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Photo: Maria Abrimov

AUS

Acadia: The rumours won’t stop spilling out of Acadia these days. We knew at the end of season there would be a big turnover, but the Axemen have been aggressively recruiting for months already. No new done deals to speak of lately, but names such as Connor BramwellMason Kohn, and Mark Rassell are all in the mix. As for finding another goalie, Mario Culina is a name being tossed around with a bunch of AUS teams right now. Currently in the midst of a deep playoff run with Kitchener, it’s unlikely a decision comes anytime soon. Worth noting, Culina will have to wait a few weeks in the regular season to be eligible due to the few weeks he spent with Ryerson earlier this year. Evan Cormier is another intriguing option for Acadia to run at should he not turn pro for next season. Expect the picture to become a little clearer within the next two weeks, especially with Bramwell who I expect to confirm as a done deal shortly.

Dalhousie: Quiet few weeks for Dalhousie. Nothing to talk about from this program as of right now.

Moncton: Not much stirring out of Moncton lately after a red hot start to the offseason. They’re still working on a few QMJHL players, but stay tuned for some more news likely to come next month.

Saint Mary’s: No real news of great interest out of SMU, but thoughts with coach Trevor Stienburg who undergoes a shoulder operation this week. Best wishes to him in a quick recovery.

StFX: As per usual, StFX is flying under the radar early on in the offseason. Although, they are bringing in some players for recruiting visits, namely Mason Kohn. Much like Acadia, they’ve also had their name thrown in the conversation with 50 goal scorer from the WHL this year, Mark Rassell. But the closest to a done deal we have right now is Bailey Webster. A blueliner who served as captain of the Saint John Sea Dogs this year, he’s rounding out his season in pro. Should StFX indeed grab his services for next year like I expect they do, he’s another big time piece to their defence.

UNB: Some pretty juicy rumours out of the gate regarding UNB this summer. Once again, Mark Rassell is getting his name associated with this program too. If you can’t tell yet, it looks like there’s going to be an intense race to recruit him among the big AUS schools. Noah Carroll is perhaps the most likely target to land a Varsity Red for next year. Brother of Ex-UNB forward Tyler Carroll, Noah is still in the heat of battle in the OHL playoffs with Sault Ste. Marie, so confirmation on this is still distant. Will Thompson is another name being thrown around. A Fredericton native who just split this season between Gatineau and Rouyn-Noranda in the QMJHL, the acquisition seems to make a lot of sense. But again, this deal is far from confirmed.

UPEI: For the last couple years UPEI have been among the more active teams in terms of aggressively recruiting major junior players, and it’s led to some pretty good finds. Once again, they’re swinging for the fences by the sounds of it, but don’t have any big deals to report yet. There were some early indications they were after Marcus Crawford of the Saginaw Spirit, but those have since been dashed after Crawford penned an AHL deal with Grand Rapids. Don’t be surprised to see the Panthers dip into the OHL market this summer.

Other Notes

  • After finishing the regular season red hot, Phil Maillet is keeping up the pace in the AHL playoffs with two goals in three games. His Ontario Reign are trailing the Texas Stars two games to one in the first round.

OUA East

Carleton: Former interim head coach Shaun Van Allen will officially return for next season with the full-time gig. Should be business as usual for Carleton from here on out.

Concordia: No news out of Concordia.

Laurentian: Busy week for Laurentian on the recruit front as they’re off to their quickest start for recruits in quite some time. Paul-Antoine Deslauriers enters the program after being a consistent point producer from the QJAAAHL. Historically, players from that league have been tough to project in the OUA. Some hits, some misses. Things get a little better on the backend with Zach Wilkie incoming after a dynamite overage year with the Aurora Tigers. He joins Jarrett Meyer, another defenceman. A huge physical presence on the ice, Meyer hasn’t played in a full year, so it’s tough to say how he could fit in until he hits the ice. William Gignac is the biggest wildcard of them all. Transferring from Concordia, he’s going to have to wait to be eligible, but was productive in the second half this year with the Stingers. He’s a player that given the opportunity, could do some damage. Laurentian is in dire need of more guys like that. Overall, this is an encouraging group of recruits, but there’s also a lot of questions. After a few seasons of dwelling near the bottom of the OUA East, Laurentian is more than willing to give some opportunities to guys with potential. They don’t really have anything to lose.

McGill: Nothing new from McGill this week.

Nipissing: Really sad story this week out of Nipissing with the passing of Patrice Wren at just 24 years old. Wren hadn’t played since 2015-16, and only played five games that year, but he was still attending university in the business program and knew a number of players still on the team. In talking with some sources around Nipissing on the weekend, Wren was an extremely loyal and beloved friend and will be a dearly missed member of the community. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family and the Lakers program this week.

Ottawa: The Gee-Gees are officially on the board with the arrival of Yvan Mongo to the program. A versatile player from the QMJHL who showed flashes of offence at times, he doesn’t necessarily have to be a top six player at Ottawa to be effective. He’s good enough to play up and down the Gee-Gees lineup, and that’s probably the biggest reason Ottawa likes him so much. When you don’t really have a roster turnover and no reason to overhaul the roster, you can never go wrong with adding more versatility to the team.

Queen’s: The Gaels have made their first real move of the offseason with Liam Dunda coming into the lineup for 2018-19. Rarely do we see NHL draft picks come from Jr. B, but that’s the case with Dunda who spent half this year with St. Catharines in the GOJHL. Worth noting, Ryerson’s Greg DiTomaso was great for them this year out of the same team. Queen’s gets a lot of size with Dunda who stands at 6-foot-4, 215 lbs. They’ll want him to use that on a nightly basis when he’s in the lineup. Apart from Dunda, the Gaels are supposedly in on Riley Bruce too. Another big body, Bruce just spent the year anchoring the blueline and captaining the North Bay Battalion. He’s also apparently considering a couple Toronto schools too. Jared Bethune of the Prince George Cougars is another name in the rumour mill associated with Queen’s right now.

RMC: The weather is finally good enough for coach Rich Lim to hit the links. That’s the most notable news to come from RMC this week.

UOIT: With assistant coaches Paul Ranger and Jamie Johnson moving on to other opportunities next season, the Ridgebacks have more than just players to recruit for next year. There are now two vacant positions on the UOIT bench alongside Curtis Hodgins for next year, and UOIT is also looking to add to their stats department. Apart from Bricknell and Eastman, nothing new to confirm recruit-wise from UOIT, but you know they’ll be in for a very busy offseason.

UQTR: Pretty quiet this month in Trois-Rivières.

Other Notes

  • Happened 10 days ago, but still worth acknowledging. Anthony Beauregard‘s first career AHL goal came against the Toronto Marlies in his 10th game. Beauregard’s Laval Rocket did not qualify for the AHL postseason.
  • The Queen’s Gaels are officially going to get a fifth year of service from Spencer Abraham and Eric Ming. Two players who are among the best the OUA has at their respective positions, this is big news for the Gaels.

OUA West

Brock: The Badgers are back in the news again with another solid recruit in the person of Tyler Rollo. A player who’s shown ability to perform any task required of a junior hockey player, he’s coming off a great year with the London Knights. It took him a little while to catch on in the OHL with Peterborough, but he really blossomed into an all-round player this season. Tough to say how he fits into Brock’s lineup due to the fact that he can slide in just about anywhere. There’s also an update on the Marty Williamson watch. As the story goes, the Peterborough Petes head coaching position is open, and Williamson is among those in conversation with the Petes. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I’d be surprised if Williamson leaves the job at Brock. It’s worth noting that Brock is apparently looking to extend Williamson, but he hasn’t taken the offer yet. That suggests he’s at least considering the possibility of coaching Peterborough with some level of seriousness.

Guelph: Nothing to speak of in the Guelph ‘Camp’ this week.

Lakehead: Big shakeup a few weeks back at Lakehead with the introduction of Andrew Wilkins as the new head coach of the program for the foreseeable future. It’s not a radically different move, as Wilkins served as an assistant coach since 2014. But at 29 years old, he’s a much younger coach than the last two Lakehead have had. The assistant-to-head coach change has worked pretty well for both York and Ryerson in the OUA West, but one could argue neither of those programs needed to be worked on as much as Lakehead does right now. Step one of the Thunderwolves rebuild starts with bringing in some good recruits this offseason. Once a recruiting powerhouse in the OUA, the T-Wolves need to find a way to bring in some game changers for the future. Much like the job Ryan Medel has at U of T, it looks like this could be a process for Wilkins at Lakehead, one that doesn’t get completed overnight.

Laurier: Some good early moves from the Laurier Golden Hawks who now call James ThomsonMac Lewis, and Alex Black as their own. Thomson and Lewis keep the Trenton Golden Hawks pipeline to Laurier alive and well. Both tier II players who have experienced winning in the past, they add much needed depth to a Laurier program trying to take the next step. Black comes into the program after an overage season which didn’t yield the best results for him or his team. A fresh start back home could be just what the doctor ordered for Black who showed us back in Sarnia that he can be a capable defender at the OHL level. Overall, this Golden Hawks blueline is looking better and better with each passing season.

Ryerson: Nobody is recruiting faster and more furiously than the Ryerson Rams are. The question everyone in the league is asking, is why? They’re losing one player to graduation, and one on transfer, so why the need to recruit seven players this month? Part of it might be a result of what happened late last offseason when the Rams lost Charlie Graham, Brandon Devlin, and Austin Kosack all on short notice. Clearly taking every measure to ensure they’re well fortified on every front, the Rams might have enough players for two full practice teams by September. Among the players they add, Zach Shankar and Mark Shoemaker both make Ryerson a lot bigger and a lot more intimidating. Shankar is a renowned body checker from the OHL, and Shoemaker is a physically intimidating presence in his own right at 6-foot-2, 220 lbs. Look for the Rams to add even more size to the lineup in the coming months.

Toronto: The Varsity Blues now have another acquisition on the board with Kyle Clarke of the North York Rangers set to join the fun in 2018-19. Still early in the offseason, but it appears that Ryan Medel is still gunning for tier II recruits as much as the major junior guys. The one advantage to recruiting tier II players is that you have a pretty large pool to select from. There’s a lot of them out there, especially in the GTA, so Medel can really zero in on a type of player he thinks will suit his program best. You can bet that the tier II guys you see at U of T next year are all players who really want to be going to school and be a part of the U of T program.

Waterloo: The Waterloo Warriors are on the board with their first official recruit of the offseason in Jacob Cascagnette. A productive power-forward from his days in the OHL, Cascagnette is a Kitchener native and a former Ranger who knows the area well. Waterloo was still starved for offensive depth at times last year, and Cascagnette is a good piece to help remedy that. Keigan Goetz and Markson Bechtold are still the two probable ‘go to’ guys on the first unit, but it might not take long for Cascagnette to settle into a similar role. He’s going to get ample opportunity at Waterloo to do some damage.

Western: Western are usually one of the last OUA schools to confirm recruits, but that hasn’t stopped a few early rumours from getting out this spring. The thought that Kenny Huether will join his brother Ray on the Mustangs next year has been a popular one for awhile, and now there some people suggesting reason to believe it’s more than a rumour. Don’t be surprised to see teammate from Oshawa Alex DiCarlo make the jump to London next year as well. Troy Lajeunesse of the Erie Otters is another name that’s been in the mix of late. Don’t want to jump the gun on this, but the early signs are that Western could be in for a fruitful offseason should the deals fall in place the way Clarke Singer hopes they do.

Windsor: Notoriously a school known for attracting underrated tier II talent, there’s some rumours this week suggesting they might land a couple major junior players. Those rumours have included Guelph Storm forward James McEwan, and Mississauga Steelheads winger Trent Fox. Neither played major junior hockey around Windsor, but they are both products of Chatham, and McEwan played a full year with the Maroons. At the moment, a decision has yet to be made by either player, but the potential for a deal or two to fall in place between them and the Lancers absolutely exists.

York: Still in a state of recovery at York, the Lions have been doing a lot to honour the late Mark Cross. I was last told the Memorial fund was at around $35,000 last week. That number has inevitably grown over the weekend. York University has pledged to match any amount raised up to $50,000, so there’s still lots of reason to keep the momentum going. If you’d like to make a donation to support the Mark Cross Memorial Fund, you can do so here. The first ever Mark Cross Heart of a Lion award goes to captain Shayne Rover. Appropriately a former teammate of Cross, there are a number of similarities in each of their games too. Rover will be moving on this year after having just completed his fifth year of eligibility.

Other Notes

  • In the start of the offseason it was the QMJHL players flying off the shelves. But the deeper we get into spring, the OHL guys are starting to get picked off pretty quickly too. So far we’ve had 16 confirmed recruits get announced this month. That’s about the same rate with the 28 we saw in April of 2017.

Canada West

Alberta: As per usual, the Golden Bears have been actively looking to recruit players for months already. In fact, the pursuit of recruits for Alberta is a never-ending process. Unlikely to hear anything official before June, but there’s already a lot of talk that Prince Albert Raiders captain Curtis Miske has a verbal commitment to the University of Alberta for next season. Finishing his season with the Orlando Solar Bears means the potential of pro hockey next year shouldn’t be taken out of the equation, but if Miske plays U SPORTS, there’s a significant chance it’s going to be with Alberta.

Calgary: In an offseason that’s off to a typically slow start out west, there’s a compelling rumour involving Darian Skeoch of the Vancouver Giants. A giant in his own right at 6-foot-4, 220 lbs, the thought is that Skeoch has narrowed down his choices next year to Calgary or Mount Royal. Originally from New Liskeard, Ontario, there was a notion that Skeoch would return to a program up north in the OUA, but that seems unlikely at this point.

Lethbridge: The most alluring news to come out of Lethbridge this week is the report attaching coach Spiros Anastas’ name to the vacant Peterborough Petes head coaching job. This isn’t the first time Anastas has talked with the Petes about a coaching job, as he first established contact with the organization a few years back. But with the prospect of coaching a team at the U Cup this year and a lot of unfinished business at Lethbridge, it would be a real surprise to see Anastas jump to the OHL so abruptly. Although Anastas has expressed intention to move on from Lethbridge at some point, he’s still very committed to the task at hand with Lethbridge this year.

Manitoba/Mount Royal/Regina: Nothing brewing with these three schools this week. Manitoba is usually one of the first to put an official announcement out there which they might do as early as May.

Saskatchewan: The Huskies are always one of the last schools to make recruits team official, and that probably doesn’t change this year. But there’s an early rumour in circulation that appears to have some decent traction regarding Donovan Neuls. A member of the Seattle Thunderbirds for four seasons, Neuls featured very well during their WHL title run a year ago, and just posted 54 assists this past season. He’s one of the best playmakers on the market this summer, and although there has not been a decision made on where he’ll play for next season, the Saskatchewan Huskies seem to be a viable option at this point.

UBC: Among some of the big name BC-born WHL players on the market, Nick Chyzowski is a name that’s come up a couple of times this week. Captain of the Kamloops Blazers, Chyzowski has had back to back seasons with decent production for the Blazers. UBC appears to be in the mix, but there’s also some talk that he might end up in Ontario with a school like York. Still lots of time for decisions to be made, but Chyzowski is just one of a few pretty good players UBC have been in contact with early this offseason.

Other Notes

  • Nice deal for Drydn Dow this week who winds up in the EIHL where he’ll play with the Dundee Stars in 2018-19. A diminutive and mobile d-man for five years at Calgary, he was one of the most consistent defencemen in Canada West.
  • After four seasons at UBC, Anthony Bardaro completely shredded the AlpsHL league in Europe this season playing for Asiago. In addition to being named the league’s MVP, Bardaro’s team went on to capture the championship with help from his 23 playoff points in 14 games. That team also happens to be coached by former teammate of Sven Butenschon, Tom Barrasso.
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Victor Findlay is CUSN's premier men's hockey insider. Currently enrolled in his fourth year of Ryerson University's Radio and Television Arts, Sport Media program, Victor is the voice of the Ryerson Rams men's hockey team, and hosts "Double Shifting with Victor Findlay", Ryerson men’s hockey podcast.

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