1. The Waterloo Warriors added three CHL graduates last week in the form of Markson Bechtold, Trevor Martin, and Keigan Goetz. With Chris Hurry graduating, Martin will fill the void in net with the returning Mike Morrison. Martin has bounced around junior hockey with eight different teams on his resume, but he’ll have a steady home in the Waterloo crease. Offence was something the Warriors struggled with at times last year, which they’ll hope Bechtold can help fix. Bechtold only dressed in 33 games this season and scored eight goals, so what he was really capable of in his overage season, we’ll never really know. In 2015-16 his 17 goals showed he’s able to produce at the major junior level, a form which if recaptured, can pay dividends for Waterloo immediately. Goetz adds real sandpaper to Waterloo’s game. He won’t score much for the Warriors, but his crash and bang style of play fits Waterloo’s system very well.
2. After a great season for the Concordia Stingers last year, they’re already looking awfully good on paper again for this upcoming season. Carl Neill, Alexis Pépin, and Massimo Carozza were all officially announced as recruits by the university this week, and are all considered highly valuable overage players out of the QMJHL. Neill is especially valuable for Concordia, who haven’t had a puck-moving defenceman of Neill’s calibre since Éric Bégin in 2011-12. Their wealth of goaltenders is well documented across the league, but have parted ways with Miguel Sullivan. This leaves Concordia with the trio of Julio Billia, Marc-Antoine Turcotte, and Philippe Cadorette. The Stingers are still actively searching for more talent out of the QMJHL, with at least one more defenceman on the way, and are apparently waiting to hear from Charlottetown’s Francois Beauchemin. Still lots of time in the offseason for other teams to make moves, but right now, Concordia is looking like a top three OUA calibre team again.
3. News out of the U of T coaching race is air-tight, but a few more theories surfaced this week. Some believe Peter McBride is the number one contender for the job. A long-time assistant with York and U of T, his consideration for the job makes obvious sense. Another name being thrown around is Jim Wells, who McBride worked with for a number of years at York. It’s very possible we see Wells and McBride on the same U of T bench next year. The two have previously coached together with Seneca College (OCAA), the Newmarket Hurricanes (OJHL), and for seven years together at York. Another, more speculative theory, is that Chris DePiero may be in the running. A former U of T assistant coach under Darren Lowe in the 90’s, DePiero has lengthy experience as a bench boss of the St. Michael’s Buzzers, Oshawa Generals, and has recently served as an amateur scout for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
4. When it comes to overage players at the Memorial Cup, we’re typically watching some of the best final year players in the CHL. This year is no different with players like Warren Foegele, Jeremiah Addison, and Jalen Chatfield among others making an appearance. But there’s still a number of others out there without contracts for next season. Here’s what I managed to dig up on the unsigned OA’s from the 2017 Memorial Cup.
Cristiano DiGiacinto, F Windsor: Didn’t see much ice-time at all as Rocky Thompson essentially rolled three lines for the Spitfires in the elimination games. Formerly a 6th round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning, skating is apparently the biggest obstacle between him and the next level. A guy who’s put up nice offensive numbers in the past, DiGiacinto got shuffled back in the lineup when Windsor brought in Jeremy Bracco. Likely to get ECHL deal at best if he wants pro, could provide hidden offensive upside to a U SPORTS program in a fairly unimpressive OHL overage forward class.
Darren Raddysh, D Erie: Darren Raddysh is absolutely worth an entry-level deal, and there’s no way he’ll play university hockey next year. A D-Man who’s grown in every aspect since his rookie season, Raddysh might be the most intelligent defenceman in the league. A smart passer who can skate and jumpstart Erie’s quick transition game, Raddysh has a skillset that’s good enough to succeed at the AHL level right away.
Kyle Pettit, F Erie: Voted the OHL’s best defensive forward in the Western Conference by coaches this season, Pettit also put up career-high offensive numbers with 26 goals and 54 points. Drafted by Vancouver back in 2014, they don’t appear to have interest in him anymore, but his 6-foot-4, 201 lbs frame is still generating pro interest. Pettit won’t ever be a prolific point-getter, but he’s a quality leader with a defence-first mentality. University hockey definitely isn’t out of the question for Pettit, who can have a similar impact on a team’s success this year that UNB’s Mark Simpson did last.
Bokondji Imama, F Saint John: Still hard to believe this guy went from scoring seven goals last year to 41 this season. Drafted by Tampa Bay in 2015 as a big bruising forward, Imama revamped his game this year with a focus on skill. Statistically, it’s paid off, but translating that skillset to the next level will require just as much work. Scouts seem to think he’ll get a pro contract for next season, but may have to prove himself in the ECHL first.
Scott Eansor, F Seattle: Scott Eansor quickly grew on me as one of my favourite overage players during the WHL finals when he helped lead the T-Birds to a Memorial Cup appearance. A small forward with blistering speed, Eansor is as good as any junior hockey player at the minutia of the game. Whether it’s key face-offs, board battles, footraces, or net-front scrums, Eansor is always winning them. He’s managed to attract pro-interest for next season, but is another player who will likely have to prove himself in the ECHL first. Canada West schools have interest in his services, but there’s at least one team from Ontario in conversation with Eansor for next season too.
Rylan Toth, G Seattle: With the way Carl Stankowski was playing leading up to the Memorial Cup, we didn’t expect to see Toth in action after losing his starting job due to injury. Toth was thrown into a tough scenario when things went sour for the T-Birds, and his Memorial Cup performance wasn’t indicative of his overall value. Toth was Red Deer’s starting netminder at the 2016 Memorial Cup, and has been a steady goalie in the WHL for three seasons. Toth is getting a lot of interest from OUA teams, and with the western goalie market so deep, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him commit to a program far from home next season.
– The Jean-Francois Damphousse era has officially begun at Moncton with his first recruit of 2017-18 now official for next season. Baie-Comeau’s Vincent Deslauriers is off to join the Aigles Bleus after a career-high 23 goals this past season. He adds some helpful offensive depth to a Moncton team that was so reliant upon one line last season. But Moncton has a great need to improve their defence too, especially with a non-existent overage francophone goalie class this year.
– With Brandon Glover out of the picture for next year, the Acadia Axemen went out and picked up Dawson Carty from the Hamilton Bulldogs. When it comes to the best three man crease in Canada, Acadia has to be back in that conversation again this year. But last season, all they really needed was Robert Steeves. Starts will be at a premium between Carty, Steeves, and Devin William, but in order to compete with teams like StFX and UNB on a nightly basis, goaltending is paramount. With another deep crease this year, Darren Burns will always have a solid option to put his team in a position to win.
– From conversations I had a few weeks back, I’ve been told the Ottawa Gee-Gees have Medric Mercier (Oshawa) locked up for next year if he chooses U SPORTS. Mercier is reportedly still searching for a pro deal, but if it doesn’t come around by mid-summer, you’ll see something official from the University of Ottawa.
– Without Steven Stanford and Coleman Vollrath in the picture for the Calgary Dinos next year, goaltending to support Matt Greenfield became an item on the Dinos’ offseason shopping list. Rumour is that Jayden Sittler (Spokane) and Nick McBride (Prince George) will fill out Calgary’s crease next year.
– Sticking with WHL goaltenders, Rylan Parenteau (Tri-City) could be heading the OUA route. Paranteau has a vested interest in engineering, which would make Waterloo a prime candidate for his services. His numbers aren’t as good as some of the other WHL goalies, but Parenteau has had his share of big games in the past.
– Awhile back the Laurier Golden Hawks committed defenceman Kyle Jenkins. Laurier’s defence was better this year than it was last, but still not a strong point. Jenkins can go a long way in fixing that. The Golden Hawks defence only had one goal last season (courtesy of Jacob Hetherington), and bringing in a player with 12 goals and 49 points this season is a difference-making acquisition. But there’s still work to be done at Laurier, especially with Derek Schoenmakers graduating.
– Among the highest honours a linesman can receive is being assigned to the Stanley Cup Finals. Ex-UNB Varsity Red Scott Cherrey gets that experience this year, as he’s one of two linesman working the Stanley Cup Finals. A champion with UNB back in 1998, Cherrey is living proof that there’s more ways than one to make it to the NHL.
– Former Mount Royal Cougar and UNB Varsity Red, Cam Maclise is making a nice run post-university career with the Colorado Eagles. The Eagles are up 2-0 on the South Carolina Sting Rays in the ECHL Kelly Cup Finals. Maclise has chipped in with 10 points through 18 playoff games.
Tuesday Morning Skate Top 5:
As the Memorial Cup took center stage this week, the RBC Cup reached it’s conclusion last weekend with the Cobourg Cougars mounting a dramatic comeback over the Brooks Bandits to win the title. Every good recruiter knows the best talent at the university level doesn’t always come from a major junior background, and this year’s RBC Cup featured some overage players with bright futures. Subtracting the players already with NCAA commitments, here’s the top five OA players from the RBC Cup.
Top 5 Overage Players Available from the 2017 RBC Cup:
1. Loik Léveillé, D | Terrebonne Cobras
For a guy who put up over a point-per-game for Terrebonne from the back-end this season, and had above average numbers over four seasons in the QMJHL, I was surprised to see how defensively oriented Léveillé played during Terrebonne’s semi-final matchup against Brooks. A stocky defender who has a little mean-streak in him to boot, he’s a smooth passer and gets a regular shift in all situations. His mobility isn’t anything above average, and didn’t show some of the traits typical of a puck-hound at the RBC Cup, but still offers high potential at the U SPORTS level. Sources say the UQTR Patriotes have him committed for next season, in which case he’ll be in tough with a number of other very talented defenceman. We may see Léveillé’s role change at UQTR compared to how he’s played in the past.
2. Stefano Durante, G | Cobourg Cougars
It’s hard to find any fault in Stefano Durante’s performance at the RBC Cup, and his numbers over the last three season with Cobourg are very eye-catching. Durante has proven his worth in big-time games with an RBC Cup win this year, but some U SPORTS coaches still wonder how his game will translate to the next level. Durante is a small goaltender by today’s standards, and rarely do we see goalies with zero major junior experience go on to win with top programs at the U SPORTS level. However, Greg Dodds (Western), Brett Willows (U of T), Hubert Morin (McGill), and Alex Dupuis (Lakehead) have all had big seasons in the past despite never setting foot in a major junior crease.
3. Anthony Sorrentino, F | Trenton Golden Hawks
A large 6-foot-4, 216 lbs power forward who began his season with Halifax in the QMJHL, Sorrentino was nearly a goal-per-game player for Trenton in his 14 regular season games. Sorrentino was consistent through the playoffs, then exploded for 10 points at the Dudley Hewitt Cup, and added another two goals at the RBC Cup despite Trenton’s disappointing result. Committed to Laurier for next year, Sorrentino may be a mini version of Derek Schoenmakers. He’s got the size, and his 22 goals in the 2015-16 QMJHL season are just a hair off of the kind of numbers Schoenmakers put up in major junior. Sorrentino’s size will inevitably be a huge factor and asset for him at Laurier next season, but his offensive ability could be what makes him a good fit alongside a player like Andrew Fritsch. If it all works out as well as planned, Sorrentino can put up numbers better than most players recruited out of major junior.
4. Brennan Roy, D | Cobourg Cougars
Brennan Roy is as poised and patient as a defender that you’ll find at the OJHL level. Previously a big-time point getter in the NOJHL, Roy moved over to Cobourg for 2015-16 and has been a huge piece of the team ever since. Roy has two OJHL first team all-star selections, and 2016-17 OJHL best defenceman honours in addition to leading OJHL D-men in goals in 2015-16 (20) and assists in 2016-17 (43). Roy isn’t a big body presence, but his ability to generate offence is extremely valuable, and if he’s to succeed at the U SPORTS level, his role can’t change. Roy has the ability to succeed as a puck-moving defender in this league, but the roster composition of the team he lands with will determine whether he pans out. Teams like Laurentian and Lakehead don’t have a defenceman with his abilities, and with Roy being an Iroquois Falls, O.N. native, those could very well be the best two fits for Roy in the league.
5. Kord Pankewicz, D | Brooks Bandits
Cale Makar is front and center on the Brooks Bandits’ blueline, but when Makar isn’t out there skating circles around his opponents, the Bandits rely on Pankewicz to get the job done. A veteran of 243 WHL games between Brandon and Lethbridge, I was impressed with how reliable Pankewicz was at the RBC Cup in every situation. He’s a fearless shot blocker who isn’t afraid to get dirty when playing defence, but can also move the puck out of his own zone well, which is crucial for a transition team like Brooks. There’s nothing flashy about the way Pankewicz plays, but that’s what makes him so effective. Pankewicz didn’t have his best showing in the RBC Cup final, but throughout the whole tournament, you’d be hard pressed to find a situation where Pankewicz put his team in a bad spot. He has sleeper potential out of the AJHL as a recruit, and could turn out to have a similar impact to that of ex-Drumheller Dragon, Clint Filbrandt, in his first season.
The Week Ahead:
Working on a few breaks out of Canada West this week, and at least one UNB recruit too. This week won’t be the busiest of the offseason by any stretch, but we may see some more official recruit news dribble in by the end of the week. Don’t expect any U of T news to come soon, as they’ve only completed their first round of interviews.