Tuesday Morning Skate: July 17th, 2018
Acadia: The Axemen continue to have the pedal to the metal this offseason with aggressive recruiting. This week it’s Maurizio Colella who’s the new face in town. After it appeared that perhaps Dalhousie was the number one contender, it became apparent that if pro didn’t work out for Colella, he had full intention to go the AUS route. He brings a powerful game to Acadia’s forward unit, but the ability to put up consistent goal numbers too. Given some of the roles that will be up for grabs on Acadia next year, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him net 10+ goals, especially if he’s alongside Stephen Harper whom he played with back in Belleville. Colella just put up 23 goals and 61 points on a terrible Flint Firebirds team, so there’s reason to believe his potential is a little higher on a good AUS team.
Dalhousie: Dalhousie’s goaltending situation has become crystal clear over the last two weeks. Corbin Boes‘ AUS career officially comes to a close after his deal with the Orlando Solar Bears. We already know Connor Hicks is coming to town as a recruit, but now we know who’s competing with him for crease time. Brandon Thibeau is jumping over from the Moncton Aigles Bleus after four years to continue studying Physiotherapy. Thibeau is coming off a year where he got shelled in Moncton, but having a fifth year vet ride out the year with a really promising rookie in Hicks might do wonders for him down the road. While Boes moves on from Dal’s net, so does Jacob Fancy. He’s moving on from the hockey program to focus on academics after providing backup duties for two years. Even though Hicks and Thibeau could make a nice one-two punch, there’s a rumour out there that perhaps Reilly Pickard might forgo his overage year in the Q to join the Tigers. His brother Campbell has already committed to Dalhousie for ’18-19.
Moncton: Moncton are back in the news this week with the introduction of Édouard Michard to the program. I’ve tried to find the last time Moncton went to the AJHL to find a recruit, and it appears this could be a program first. Given, Michaud is from Sherbrooke, so he’s not going to be out of his element at all in a french school. He shouldn’t be out of his element on the ice either after putting up an impressive 73 points in 52 games. The AJHL is no joke, some might even say the second best Jr. A league in the country to the BCHL. Funny enough, his numbers in the AJHL are better than when he played in the QJAAAHL which is a league notorious for players inflating their stats like the post-war Hungarian economy. There’s a lot of intrigue and high hopes for Michaud, but like everybody, he’s got a lot to prove with the Blue Eagles.
SMU: The Huskies are back in the news too with Dawson Theede on his way to join the gang. For awhile, it really looked like Theede was going to be staying closer to home in the OUA, but clearly Saint Mary’s was more attractive in the end. Theede is an above average recruit and joins a Huskies class that is completely comprised of above average recruits thus far. The Huskies depth scoring could very well end up being among the best in the country this year, and Theede is going to help that. How exactly he fits into all of it is tough to project right now. But it’s entirely possible he ends up still posting good offensive numbers on the third line. He’s got the grit to play in all three zones, and the finishing ability to nudge into SMU’s top six.
StFX: Things are starting to become a little clearer in regards to StFX’s recruit class, albeit, it’s a slow burn. Blade Mann-Dixon is the first confirmed recruit I have with the X-Men. With Chase Marchand coming back, Mann-Dixon will be playing a backup role for now. But as a result, what happens to Brandon Hope? He’s been a top-end backup at StFX for three years now, but was inexplicably absent from the University Cup this year with Justin LaForest sitting on the bench. That one might go down as one of the great unknown mysteries in university hockey. With Mann-Dixon now in the picture, it’s possible StFX go with three major junior goalies in the net (McGill did that in ’16-17), but it’s also possible Hope is on to the next chapter. Standby for more info as this situation plays out.
UPEI: Another addition to talk of out of UPEI, and more to come this summer. Andrew Picco will enjoy life on the island as a Panther after committing from the Quebec Remparts. Picco is best known for his time in Rimouski where he was a part of their run to the Memorial Cup tournament in 2015. Picco is very much a defensively minded defenceman whose game can be tough to notice by virtue of being simple. That’s not a bad thing at all, but the challenge for Picco in his rookie year will be to prove that he’s been getting better by improving rather than by aging. Handling AUS assignments will be tougher on a nightly basis than what he was getting in the QMJHL.
- After four years with Acadia, Sam Fioretti is jumping to pro with the South Carolina Stingrays. He joins a long list of Axemen either graduating or signing elsewhere for the upcoming season. Expecting to see Chance Braid sign pro this summer too.
- UPEI get both a big boost and a big loss in the same week. Brent Andrews will be returning for a fifth year of service. His numbers were average last year, but a former 13 goal scorer, he was an integral part of the offence when in the lineup. On the other hand, UPEI lose 17 goals in Marcus Power who graduated and will now be part of the Newfoundland Growlers. The rest of the country never got to see Power on the national stage, but I always thought he was one of the best goal scorers in the whole country.
- Looking ahead to the preseason, UNB have some pretty opponents listed on their schedule, none bigger than Boston College who they see on October 6th. UNB also play four exhibition games against McGill and Ryerson. Will this be the year the Varsity Reds finally lose to an OUA program?
- Speaking of exhibition games, the Ottawa Gee-Gees are hosting the StFX X-Men for a preseason contest. This will be a reunion of sorts for Patrick Grandmaitre and Eric Locke with their old program.
Concordia: Two more bodies incoming for Concordia with Zachary Zorn and William Leclerc. Zorn is far from a prototypical Concordia recruit coming from the BCHL, but they’re happy to have him just the same. The BCHL is a terrific league, and Zorn just posted 42 points with the Merritt Centennials. However, if you’re going to be an offensive factor on Concordia, you’ve got to have great instincts. Leclerc might have those instincts having just put up 110 points with the Chambly Forts. But as I’ve said before, the QJAAAHL can be a difficult league to project how players turn out. Teams building out of this league haven’t done historically well, and many times big point scorers from the QJAAAHL have had little effect in the OUA. But that’s not to say Leclerc won’t change that trend. With the right attitude and approach to the game, he’ll be given a healthy opportunity to make the jump into the OUA.
Laurentian: The Voyageurs are going back to the NOJHL for a close-to-home addition in Colin Boudreau. Having just spent a full year in the NOJHL with Hearst, Boudreau is already well acclimated to hockey in northern Ontario. He’s joining a Laurentian blueline which is undergoing some notable reconstruction this offseason. He’ll be a young piece on a fairly young d-corps, so the opportunity should exist to show everyone what he’s capable of in the OUA.
McGill: Two more additions from the QMJHL to talk about with McGill in Nicolas Poulin and Jordan Ty Fournier. Poulin had an injury shortened season in ’16-17, but responded with a phenomenal comeback season in ’17-18. His 35 goals was a career-high, and he looked genuinely improved as a player in all three zones. Health concerns aside, the potential for success at McGill should be very high. Offensive ability combined with the motivation to show everyone he’s still got it is a good combination. Fournier should fit very comfortably into coach Kelly Nobes’ defensive scheme. McGill is a gritty team, and it’s reflected in how their forward back-check and play defence. Fournier has some decent numbers, but his true impact at McGill will be seen in all three zones.
Nipissing: Figured at the beginning of the summer that Nipissing would be aggressively searching for defencemen. That’s very much been the case as Kylor Wall now joins the team in North Bay from the AJHL. Wall is a pretty tough defenceman, but showed some offensive ability in his overage year too. Nipissing’s defence will be pretty young, but the biggest key might be just keeping them around. In the last two years, the Lakers have had six defencemen either quit the team or fail to show up for training camp. No other program in the country rivals that number. Up front, Colby Tower comes in from the Miramichi Timberwolves. Tower had two full seasons in the QMJHL and offers a fairly well-rounded game.
Queen’s: The Gaels are back in the news with Owen Stout coming over on transfer from RPI in the NCAA. Stout had an injury shortened overage year in the BCHL, but still managed to score a shot in the NCAA. Only seeing ice for 15 games in ’17-18, it looks like Stout is coming back up north for some more ice time and opportunity at Queen’s. Of course, academics could also be playing a factor. Stout showed some very promising flashes at times in the BCHL, but with such a small sample size in the last two years, it’s really tough to tell where he’s at as a player right now. NCAA transfers can be hit and miss, but the Gaels found a pretty good one last year in Luke Edwards
UQTR: Yet again, the Patriotes are going back to the QJAAAHL to find talent with Patrice Demuy coming from Granby Inouk for ’18-19. Like most recruits from the QJAAAHL, his numbers are incredible. Demuy scored 44 goals in 48 games during the regular season, but only found the net four times in 85 QMJHL games with Chicoutimi and Sherbrooke. Demuy joins four other recruits directly out of the QJAAAHL headed to UQTR, which is a rarity for the Patriotes program. Worth noting, UQTR were scheduled to lose a maximum of only four forwards this year, but they’ve already recruited five for next year. Perhaps they’re losing more than they anticipated, but this could also be a case of UQTR bringing on as many players as possible, which they’ve done before.
- Just prior to posting, the UOIT Ridgebacks announced the addition of another former Humboldt Bronco, Matthieu Gomercic. You can find details here
Guelph: It was a two-horse race for awhile between Guelph and Acadia, but ultimately Connor Bramwell wants to play closer to home, and he’s committed to the Gryphons for ’18-19. Bramwell is from Hamilton, and just wrapped up a three year stint in the QMJHL with Blainville-Boisbriand and Drummondville. Bramwell has been one of the best ‘where did he come from?’ stories in recent memory having put up over a point-per-game with Drummondville after being passed up in the OHL draft. U SPORTS is often a haven for late-blooming players. So the question now is how much more room for growth does Bramwell have? After two straight 20+ goal seasons in major junior, there’s a high chance we get to see if he can carry that rate of production over to Guelph while playing on the first two lines.
Laurier: The Golden Hawks are looking for some brotherly love next year with Matthew and Mitchell Kreiss joining the Laurier hockey program. Although twin brothers, their career-paths have been a little different. Matthew was a former 1st RD OHL draft selection by the Barrie Colts. He never reached his potential as a top-end OHL playmaker, but he certainly showed signs of his capabilities more with Saginaw than he did in Barrie. Mitchell was taken by the London Knights in the same OHL Priority Selection as Matthew, but two rounds later. Mitchell had a couple short stints with London, but never stuck around for long. For the ’15-16 season, Mitchell jumped to the MJAHL where he was an average defender with Woodstock. But by the end of the ’17-18 season, Kreiss was named the MJAHL’s top defender and dominated the league as a lethal two-way threat. Mitchell’s development has accelerated dramatically in the last two years, and Laurier could use a two-way threat on their backend. Mitchell keeps a streak going of the last five MJAHL defencemen of the year committing to U SPORTS programs (Mike Constantine, Mike Poirier, Jordan McNaughton, and Trey Lewis).
Waterloo: Waterloo’s recruit class is coming close to completion, as we now have a new goalie and a new defenceman added to the program. Julian Sime was a bit of a shot out of left field being a ’98, but the move makes sense. Sime clearly hadn’t been given security for a job in the OHL for his overage year, so he joins a Waterloo program where he’ll split time with Trevor Martin. Sime’s numbers have been fairly pedestrian in the last couple seasons, but nobody really gave Mario Culina a chance before his overage year either. On the blueline, David Comeau is the newest addition. Brian Bourque certainly hasn’t hesitated to recruit from his maritime roots before, and that’s the case here. Comeau came up through the Fredericton Canadians program before moving around between the MJAHL and the QMJHL for his junior career. His overage season yielded 50 games with Miramichi where he was the sidekick to the league’s D-Man of the year, Mitchell Kreiss. With Kreiss now at Laurier, these two suddenly become bitter rivals.
Western: Western confirmed what I reported on last edition after announcing their six-man recruit class. But Ethan Szypula was also officially announced as a recruit for the ‘Stangs. There was some talk that Szypula was talking with AUS schools, but the rumour all the way back in January was that Western would be a top contendor to get him. That rumour has come to fruition, and the Mustangs now get one of the most offensively skilled overagers available. It’s going to be difficult to replace the hands and hockey sense Rob Polesello had, but Szypula might be the next best thing. Szypula can pass the puck better than most, and has fantastic hands and elusive feet. Historically, he’s had difficulty keeping weight and playing a physical game, but he should have an easier time dealing with that at Western when you consider some of the other brutes already on that roster. The Mustangs lose a great playmaker, but Szypula is their best bet to be the long-term replacement.
Windsor: Windsor announced their recruit class last month, but they’ve slipped in at least one more addition with Erik Olson of the Weyburn Red Wings. In classic Windsor fashion, they bring in a guy who doesn’t have a giant resume in hockey. But the Lancers always do their homework, and of the two coaches from out west I’ve spoken with, they both say Olson is the most underrated overage defenceman out of the SJHL this year.
- For the first time in forever, the Brock Badgers are out of the limelight… for the time being. In the interim, check out Clint Windsor’s new bucket as he gets set to head overseas to Denmark.
Calgary: The Dinos continue to piece together their class player by player with another addition from the Jr. A ranks in Brad Schoonbaert. Schoonbaert was a career MJHLer, primarily with the Steinbach Pistons. In his three seasons there he got gradually better, and capped off his junior career with a 91 point campaign. I had a chance to watch Schoonbaert in the playoffs and the RBC Cup, and he’s clearly one of the best passers available from the Jr. A level. He led his team with 36 goals in the regular season, but in the playoffs, Steinbach appeared to be a score by committee type team. It’ll be interesting to see if Schoonbaert takes on a playmaker or shooter role with the Dinos.
Lethbridge: The biggest news out of Lethbridge right now is that there’s no news at all. For a team that’s hosting the national championship this year, that’s both a little surprising, and a little concerning. At the moment, I don’t have a single recruit rumour in circulation involving the Pronghorns.
Regina: The Cougars are going back to the SJHL for more first year talent as they have a commitment from Clayton Eisler for ’18-19. Eisler just finished up three seasons with the Melville Millionaires, and his double digit goal numbers from the last two seasons jump off the page immediately. If there’s anything Regina haven’t had in the last 10 years, it’s a goal-scoring defenceman. The Regina record for most single season goals by a D-Man since ’07-08 belongs to Tyler King who just had six last year. Matter of fact, Regina have had a D-Man hit 10 goals since Josh Garbutt had 11 in ’05-06. That number from Eisler in his first year is probably a little too unrealistic, but the Cougars will take any offensive help they can get.
UBC: Big moves from the Thunderbirds this week with a trio of recruits. Let’s break them down one by one.
Maxwell James: Your classic ‘depth guy’, James comes to UBC after a healthy 220 game career in the WHL with the Tri-City Americans. Often times, WHL teams won’t keep around overage forwards who don’t put up numbers, so the fact James stuck for his overage season says a lot about how good he is at what he does and how much he was valued by the Americans organization. Chances are, James fills a similar role at UBC, sort of like Logan Fisher at Calgary or Riley Kieser at Alberta.
Colton Kehler: One of the best natural goal-scorers who isn’t going pro out of the WHL, Kehler is a massive addition for the T-Birds. In the last two years, UBC have experienced some tough offensive droughts that have bogged down their regular season despite having some excellent first line talent. Now with Kehler in town, there’s less of an offensive load on Austin Vetterl. Scoring depth is a ‘must improve’ for UBC, and they take a big step forward in addressing that with Kehler.
Steven Hodges: Hodges is the biggest enigma of the bunch having not played high-level hockey since ’15-16. But his track record is excellent. A former 3rd round draft pick of the Florida Panthers, Hodges was one of the best two-way forwards in the WHL, and has some AHL experience to his credit. The big question is how does Hodges adjust to university life after two years out of the game? Michael St. Croix has been a slam dunk for Manitoba. Todd Fiddler was not a slam dunk for Alberta. Point being, it’s very difficult to predict how ex-pros will turn out in Canada West from behind a computer screen on a mid-summer’s night. The good news is, we don’t have to wait long to see what he’s all about, as Hodges is eligible right away.
- The Regina Cougars officially bid farewell to Ian McNulty who signs pro with the Tulsa Oilers for the next chapter in his career. Due to Regina’s poor results during his time as a Cougar, his numbers won’t every truly reflect how good he actually was. In McNulty’s fifth year, he posted 20 points. McNulty, Cody Fowlie, and Zak Zborosky all surpassed the 20 point mark, making them the first Cougars to do so since the schedule was reduced to 28 games in ’07-08.
- Stanley Cup champion and Prince George Cougar alum Brett Connolly is doing something pretty cool. He’s donating all proceeds from a V.I.P. experience with him and the Stanley Cup to the Brock Hirsche Memorial Fund.