Tuesday Morning Skate: May 22nd, 2018
Acadia: Acadia are the most active team to start the offseason, but the best recruits are yet to come from the Axemen program. Cole Reginato became team-official this week and will add immediate depth to an Acadia team which has always had a lot in recent memory. The big fish they appear to have on the line is Johnny Corneil of the Niagara IceDogs. Corneil took a step back statistically in his overage year with Niagara, but a part of that can be attributed to being shuffled down the lineup with the addition of Sam Miletic. Corneil served as captain this year, and is one of the best two-way forwards on the market this summer. He’s not overly large, but he’s a strong enough player to excel in that aspect of the game in the AUS. Another player who fits the Acadia mold, expect that deal to be completed in the near future.
Dalhousie: All things considered, it’s pretty quiet at Dalhousie right now. However, they are supposedly in the market for defenceman Jesse Saban of the North Bay Battalion. This should come as no surprise after seeing Dalhousie tap into the OHL recruit market last year with C.J. Yakimovicz and Aiden Jamieson. Neither player was a star, but both had substantial influence on Dalhousie’s results as rookies. They’d hope for the same with Saban should they get him. There’s also a rumour that Halifax Mooseheads forward Brett Crossley could wind up with Dalhousie next year too.
Moncton: Nothing out of Moncton to report yet, but they’re still actively searching for more bodies, especially up front. Word has it they’re scrambling a little bit to find a replacement for Tobie Paquette-Bisson, but they’ll be hard pressed to find another defender of his calibre.
Saint Mary’s: Still very quiet from within Saint Mary’s, but outside there’s a few rumours that are starting to pick up serious traction. Logan DeNoble has long be talked about potentially going to Saint Mary’s, but as of this week it sounds like his most likely option. By all accounts, UNB is out of the running. Nicholas Welsh is another name associated with the Huskies. A defenceman out of Halifax, Welsh spent the past season with the Moncton Wildcats as their captain. He’d have a UNB connection with Roger Shannon, but much like DeNoble, SMU sounds like the most likely landing spot for him at the moment.
StFX: Nothing stirring out of StFX right now.
UNB: Big news with the first real splash of the offseason for UNB now a done deal. Mark Rassell has signed his papers to play for UNB next year, and is now waiting on an official release from UNB. Anytime you score 50 goals in a season like Rassell just did, you’re going to be one of the biggest prizes on the recruit market. Rassell comes out of the WHL where he’s been one of the finest finishers in the league for the past two seasons. He’s almost certainly going to serve a similar function at UNB. Now surrounded by a plethora of playmakers and speed demons, there’s a couple options up front for UNB that could be great fits right away for Rassell. Players like Tyler Boland, Chris Caissy, and Alex Goulet all seem like the right type to compliment Rassell’s offensively-inclined skillset.
UPEI: Still not much stirring in the UPEI camp right now, as they don’t need a whole lot. But they have reportedly found another goaltender to add to the mix for next year, and it’s not Mario Culina. In fact, supposedly this addition is well off the map. Pending team release, but expect a name to come to the surface sooner than later.
Carleton: Carleton are slowly but surely getting some real solid hockey players to commit after it seemed like they were off to a tough start sealing deals. In addition to Jake Smith, they’ve now added Aaron Boyd to the team for ’18-19. Much like Smith, his numbers aren’t overwhelming, but he’s been a solid and reliable player for four years in the WHL with Prince George. Having lost a fair bit of star power over the years, Carleton appears to be replacing it with a lot of dependability in their lineup. Assuming the Ravens don’t land a Brett Welychka-type recruit, they’re going with the ‘win by committee’ approach for next year. Boyd fits that bill, and I’d expect a number of other recruits that do too before the summer comes to an end.
Concordia: Schools always like to be in on the best overage players in the CHL marketplace, but it comes at a cost. Concordia is finding that out as the offseason progresses after deals with Phelix Martineau and Jeffrey Truchon-Viel have both fallen through after each player received an AHL deal. Both would’ve been game-changers for a Concordia team looking to restock after losing the best forward in the country, Anthony Beauregard (who I expect to ink a pro deal within the next 3 weeks). The Stingers still have a very good looking recruit class, but they might end up relying on a lot of their top guys from last year to keep scoring at a high rate once again. If anything, this is a sign of the times for Concordia. About four years ago, Martineau and Truchon-Viel wouldn’t have even considered Concordia as a landing spot. Now the Stingers are as much of a recruiting powerhouse as ever. If they keep swinging for the fences, it’s only a matter of time until they hit another home run.
Laurentian: After a very quick start to the offseason, things have simmered down at Laurentian.
McGill: Still nothing from McGill this week who are off to a quiet start this offseason. With Concordia and Queen’s both adding some big guns, there’s serious anticipation around the league to see what McGill does.
Nipissing: Some more rumours swirling around Nipissing this week regarding a defenceman and a forward. The defenceman in question in Erik Campbell. Campbell is a former teammate of Matt Donnelly and Tyler Brown on Portage College in the CCAA. Campbell spent his entire junior career out east playing in the MJAHL and is a native of New Waterford, N.S. The forward is Zach Moody. Moody has an interesting career path that’s seen him playing four years in the QMJHL (including a Memorial Cup appearance with the Remparts), finishing with the Truro Bearcats, and then giving pro hockey a shot in France 3 last year. Moody only played four games, but because he was no longer eligible for junior hockey, it could affect his U SPORTS eligibility. It all depends on when he played his last game. Trying to navigate the league pages for France 3 hockey is a difficult task even with Google Translate, so I’m still trying to get to the bottom of that. The Lakers also had a team-official recruit with Nikolas Kalpouzas coming over from the Toronto Patriots. Kalpouzas has 147 regular season games of OJHL experience, and also has a Telus Cup gold medal to his credit.
Ottawa: One of the things the Gee-Gees have going for them when it comes to recruits is that uOttawa is a great destination for players looking to do their masters degrees. The Gee-Gees showed that off when they rocked the OUA with the addition of Eric Locke last summer. It’s possible we could see a similar scenario this summer. This rumour doesn’t have a ton of traction, but there’s definitely an element of truth to it. After four years at Moncton, forward J.F. Plante is supposedly showing interest in Ottawa. It’s also possible Plante decides to call it quits on his hockey career, but if he continues to play at the university level, he could very well be wearing the garnet and grey. Plante is coming off a down year at Moncton where the program missed the AUS playoffs, but his 28 goals from 2016-17 stand as one of the best single seasons of any forward in recent U SPORTS history. Given, he doesn’t have the Saulnier twins to set him up anymore. Keep your ears and eyes open for more if this develops.
Queen’s: Mason Kohn is the newest addition to a Queen’s recruit class that is close to completion, and looks fantastic. The Gaels have been going after just about any OHLers that are looking to play OUA hockey. The Gaels are well stocked on the blueline now, but there was a hole up front with Darcy Greenaway moving on to pro hockey. Kohn is a very different player, but can plug into a similar position on the lineup card. Not only will Kohn see sufficient ice-time five on five this year, but he’s probably going to be getting penalty kill minutes for the Gaels as well. As far as strong two-way OHL forwards go, Kohn was arguably the best on the market.
RMC: Still nothing new to share from RMC this week.
UOIT: After a big move two weeks ago, things have settled down again in Oshawa as the Ridgebacks look to bolster their forward group.
UQTR: Perhaps the quietest team from the OUA East this offseason, there’s still no new rumours or confirmations to share out of UQTR. Simon Chevrier appears to still be committed there after signing an LOI in December, but with little roster turnover, there isn’t much the Patriotes have to do right now if they don’t want to.
Brock: No new recruits for Brock just yet, but the nation had a good chance to see Frank Pucci on display with the Wellington Dukes at the 2018 RBC Cup. After showing extremely well in the GOJHL with the Niagara Falls Canucks, Pucci never found the same offensive punch with Wellington in the playoffs. It’s tough to make a jump to a new team, let alone a new league, so very late in the year, but Pucci did manage to stay up fairly high in the pecking order for coach John Druce. Now he’s got ample time in the offseason to make another jump to an even higher calibre of hockey in the OUA.
Guelph: Nothing concrete from Guelph just yet, but there’s word on the street that Kingston Frontenacs captain Ted Nichol could potentially land at Guelph next season.
Lakehead: Finally got a whiff of a rumour connecting Lakehead with a major junior player last week when the idea that Jesse Saban could be joining the Thunderwovles came up. But that’s since deteriorated as the AUS seems like the top destination for Saban. However, Lakehead do land their first recruit in Jordan Larson. Going the NCAA route again, Larson comes from the Univ. of Alabama-Huntsville where he saw action in only 10 games last year. But Larson was an extremely consistent player in the CCHL, and a former captain of a championship Carleton Place Canadians team. After things didn’t turn out they way he was hoping in the NCAA, the Thunderwolves hope they’ve picked off a diamond in the rough from south of the border like they did with Kelin Ainsworth a few years back.
Laurier: A small move, but an important one nonetheless. Laurier have brought on goaltender Tyler Fassl for ’18-19. With Colin Furlong moving on to pro, the Golden Hawks had a void to fill in the net. Assuming they don’t add another, Chris Festarini looks like the number one goalie for next year with Fassl serving as a backup ‘project player’.
Ryerson: Two more additions find their way onto Ryerson’s increasingly large recruit list with Hayden McCool (Oshawa Generals) and Patrick Fellows (Erie) both joining the program. Those two could very well be a duo on the penalty kill for the Rams this year who have stuck to their mission of adding size and grit. In particular, McCool took a real jump with the Generals in showcasing his offensive side, but was still tough as nails and unafraid to drop the gloves with anyone. Fellows is a little more timid, but the reviews from those who played/coached alongside him all say he’s a fantastic dressing room guy who will quickly become part of the program’s leadership. Believe it or not, Ryerson probably isn’t done with the additions just yet. Hearing they’re looking to round out their 9th defensive pairing.
Toronto: The U of T Varsity Blues are, for the first time in a long time, making a serious impact on the OUA recruit market. There’s still a lot of holes to fill, especially up front, but the blueline for U of T just got a whole lot better with North Bay Battalion overager Riley Bruce set to suit up in ’18-19. A 7th rounder for the Calgary Flames in 2015, it still sounds like there could be a slight chance he plays pro, but it’s a safe bet at this point we’ll see him at U of T. Bruce is very much a defensively oriented player, but his leadership qualities also stick out as a point of attraction. One OUA coach told me this week, “[Toronto] have been in on every recruit I have spoke with. Impressive what Ryan [Medel] is doing”. The process continues to progress for U of T, but it’s fun to watch this program make some serious steps in the right direction.
Waterloo: Nothing from Waterloo over the last two weeks, but expecting to see a couple minor announcements from them this week, if not right when this TMS goes public.
*Update: Never fails, about two minutes after I post TMS, Waterloo goes public. They get Adam Bignell back for another year, and get Alex Stothart on transfer from Queen’s. Full story here
Western: After a few really intriguing rumours last week, none of them have developed any further yet this month.
Windsor: There was a thought out there that the Windsor Lancers were looking for a new head coach after their head coaching position was posted on a job board about a week and a half ago. But it’s still extremely likely Kevin Hamlin remains behind the bench. Formerly a school principal, Hamlin signed a three-year extension in July of 2014 with Windsor, which has now expired. No longer a principal, Hamlin would be moving to a full-time head coaching position with Windsor, which is why the job was posted online, simply as a formality.
York: The York Lions are going back to the AJHL once again to find their players as Josh Harris will make the jump halfway across the country to York University. On paper, he’s not a game-changing addition, but consistency is key to why Harris matters to York. His numbers somewhat reflect it, but it’s what his former teammates and coaches say about him that underlines how consistent he is on a nightly basis. Getting predictable players who you know what you’re going to get out of is a philosophy the Lions turned into a championship in 2017. There’s many pieces to the puzzle, but all of them count, and so does Harris.
Alberta: What a year it continues to be for the Alberta Golden Bears. Now Derek Ryan is back in the news after taking bronze with the U.S.A at the 2018 IIHF World Championship. Ryan just posted four goals and seven points, playing in all 10 games for the United States. He also notably finished 10th in the tournament for face-off winning percentage at 58.82%. Ryan is now the fourth Alberta Golden Bear to win a medal at the IIHF World Championships with Cory Cross (Canada), Don Stanley (Canada), and Bill Dimock (Canada), all accomplishing the feat before him. Overall this was a year to remember for Ryan, who also played 80 games in the NHL with the Carolina Hurricanes, registering 15 goals and 38 points.
Regina: The Regina Cougars are one of the few Canada West teams actually doing something interesting right now. Defenceman Mike Eskra and forward Conner Chaulk are set to join the fun in 2018-19 and hope to be a big part in turning the corner in Regina. Eskra is drawing some really intriguing reviews as a two-way defenceman who can play with speed and physicality. A career Jr. A player with Weyburn in the SJHL, the big question is whether or not he can translate his game to Canada West with Regina. That’s something the Cougars have struggled to find with some of their Jr. A recruits over the years. Chaulk isn’t a big points guy, but he’s a good enough player that you know he’ll help your team. Moved from Swift Current to Calgary this year, Chaulk is a native of Regina, and played his minor hockey in the area.
Lethbridge: Nothing name-wise to report out of Lethbridge right now, but the word amongst the players is that they’re throwing everything they can at recruits for next year. For obvious reasons this isn’t a surprise. But it’s going to be very interesting to see if their aggressive approach to bringing on big-name players at any cost will pay off. It’s such a unique scenario, so there isn’t really anything to compare it to. June will give us a better indication as to what kind of players we’re talking about joining the Pronghorns.