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Jim Hulton is scratching a seven-year itch, insofar as how long the new coach of the Charlottetown Islanders has been out of major junior puck.
Whenever news snippets about the turnaround the Wolfe Island, Ont., native had effected with the United States Hockey League's Tri-City Storm trickled across Twitter in recent months, it usually came with a prevailing suspicion that Hulton returning to the Canadian Hockey League might just be a matter of when. On Monday, the QMJHL's Islanders, who have a talented core group but parted with Gordie Dwyer after a second-round playoff loss last season, installed Hulton behind the bench. His last head coach position in the OHL was with the Kingston Frontenacs in 2005-06. Hulton also spent four seasons as an assistant coach with the NHL's Florida Panthers.
From Jason Malloy:
"He is a motivator, a teacher, and a guy that we think can bring this team to the next level” Islanders general manager Grant Sonier said. “We’re really elated to get him."
Sonier met Hulton a long time ago, but said he didn’t know him well before Hulton applied for the head coach's job. The two talked several times during the interview process and there were people Sonier trusts in the hockey community that spoke highly of him.
“It felt very natural,” Sonier said. “It feels right.” (Charlottetown Guardian)
Hulton helped Tri-City improve by 34 points in 2014-15 over '13-14, namely by getting the team to cut down its goals-against record by nearly one per game. Charlottetown has respective Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators second-round choices Daniel Sprong (88 points last season) and Filip Chlapik (75) each looking to round out their games in their post-draft seasons, so there are some good building blocks on the island. And, of course, goalie Mason McDonald is on Team Canada's radar.
Between Danny Flynn assuming the reins with a talented team in Saint John that had seven players selected in the NHL draft, and Hulton in Charlottetown, the Q's East Division will be a good follow come September. There is a good storyline with Hulton coming back, too, given that he was let go in Kingston in '06 after an 81-point team was beaten in the first round and not given another chance. Charlottetown ended its playoff series win drought this spring but that wasn't enough to dissuade Sonier from making a change. Now a good coach that many felt got a raw deal nearly a decade ago is being handed the keys to a pretty good team.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @naitSAYger.