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SYDNEY – At only 18, Justin Haché already brings some valuable Memorial Cup experience to the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles defence.
But it's with his new team that he's ready to write a new chapter in his young hockey career.
"I played two years in Shawinigan and went for the Memorial Cup and was still 17, so I didn't get that much ice time," he said. "But I'm happy to be here. It's a young team that's developing for next year or the year after. It's good to have a lot of ice time and it's going to help with my future development."
Haché was acquired by the Screaming Eagles at the 2012 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League draft on June 9 to complete the deal that sent captain Morgan Ellis to the Shawinigan Cataractes. The 6-2, 180-pound native of Petit-Rocher, N.B., was a first-round pick by Shawinigan in 2010.
"I knew for a while to be honest," said Haché, of when he learned he'd be heading to Cape Breton. "Since Christmas, when I heard Ellis was coming to Shawinigan, I knew I was in that trade even though it wasn't official.
"I was pretty excited to come here. It's a new adventure, a new start, different organization, billets, school, everything. I think it's a good thing for me."
He scored two goals and added 16 assists for 18 points in 60 games last season with the Memorial Cup champions, while boasting a plus/minus rating of +27. Shawinigan, hosts of the tournament, defeated the London Knights 2-1 in overtime to claim the national junior title.
The Cataractes were the ninth host team to win the title since 1983 and the first to knock off all three league champions – OHL, WHL and QMJHL – in three-straight games.
"It was such a great experience," said Haché. "It's going to help me in my career and it was just a thrill to be there and be a part of that. All of the excitement around the city after we won, it was great to be there."
The 2011-12 season continued on an even higher note for Haché. He was selected by the Phoenix Coyotes in the seventh round, 208th overall, at the 2012 NHL Draft in June.
However, things did get tense in Pittsburgh. Haché entered the draft ranked 152nd among North American skaters in the Central Scouting Service final rankings. He was also in contact with 19 of the 30 NHL teams, so the wait was longer than he expected.
"At one point at the draft, I kind of gave up there and was ready to go home and get over it, but finally I waited to the end and it happened," he said. "It was such a relief. After giving up and then getting drafted, it makes it better I think.
"When you're really young, they don't really evaluate you like the older guys. They just let you play and see how it goes. They didn't really tell me what to improve, but to improve all around, get experience at the summer camp and be ready for next year."
Haché said the defence in Cape Breton this season is a tightly-knit group that will only get stronger.
"Everyone gets along very well and (assistant coach J.F. David) is doing a good job taking care of the D," he said. "The defencemen are like a family together and we'll build even more chemistry as the season goes along."