“We’ll have a good fourth line that can be playing quite a lot. They’ll be a lot of testing to do and combinations to try.”
Goaltending won’t be a problem for the Herd. Montreal Canadiens draft pick Zach Fucale, who’s currently attending the Habs’ main camp, is all but guaranteed to return.
The Mooseheads will also have one of the best defensive corps in the league with the return of Matt Murphy, MacKenzie Weegar, Trey Lewis and Brendan Duke. In fact, Ducharme believes this team is better defensively than last year’s squad
“This is a great challenge, there’s a lot of work to be done to get the guys to play the way we want to play, to get everyone on the same page, to improve individually and collectively.”
The goals and points, he says, will come if everyone buys into the team’s system.
“I’m not putting pressure on guys to get points. Points come from playing well everywhere. Good things often happen to the players who take care of their game and play the right way.”