Acadia: Bombshell of an announcement from Acadia with the addition of Garrett McFadden for ’18-19. One other coach told me he figured McFadden would end up in the AHL, so this comes as a bit of a surprise to the league. Acadia is thrilled with the acquisition, and they should be. If you had to come up with the perfect mold for a major junior university hockey recruit, McFadden would be it. He’s a community guy, strong academic, gifted in both ends of the ice, and committed to what U SPORTS hockey is all about. It’s so hard to not see this going well, and that’s great for Acadia who needed to replace both Matt Pufahl and Geoff Schemitsch this offseason. Almost all the top D-Men in U SPORTS play a 200 foot game, fly like the wind, and make a great first pass. McFadden was the secondary puck-moving defender to Ryan Merkley at Guelph, but he could easily become the number one option at Acadia. He’s got all the tools and the right attitude to take his game to the next level.
Moncton: A trio of players will not be returning to the Moncton Aigles Bleus. Samuel Roussy, Samuel LeBlanc, and Sebastien Gauthier are all leaving shy of the four year mark with Moncton. All three players are defencemen, which leaves a pretty big gap on Moncton’s back-end. Roussy in particular was one of Moncton’s better defencemen last year. If anything this could be an indication of coach Judes Vallee beginning to really change the culture out east and making this team truly his. There’s still lots of time for Moncton to make some moves before the offseason ends, and they certainly have the roster space to do so.
UNB: Tough week for those involved with the UNB Reds program. Having been a Torontonian for the last five years, I can unfortunately relate to what the people of Fredericton are feeling right now. Fredericton will always have a special place in my heart for how well I’ve been treated the times I’ve visited for a national championship. Their community is strong, resilient, and are capable of overcoming anything together.
Among those killed in the shooting was Constable Sara Burns. Her husband, Steve, had a large hand in running the national championship in Fredericton over the last two years. A mother of three children who all play hockey, her youngest son was recently with the VRed Prospects at the World Selects tournament in Bolonzo. The university hockey community stands with the Burns family and the UNB hockey program through this difficult time.
UPEI: The UPEI Panthers recruit class nears completion with Luke Kirwan added to the program for ’18-19. Finishing off his junior career with Baie-Comeau, Kirwan is an American who started off in the OHL with the Windsor Spitfires. There was a time when many believed Kirwan would eventually become a top-line OHL player and potential representative for the United States in major tournaments. Kirwan never quite lived up to that billing and bounced around the lineup with his teams. Now he comes to UPEI with another chance at resurrecting his potential and getting a fresh start. Kirwan finished off relatively strong in the QMJHL, and liked the landscape enough to stay out east moving forward. UPEI are a team stuck just short of taking the next step ahead, so there’s a good chance they’ll be willing to give Kirwan a chance early to see if he can be a big part of that progression.
- Recruiting is really going to be slowing down in the AUS this month. UPEI’s class is nearly complete, Acadia’s class is done once they announce McCarty, StFX is done, SMU could be done, UNB is one player away, Dalhousie is nearly done, and so is Moncton.
Carleton: Now official, Brogan O’Brien will be headed to Carleton in ’18-19. Another player who’s a good fit for Shaun Van Allen’s style of coaching, O’Brien can fit into this Carleton team a number of different ways. He can play away from the puck, in front of the net, hard on the forecheck, and has good enough offensive vision to put up good numbers in the league. A lot of what you see on the stat sheet with O’Brien will be determined by who he plays with and in what situations he’s placed in. O’Brien doesn’t necessarily have to put a dent in the boxscore every night to be an effective player for the Ravens.
Concordia: The Stingers will have a crowded crease yet again with the addition of Olivier Tremblay for ’18-19. He’ll be joining Marc-Antoine Turcotte and Julio Billia in a rotation of three major junior netminders. That’s a big improvement from the years where Concordia could hardly land a major junior goaltender. Much like Turcotte and Billia, Tremblay comes from a QMJHL background, but finished his major junior days with the Ottawa 67’s. His overage season was not his best, but he adds depth to Concordia’s crease, and that’s all that matters. It gives Marc-Andre Element more options to work with, and he’s shown that he knows how to manage his goalies. Regardless of how the offence and defence looks at the moment, the Stingers should be able to compete with anybody in terms of OUA goaltending talent.
McGill: The McGill Redmen have historically had some of the best goaltending in the OUA in recent seasons, typically with QMJHL products between the pipes. L.P. Guindon will be the incumbent starter again, but Kelly Nobes loves to have options in the crease, so McGill go out and get Antoine Samuel from the Quebec Remparts. Best known for his time with Baie-Comeau, I had Samuel ranked as the second best overage goalie in the QMJHL behind Etienne Montpetit. As expected, his overage season was an improvement over his last three, but he’s still going to need to earn Nobes’ trust at McGill. Even though rookies tend to have to patiently wait their turn in U SPORTS, Nobes won’t hesitate to go with the hot hand, no matter age or experience. Guindon is one of the OUA’s best netminders, but Samuel has the potential to be right there with him. This solidifies another fantastic goalie combo for the Redmen.
Queen’s: It looks like the Gaels are in for a complete overhaul in the net with the departure of Kevin Bailie, and now Jacob Brennan too. For three years, Brennan has been putting in tremendous performances for the Gaels when Bailie has been injured or away at the FISU games. And under the radar recruit coming out of Mississauga, Brennan never got the full-time spotlight at Queen’s, but played the backup role as well as anybody could ask for. If it hadn’t been for one of the countries top three goalies already there, who knows what Brennan could have done in the crease full-time at Queen’s. Now his aspirations have shifted away from the ice as he’s putting his time and effort into attaining his masters degree.
As we already know, Jack Flynn is coming to take over the reigns as the starting goalie. But it’s possible Justin Fazio could be joining him. He’s committed to Queen’s, but his status is still up in the air until his time at Detroit Red Wings camp is complete. Should he land in the OUA, Queen’s will automatically have one of the best duos in the league yet again. It’ll be two new fresh faces, but it’s hard to imagine the results will be much different from what they’ve gotten from their goalies in recent seasons.
- Ottawa’s Anthony Brodeur continues to stake his claim as the best golfer in university hockey. Just last week he was in the Canadian Men’s Amateur Championship after an impressive showing at the Québec Amateur in July.
- After cutting ties with the Ottawa Gee-Gees earlier this summer, Jonathan Bourcier has signed in France for ’18-19.
- Some rumours existed that had Rimouski’s Mathieu Nadeau headed to McGill for ’18-19. After signing a deal with Fort Wayne of the ECHL, this won’t be happening anytime soon. If Nadeau changes his mind, he’s one of the better offensive threats available to university teams.
Guelph: As reported on Twitter, the latest out of Guelph is that Mark Visentin is at the University of Guelph and will indeed play at some point for the Gryphons next season. In addition to that, it seems like there’s a real possibility Evan Cormier still turns pro. He’s still committed to playing at Guelph over any other university, but if there’s an NHL organization looking to add some minor league depth in goal before the season, Cormier has to be one of the best options out there. At this point, I’d give it a 60% chance Cormier winds up as a Gryphon.
Lakehead: The Thunderwolves are back in the news for the first time since June with the addition of Caleb Boman to the roster for ’18-19. Without much luck on the major junior market, Lakehead have recently opted for some NCAA transfers with varied success. Boman adds to this trend… sort of. After spending one year in the NCAA with Niagara Univ., he jumped back to junior with the Trenton Golden Hawks. Boman is listed as a defenceman, but you wouldn’t know it by his numbers. His 24 goals led all OJHL defencemen, and helped him garner OJHL second team all-star honours. He’s a decorated NOJHL player too from his time with the Soo Thunderbirds where he won a league title in ’15-16. Lakehead’s defence is lacking two-way punch, so the flashy game Boman brings can be used to great effect immediately. But Lakehead need to make some big late announcements for many to believe they’re going to be an improved team this season.
Laurier: The Golden Hawks pulled the trigger on announcing their 14 man recruit class on Monday with Jake Henderson and Mike Davies headlining the bunch. Being former Kitchener Rangers, there’s already some synergy with the local crowd there, and OHL recruits staying in a close market is a great way to push ticket sales to OHL fans. From a hockey perspective, there’s a little bit of everything in Laurier’s class. Both Davies and Henderson are power forwards you hope will give you some offence to boot. There’s some play-making and two-way elements added with the Kreiss twins, and Laurier hope Alex Black brings the physicality on the blue-line like he did with Sarnia and Peterborough. Among the Jr. A additions, James Thomson could well be the best of the bunch, although the reviews on Tyler Fassl have been excellent too. Thomson isn’t very flashy, but he’s got size and good enough mobility to handle just about anybody in the league. Fassl is coming off one of the best Jr. A seasons of any goalie in the country, but he’ll have to compete for playing time with Jacob Standen and veteran Chris Festarini. Mac Lewis brings the grit and physicality from Trenton, while teammate Michael Silveri is more of a two-way player. However, it may take both players considerable time to put up numbers in the OUA. Mack Graham is a player Laurier is hoping provides the quickest offensive spark of the recruit class. His regular season in Oakville was a step back from his terrific year with Steinbach in ’16-17, but Graham was by far and large Oakville’s best forward in the playoffs. Getting numbers from Ethan Wiseman would be nice too, but he’s going to have to make a good impression early to find a way into the lineup. Defencemen Graeme MacLean and Zach Dybowski complete a class which will give Laurier lots of options down the road.
Overall, this isn’t an outstanding class on paper. Laurier have seen steady improvement over the last three years, and have landed some very notable pieces with Brandon Robinson, Andrew Fritsch, and Kyle Jenkins. This summer they don’t have that one big difference-maker on paper. Having said that, they don’t necessarily need that type of player to get better. Specifically looking at the defence, three years ago it was a mess. Now you’ve got two excellent pieces with Jenkins and Mac Clutsam. Additionally, the depth is much better too and if a player like Thomson turns out to be a slam dunk, the Golden Hawks could be looking very good.
Toronto: Of all the OUA teams I would’ve pegged as being a viable option for Joe Manchurek, U of T would’ve been one of the last. But here we are. Manchurek will be a Varsity Blue in ’18-19. After captaining a rebuilding Oshawa Generals team in his overage season, Manchurek did not play hockey at a high level last season. Popular rumour was he was talking with the Windsor Lancers, but nothing ever materialized. Now Manchurek emerges from the blue to suit up in blue for U of T in a year where they look primed to be in the playoffs once again. Manchurek was always a bottom six guy in the OHL. He played a hard, tough game, loved to get dirty, and took the role in stride. On the Oshawa Generals 2015 Memorial Cup team, he was part of one of the best ‘grind lines’ in the OHL. It’s easy to say he’ll take on a similar role at U of T, but Aidan Wallace (linemate from 2015) once scored 14 goals in ’16-17, so who knows.
- Kyle Tibbo has informed the Ryerson Rams he will not return next season in favour of attending university closer to home. At this time, it looks like he will not continue playing hockey.
- After finishing last season on a try-out, Guelph’s Manny Gialedakis has signed in the ECHL for ’18-19 with the Norfolk Admirals. Gialedakis is coming off a career-best U SPORTS season with 23 points in 28 regular season games.
- Somewhat like the WHL, we’re starting to see a number of OHLers choose pro hockey over university. Trent Fox is the latest to sign a pro deal as he joins the Fort Wayne Komets. Keep an eye out for that name in December.
Alberta: To nobody’s surprise, the Alberta Golden Bears are pulling off what looks like another golden recruit class. Tyler Soy appears to be the next player headed to Edmonton for next year. According to multiple sources, Soy hasn’t totally ruled out the prospect of pro hockey, but the chances are very high that he begins the next season with Alberta. One thing we know for sure is that Soy will not be playing in the ECHL over university hockey. The same can’t be said for a number of top-end overagers from the WHL. Soy is a rare exception to a WHL class that has been taking almost any pro offers sent their way. A seventh round draft pick of the Anaheim Ducks, Soy was a bono-fide prospect in the WHL. We’re talking Hlinka Gretzky, Jr. Super Series, and CHL Player of the Week honours. A career Victoria Royal, Soy posted three straight seasons producing at over a point per game. It’s extremely rare for a player with his talent level and skill to be playing in U SPORTS. The transition to university is different for everybody, but don’t be surprised to see Soy among the league leaders in points with Luke Philp.
Flying under the radar this week is the confirmation that Curtis Miske is indeed coming to Alberta. Leadership and versatility are two standout aspects of his game. Somebody who could be a first line player for 75% of the programs in U SPORTS, depth at Alberta might be the reason he starts on the third or fourth line.
Calgary: All things considered, Calgary appears to be quiet at the moment. Given all the WHLers with pro deals on the table, Calgary’s class might be more Jr. A heavy than initially anticipated. But let’s not forget about Graham Black. After red-shirting, he’s ready to dress for the Dinos. A phenomenal hockey pedigree, Black has the ability to single handedly break open games like Cain Franson. Black’s offensive game never transitioned very well to the AHL, but there’s a much better chance it will at the U SPORTS level. Black may not be the finisher and goal-scorer Franson is, but he has a better chance of elevating the play from those around him. A player like Black might be the perfect recipe for somebody like Coda Gordon to have an above average offensive season.
Lethbridge: Well…. things certainly took a turn for the dramatic at Lethbridge over the last few weeks. On the surface, it looks like a really awkward situation for a university that put everything they had into getting a national championship. Not only are they now losing a head coach, but the report in terms of rumours among WHL recruits is not good. This is a big topic which I’ll be going into further depth with later this week in a separate article.
Manitoba: Nobody on the way in, but rather two on the way out at Manitoba. Both Quintin Lisoway and Blake Heinrich are leaving the program early for deals in pro hockey. Lisoway signs with the Rapid City Rush after two years at Manitoba, one of which he found a surprise scoring touch with 11 goals. Heinrich took a semester to become eligible at Manitoba, and was expected to be a cornerstone to their defence down the road. That long-term plan hasn’t worked out at Manitoba, and now Heinrich will join Lisoway on Rapid City.
Saskatchewan: As per usual, it appears Saskatchewan will wait until the bitter end of the offseason to announce recruits. Among the latest rumours, there’s still a popular belief that Donovan Neuls will be a Huskie. Joining him could be Regan Nagy of the Prince Albert Raiders. Both are Saskatchewan natives, so it’s not going to be a surprise in the slightest should they end up with Dave Adolph and the boys. Even in a summer where overage WHL talent have preferred to take pro offers over university scholarships, the Huskies and the Golden Bears have found some top-end talent to plug holes from graduating players.
- After asking around about how recruiting might play out over the Christmas break, the answer has been unanimous. As one source put it, “It’s going to be chaos”. The side effect of having so many overagers sign contracts is that not all of them will stick in pro for the whole season once they get a taste of what it’s really like. Expect almost every Canada West program look to add something in December.