Thursday Morning Skate: August 2nd, 2018
Acadia: Still pending an official announcement, but you can pretty much book Mason McCarty from the Red Deer Rebels to Acadia for 2018-19. At this point, the hold up is administrative related. Sometimes it’s easy to forget about how much work has to happen behind the scenes for recruits to be accepted and enrolled at school. Another name in connection with Acadia last week was Duncan McKie. Announced by his junior team, the Yarmouth Mariners, as committed to Acadia for ’18-19, he will indeed be enrolled at Acadia for the fall semester. However, it’s unlikely he sees much playing time and is more of an insurance policy for the Axemen moving forward.
Moncton: Some news last week involving a Moncton recruit, and it’s unfortunately not of the positive kind. As per Fracnois Le Blanc, Aigles Bleus recruit and Edmundston Blizzard defender Alexandre Bernier has been charged with possession of cocaine. Bernier was arrested with drugs in his possession on April 29th in Edmundston. Bernier was part of Edmundston’s MJAHL championship run this season, but was kicked off the team prior to the Fred Page Cup after management were informed of the arrest. Worth noting, Bernier was announced as a recruit by Moncton back in February. Now undergoing a trial, the Aigles Bleus have a decision to make. As per the U SPORTS rulebook, possession of cocaine outside of competition leaves the disciplinary action up to Moncton. Director of hockey ops J.F. Damphousse has some thinking to do, but appears to be leaning towards giving Bernier a chance at Moncton. But rest assured, he’ll be on a short leash. It’s a sour end to Bernier’s junior career, and a rough start to his university career, but let’s hope he learns and moves on from this mistake.
SMU: Saint Mary’s are bringing in another defenceman from major junior with the introduction of Nicholas Welsh into the program for ’18-19. A veteran of five full QMJHL seasons, four of which were with the Shawinigan Cataractes, Welsh finished as captain of the Moncton Wildcats where he had a dynamite season. Numbers in the QMJHL are up these days, but Welsh’s 66 points is no joke, good enough for fifth most amongst QMJHL D-Men. He’s got a great shot and above average offensive instincts for a defenceman. By far and large Moncton’s best offensive defenceman, Welsh joins an SMU team that got better defensively with Dylan DiPerna and Alex Peters, but lacked two-way punch. Welsh fits that void well and could potentially turn out to be SMU’s primary offensive option amongst defenders right away.
StFX: StFX made the big announcement with their recruit class this week, so let’s break them down one by one.
Blade Mann-Dixon: As mentioned last edition, he’s a solid QMJHL goalie, but what does this mean for Brandon Hope and the status of the StFX crease? Still waiting to hear back from StFX on that topic.
William Bower: As you’ll see, this biggest theme in this recruit class is maritime talent. Bower comes from Saint John, New Brunswick and just finished his junior career in Amherst. Bower was a long-time Moncton Wildcat, and played with the Charlottetown Islanders too. He’s always been a bottom six guy, but he’s been a good one at that. There’s always a place in the lineup for somebody who recognizes their role and accepts it on a nightly basis. That’s what you get with Bower.
Will Thompson: Early this offseason there was a thought UNB was considering bringing on Thompson, but obviously that hasn’t happened, and now Thompson joins their arch-nemesis at StFX. Thompson is definitely not a flashy defenceman, but he’s capable of tossing in some good passes and never ventures too far out of position. On a StFX team with some very active defenders and a lightning quick transition game they’ve always been able to offset that with stay-at-home guys like Craig Duininck. Thompson fits into that category.
Bailey Webster: Webster also fits into the responsible shutdown defenceman category, but he was one of the very best in that discipline on the entire overage recruit market. Big size, stable game, and the smarts to matchup against any matchup in the QMJHL, Webster has first pairing potential at StFX. Unlikely he puts up big numbers, it’s still very easy to see him playing alongside Cole MacDonald or Santino Centorame. Look for him to be an impact guy right away.
Adam Holwell: There were definitely pro offers on the table for Holwell, but he’s ultimately chosen to go with the university program that has been interested in him well before the pro teams were throwing in offers. Holwell serves as a fantastic replacement option for Jagger Dirk. A two-way defenceman with an excellent passing ability, Holwell will not only be a great fit into the community, but a terrific fit tactically into StFX’s game. They like defencemen who can skate and pass quickly to jumpstart the breakout, and that’s exactly what Holwell did for Acadie-Bathurst en route to a Memorial Cup. Look for him, MacDonald, and Centorame to be StFX’s big three two-way point producing defencemen.
Matthew Graham: A rare NCAA transfer for the StFX X-Men, Graham is a product of the BCHL, but has maritime ties having being been born in Bedford, NS. Often times NCAA transfer make the jump to U SPORTS after very limited playing time, but Graham comes to StFX after two years of 30+ games with Robert Morris and some healthy numbers to boot. Early in his career, Graham was primarily a goal scorer, but he’s really rounded out his playmaking abilities in recent seasons and offers a strong all-around game.
Overall thoughts on StFX’s recruit class. They add goaltending depth which is always nice, but Chase Marchand is still the obvious #1. StFX had a really good D-corps last year, but I think it looks even better this year. You have the stability and two-way threats in the mix, and even better depth now with Will Thompson. X’s defence should be in the conversation for best in the country on paper. Up front, X lose a lot of offence with Michael Clarke and Kristoff Kontos. Do they replace it with this year’s recruit class? No. If StFX are going to be as good or better offensively than last year, they’ll need a player like Bryson Cianfrone or Anthony DiFruscia to step up.
UNB: While StFX dominate the headlines with another good looking recruit class, UNB have another big piece on the way in Samuel Dove-McFalls. Dove-McFalls has some impressive numbers from last year playing alongside Alexis Lafrenière in Rimouski. But it was his play away from the puck that’s gained him notoriety. A fourth rounder of the Philadelphia Flyers a few years back, Dove-McFalls just won the QMJHL’s best defensive forward award. Not bad for a guy that was also over a point-per-game player in ’17-18. At UNB, he’s got top six potential, but it’s very possible he starts in the bottom six. His defensive ability as a forward will be what gets him ice-time early on, but if he finds some chemistry with a finisher like Mark Rassell, we could see Dove-McFalls in some more offensively inclined situations. One thing we’ll see for sure is Dove-McFall on the penalty kill.
UPEI: A feel good story out of UPEI last week with Humboldt Bronco Nick Shumlanski moving out to the AUS. UPEI have been known from time to time to go out of their area code to bring in junior talent, and here’s exhibit A. Shumlanski was a power play piece with the Broncos, but he’ll have to really earn his time on special teams at UPEI. Shumlanski has the vision and skating ability to play and post points in the AUS, but his play away from the puck will determine whether or not he gets an opportunity to be in offensive situations. Lots of room for improvement with Shumlanski, but he’s in a good place to work on his game and move into the next stage of his career at UPEI.
- As of August 1st, it sounds as if UNB and Acadia are both at the top of the Noah Carroll sweepstakes. Both schools are very much in need of another defender to round out the roster.
- R.T. Rice is moving on from UPEI after two seasons for a deal with the Colorado Avalanche organization. At this point, it appears to be an ECHL contract. Rice was a bit of a surprise coming in from Portage College but was one of the most physical players UPEI have had and supplied a decent offensive boost.
- Was told this week by a source who is in touch with Mario Culina that he will not attend school in ’18-19.
Carleton: Not a ton going on right now in the Carleton rumour mill, but there is one thought out there that has Brogan O’Brien headed from the Prince George Cougars to the Ravens for ’18-19. The move makes a lot of sense given teammate Aaron Boyd has already committed to Carleton, and the Ravens seem adamant in hauling in WHL players. Stay tuned for more news on this one.
Concordia: One of the biggest surprises all offseason has been Concordia’s outside the box thinking with their recruits. Often times schools show trends in going with local products or from a specific junior team (ie. Lakehead recruiting Thunder Bay products, Ryerson taking Sarnia Sting players). Concordia has typically been a spot for bilingual QMJHL players, but the Stingers are literally going all over the map this summer. Now Colin Grannary comes over from the Univ. of Nebraska-Omaha in the NCAA after a career in the BCHL with the Merritt Centennials. A native of Delta, BC, Grannary is the first British Columbian to commit to Concordia since Stefano Momesso in ’14-15. Worth noting, Momesso had played junior in the CCHL and QJAAAHL making him a local recruit in a sense. The last time Concordia recruited a BC born player from a BC based league was in ’10-11 when they brought in goalie Sheldon Baerg from the Comox Valley Glacier Kings. Of course, we can’t forget about Jake Fletcher who comes to Concordia from the Estevan Bruins of the SJHL and also happens to be a BC born player hailing from Surrey. Fletcher is coming off a strong year as captain in Estevan, but is making a pretty big jump to Concordia in the OUA. Grannary is a classic case of a real good BCHL player who didn’t get much playing time in the NCAA, so he comes back north looking for opportunity at Concordia.
McGill: Lots starting to happen now later in the offseason with the McGill Redmen. For starters, Adam Pilotte comes to McGill from the Yarmouth Mariners. Not a headliner typer recruit, Pilotte still has a solid resume in junior, and with some turnover on their blueline, there’s going to be some opportunity for him to try and work his way into the lineup early in the season. Taylor Ford also enters the equation from the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. Another defenceman, it’s a safe bet you’ll see Ford in the lineup on opening night. With Nathan Chiarlitti and Francis Lambert-Lemay both gone, there’s top four minutes up for grabs. He doesn’t have the lethal two-way capabilities some McGill D have had in the past, but his game has a similar dependability to that of Nathanael Halbert, plus he’s a proven leader.
UOIT: The UOIT Ridgebacks close out their recruit class with the additions of Mathieu Gomercic and Kari Belec for ’18-19. Being a Humboldt Bronco, Gomercic is a great story, but was also a secondary playmaking option with the Broncos who UOIT hope project similarly. Belec doesn’t have numbers that stand out as anything special, but he’s a former captain and with decent size can be an asset to UOIT in their gritty and physical style of player. Overall, this is a decent recruit class for UOIT standards. A program that doesn’t often land major junior products, they have a great looking goaltender for long-term in Michael Bullion from the WHL. Defensively, they add two Jr. A products who have good two-way capabilities. Up front, you get two players in Bricknell and Eastman who were top-end Jr. A offensive threats with very different styles of play. From there, the offensive depth in this class is filled out by Jr. A players. Although Bullion might be the standout from this class right now, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Bricknell or Eastman become a face of this program down the road. J.C. Thivierge is the dark horse who could turn out to be fantastic if the stars align.
- In pro signing news, Nipissing’s Steven Deeg is off to Füchse Duisburg of Germany 3. Never much of a ‘stats guy’ in U SPORTS, Deeg was the type of player you knew what you were going to get out of on a nightly basis. Now he’ll be bringing his energy overseas on a new adventure.
Guelph: What a fascinating offseason this continues to be for Guelph. ICYMI, here’s the latest on the Mark Visentin rumours. A few months back, Visentin was apparently attempting to become eligible for a season with the Gryphons after last playing one game in Hungary. Visentin would supposedly get another year of eligibility due to injuries shortening his season after suffering a season-ending ankle injury. In the meantime, the Gryphons have a letter of intent from Evan Cormier of the Saginaw Spirit. That’s a done deal. But it might still fall through if Cormier gets a good enough pro offer, which he might given he was one of the best overage goaltenders in the CHL.
Here’s the latest on this development. Since my sequence of tweets, at least one source has reached out to me to say Visentin is officially enrolled in school and will indeed be a Gryphon next year. However, he may not play until after Christmas break. The Gryphons are taking his ankle injury very seriously, and if Cormier ends up at Guelph there’s no need to rush Visentin into the crease, especially with Andrew Masters still ready to go. At this point, it looks like Visentin would rather focus on education, and if he can play hockey on the side at a competitive level, that’s a bonus. Whatever the circumstance, having an ex-NHLer in your program is a U SPORTS marketing dream.
On top of this goalie puzzle, Mathieu Henderson is leaving Guelph after just one season for a pro deal in Slovakia. Never saw this one coming, and it’s an unfortunate blow for Guelph who lose one of the best defenders in the OUA. Along with Josh McFadden, Guelph now have two big holes to fill defensively. Jesse Saban might fill one of those, but they need another defender too.
Ryerson: Odd situation out of Ryerson this week with Jake Henderson de-committing after academic complications. Part of this involves international waivers too which Henderson needed as an American. At any rate, the Rams appear to be done actively recruiting for the summer. Overall, how does this recruit class compare to years past? It certainly has more of a Jr. A flavour to it with Jacob Kamps and a bunch of Jr. B recruits in Brandon Glover, Adam Craievich, and Jesse Barwell. Quantity has been the theme in Ryerson’s last three recruit classes, which all reach into double digit numbers. Not every player has stuck from those classes, but they’ve found some fantastic quality from a few. If history is any indication, not every player from this class will stick around for four years, but there should be one, two, or maybe more top-end players for years to come. However, red-shirt Mathew Santos could very well be better than all of them.
Waterloo: Jack Scanlan caps off Waterloo’s recruit class as a local product of the Stratford Warriors. He’ll be a great fit in the dressing room and the community, but a realistic ideal projection for him in his rookie season is a depth player who supports the offence with average numbers. Scanlan was a big points guy in the GOJHL, and it isn’t unheard of for Jr. B players to make an offensive impact in the OUA.
Overall, Waterloo had a number of holes to fill this offseason. Goaltending-wise, now they’ve got two options in net to battle it out all year with Trevor Martin and Julian Sime. Neither are top-end goalies right now, but the competition could be what brings both to the next level. Up front, Waterloo is still in dire need of goalscoring. The Warriors get promising help with Nick Chyzowski and Jacob Cascagnette. After that, they’re hoping for Scanlan or one of their other Jr. A guys to breakthrough. Finding defensive replacements was Waterloo’s biggest mission. But it got a lot easier with Michael Moffat coming back for season number five. Adam Bignell certainly helps too, and Waterloo reinforce the rest of the back-end with some high quality Jr. A defenceman. They’ll be relying on AndrewCordssen-David, David Comeau, and Connor Lovie to rise to the challenge sooner than later.
- There’s been a rumour in existence for over a year now that pegged Connor Schlichting as a potential York Lions recruit. As of Tuesday this week, it sounds like school is off the table for now. Schlichting will be headed to Carolina Hurricanes camp.
- With Jake Henderson no longer headed to Ryerson, the Laurier Golden Hawks now appear to be the most likely landing spot. Apparently, the Rapid City Rush in the ECHL also have some level of interest.
- Ryerson assistant coach Kori Cheverie is in the news this week after being announced as an assistant coach with Canada’s U18 national team at an upcoming camp and mini series against the U.S.A this month. It isn’t the first time a Ryerson coach has had national team involvement. WHKY head coach Lisa Haley won a gold medal behind the bench with the women’s national team at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Haley is also a former coach of the women’s U18 team.
Calgary: About 11 months ago, the Calgary Dinos announced a very good looking recruit class that included Red Deer Rebels D-Man Colton Boby. Bobyk never played for Calgary last year, but there was a thought out there that he was looking to become eligible to play for the Dinos this upcoming season. Whatever chance there was of that happening now seems to be gone. As I was told by a source on the Bobyk side in regards to playing for Calgary, “There’s no way that happens”.
Mount Royal: A somewhat surprising addition from the MRU Cougars a couple weeks back with Riley Morris from the Okotoks Oilers. Not surprising in the sense the Cougars add a goalie, but rather in the sense some thought Morris was bound for the NCAA. Morris had an impressive ’16-17 season, but his ’17-18 campaign was lights out. Not only was Morris the best goaltender in the AJHL, but he won the CJHL goalie of the year award. Typically the NCAA is the popular path for goalies of that calibre, but Morris might signal a change in trend. Morris comes to an MRU program with a high level of competition for crease time with Colin Cooper and Wyatt Hoflin already there. He’s going to have to gut it out for playing times, especially in his rookie season, so don’t expect the results to be instant. It might take a little time for Morris so show off everything he can do in U SPORTS, but then again… maybe he just takes the starting job and runs with it.
Regina: The Cougars are back in action on the recruit market with the addition of Keith Anderson for the ’18-19 season. An American national, Anderson has fit right in north of the border after jumping into the WHL with the Victoria Royals. Anderson was a scrappy bottom six player in the WHL, and served a similar role in Battlefords this year, but saw marginally more ice time. His 225 PIMS led the entire league, and are the most single season PIMS by an SJHL player since Tony Oak had 270 back in ’08-09. Regina don’t need to be a dirty team, but having a physical edge over their opponents can certainly help. The Cougars will look for any advantage they can get, so bringing in a tenacious, fearless player such as Anderson makes sense. Any offence in his rookie year is an added bonus.
Saskatchewan: It was pretty clear that Saskatchewan would be losing some top-end talent on the blueline after last year, but we don’t have to look very far to see where some of those players are landing. After four seasons as a Huskie, Jordan Fransoo will join the Rosetown Red Wings. It’s not exactly pro hockey, but it’s a decent league to enjoy some competitive hockey in on the side. Joining him there are former Huskies David Stumborg, Sean Aschim, Cameron Blair, Acadia’s Michael Clarke, and now MacKenzie Johnston. Johnston just played 13 games for the Huskies last year, and never got back to his CIS all-rookie form from his Mount Royal days. Part of that has to do with Saskatchewan’s super deep lineup and a shift in a stronger academic focus for Johnston.