CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. — Alexander Dersch is like a sponge ready to soak up all he can in his first season of junior hockey in Canada.
The Charlottetown Islanders defenceman said he has great role models in veterans Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Hunter Drew, Keith Getson and others as well as the coaching staff of Jim Hulton, Guy Girouard and Brad MacKenzie.
“You can learn so much from them and how they play,” the German blue-liner said before Tuesday’s practice.
“It’s the most important thing to talk to your coaches,” he added. “You can learn so much from them.”
Dersch was one of five rookie defenceman who were thrown into the fire for the Islanders to start the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League season. The squad now has Joseph, Drew and Brendon Clavelle as rocks on the backend, but Dersch and the other young blue-liners are key for the club going forward.
Dersch said it has been adjustment to junior hockey in Canada, but one he is enjoying.
“It’s way faster than Germany and I think it’s way better hockey than the junior league in Germany,” he said. “It’s awesome here. Everybody is great, and I like my billets.”
The Islanders selected Dersch 23rd overall in the CHL import draft in July.
The draft can be a little bit of a crapshoot at times as managers are relying on scouting reports and contacts to help ensure they are getting what they are looking for.
The Isles are pleased with Dersch’s play on the ice and how he has seamlessly adjusted to his new surroundings.
“He’s ahead of the game, I think, off the ice culturally because his English is very, very good,” Hulton said of Dersch, who has learned English in school in Germany for about five years.
Some of the Isles veterans have told the head coach it is apparent Dersch has been a captain for his teams in the past.
“He just has this quiet strength of a leader about him,” Hulton said. “On the ice, he’s a really conscientious, coachable kid. He wants to do the right thing at the right time.”
That point is apparent as you watch an Islanders practice as Dersch spends time with Girouard to fine-tune his game.
“He wants video, he wants to learn, he wants to do the right thing and that’s the sign of a kid who is going to figure it out in time,” Hulton said.
Some of the adjustment for Dersch is coming from the larger ice surfaces of Europe to the smaller confines of North America rinks. Hulton said a lot of time European players are too passive early on, but that’s not the case with Dersch.
“Any of his mistakes have been out of being aggressive, which is a delight for a coach, because it’s much easier to tame a guy than to push him into being aggressive,” the bench boss said. “I think you’ll see a significant upgrade in his second 10 games once he gets used to the way the game is played here.”
Dersch said he has learned a lot already in eight regular season games and believes, by continuously working on his game with his coaches, he will get even better.
“They teach me a lot,” he said. “I know what I am doing wrong and I know where I have to improve myself.”
Dersch is an 18-year-old who Hulton envisions as a shutdown defenceman who can play an in-your-face game and provide the squad with something it doesn’t have an abundance of: size.
“He’s a big body and we’re not the biggest team,” Hulton said. “He’s six-foot-three, he’s got tremendous reach and he has a willingness to be aggressive.”
Dersch is excited to play tonight’s home game against the Halifax Mooseheads as his parents will be in the stands. They are here for about two weeks.
“It’s awesome,” Dersch said with a big smile. “It’s a good feeling.”
Need to know
A look at Charlottetown Islanders rookie defenceman Alexander Dersch.
Hometown – Landshut, Germany.
Age – 18.
Size – Six-foot-there, 180 pounds.
Acquired – The Islanders drafted Dersch in the first round (23rd overall) of the 2018 CHL import draft.
Did you know? Dersch has played for Germany internationally and is on the radar for this year’s world junior tournament. Germany is in the second division, which plays in early December. “It’s the most amazing feeling for everybody, to play for their nation,” he said.
Big year – Dersch is eligible for the 2019 NHL draft. He was listed as a C prospect to watch in the NHL Central Scouting’s October players to watch. Teammates Nikita Alexandrov and Brett Budgell were also given C ratings.
G A Pts. PIM
8 0 3 3 4