There are many things that differ university sports from their professional counterparts. One of the things which is most affected is the movement of the addition of players throughout a season. Although that does not mean that U Sports schools are unable to bolster their rosters after the beginning of the year.
Teams are able to recruit players who choose to go to school rather than play hockey. For the most part, there are former ECHL players who will opt to go to U sports, but sometimes players can leave their junior teams as well. This year, just ahead of the Christmas season, many schools added to their roster as they search to finish the 2019-20 season on the highest note possible.
Of the schools to sign players, one which notably did not was the University of Toronto Varsity Blues. They lead the OUA’s western conference with a record of 14-0-2 but have struggled to find success in recent playoff campaigns. Adding a player could have given them the jump they need to make a run for the national championships, alas, they did not add anyone and will stride onward with the same players who have gotten them to their current position.
Unlike the Varsity Blues, there were many teams who were very active on the recruitment front, and the two key teams both came from the AUS, that being the ever high-powered UNB Reds, as well as the UPEI Panthers.
UNB is set to welcome a duo and rumoured third of highly skilled players for second semester. A former member of the ECHL’s Brampton Beast Ben Hawerchuk is set to join the Reds, and it is no doubt that there was some influence behind his decision. While in Brampton, he played with former UNB Reds players Alex Duebeu and Matt Pettgrave. There is no official word if the two played a role in his institution choice, but it is pretty well certain that they did. However he ended up there, his addition will be a strong one to an already formidable Reds roster.
Also joining the Reds is defensman Connor Hall, formerly of the Kitchener Rangers. His move to the school did not send shockwaves across the hockey community as another player by the name of Hall did, but his defensive awareness and size should excite anyone who wishes for the success of the Reds.
Those are the two players who have been confirmed by the school, however, there are also rumours about Dylan Seitz heading there as well. Seitz is currently with the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).
The mid-season haul is a big one for the reds, who will be looking at making yet another appearance at the U Sports National Championship, although they were not the only Atlantic school to bring in talent.
The PEI Panthers have brought a dynamic and elite skilled forward to their roster for the second half of he season. Matt Brassard was a selection of the Vancouver Canucks in 2017 but never materialized as an NHL prospect. The former Oshawa General is known for his fast skating and skilled hands, something which will surely help the Panthers pose a challenge to the also revamped UNB Reds.
Between PEI and UNB, the two schools combined for all of the moves in the Atlantic conference of U Sports, although there were more recruitments throughout the country.
Heading to the OUA, ex-QMJHLer Gabriel Sylvestere is joining the Universite de Quebec au Trois Riveiers (UQTR) for the second semester. He has spent this season with the Maine Mariners of the ECHL but is expected to be released by them soon to be able to join the Patriotes. UQTR currently sit second in the OUA’s Eastern Conference, three points behind Carleton. The school had a great deal of enthusiasm earlier in the school year when their soccer team won the national championship, one can only imagine the buzz if they also captured a hockey banner as well. With that said, Sylvestre joins a strong team and will do his best to bring the elusive banner back to Trois-Rivieres.
Sticking in Quebec, Felix Lauzon has joined the Concordia Stingers after rumours had him going to the UNB Reds. Although the rumours posed different than what happened, he did sign a letter of intent with the Stingers this past summer, and he will be sticking with his decision in the second semester. He is was released by the Utah Grizzlies and has joined up with his new Concordia teammates.
While those are the confirmed and most likely rumours, there are a few other players who could end up hitting U Sports ice sheet once the puck drops in 2020. These players include another current ECHL player in Brendan De Jong, who is likely joining the University of Calgary Dinos. The University of Guelph has also reportedly shown interest in Sherbrooke Phoneiix forward Bobby Dow, but no confirmation is yet reported.
Whoever ends up where, and with whatever addition a U sports team makes, these second-semester boosts can be the difference between a championship or not. While they may not be made in the same frequency in past years, if success if found from this, it could signal a changing of the times for U Sports in the near future,
So who has gone where?
UNB Reds: Ben Hawerchuk, Connor Hall, Dylan Seitz*
PEI Panthers: Matt Brassard
UQTR Patriotes: Gabriel Sylvestre
Guelph Gryphons: Bobby Daw
Calgary Dinos: Brendan De Jong*
Concordia Stingers: Felix Lauzon