Toronto, ON- Playoffs conclude, trophies are awarded and just like that the calendar flips to a new season of U Sports men’s hockey. We have entered the time of the year where teams have begun to announce the new faces coming into their programs as part of their newest recruiting classes. In today’s column, 49 takes a look at what recruits have been announced so far in the and a bit of what they can bring to their respective teams. However, with length in mind, today will focus on the OUA West with other conferences following.
Ordered in the same way the team’s completed the regular season.
Toronto Varsity Blues:
Hayden Davis, Quinn Hanna, Cole Purboo
Starting off with the team who finished atop the OUA regular-season standings, the Toronto Varsity Blues have strengthened their defence in their first round of recruiting as they have added Hayden Davis and Quinn Hanna out of the Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL).
Both players also have experience in the OHL, where they played with and against some of the top prospects that the world has to offer. Although only Davis spent time in major junior at points last season, Hanna has not played regularly in major junior since leaving the Quebec league at the end of 2018.
The two defensemen are very similar in a lot of ways, including stature, where they are 6’2” and 6’3 respectively while both weighing in at a smidge over 200lbs. Both have been known for a very physical style of play during their time in junior, certainly, a quality which will help the Varsity Blues, a team that were bullied by the Western Mustangs in the first round of the OUA playoffs last season.
Windsor Spitfire assistant captain and Memorial Cup champion Cole Purboo has yet to be announced by the team but is rumoured to be attending the school next season. If the Blues do land Purboo, they are adding a potent forechecking right-winger who has a winning pedigree. Bringing in such a talent who will learn from the tutelage of U Sports head coach of the year Ryan Medel will undoubtedly be one of the offseason’s biggest recruits.
Elijah Roberts, Kyle Bollers, Ryan Wells
The Varsity Blues have been active, but that does not mean that their downtown Toronto rivals have been quiet. The Ryerson Rams have already added a trio of players ahead of their 2020-21 campaign with at least three more to be expected.
Their first announcement was their seemingly biggest as they brought in former Niagara IceDogs forward Elijah Roberts who becomes one of the rare U Sports players with international experience. The disciplined defenseman represented Canada at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in 2017 where he played alongside NHL prospects such as Vancouver Canuck Michael DiPietro and Detroit Red Wing Joe Veleno. For more information on Roberts, click here.
Complimenting Roberts is the captain of the Caledonia Corvairs, Ryan Wells, who scored at a pace of near two points per game in the GOJHL this past season. Prior to Caledonia, Wells spent time with the Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL where he played 90 games over a three-year span. Although only standing at 5’10”, the small defenseman will slot in nicely to a Rams side that boasts an already large blueline.
Topping off the initial three recruits is Kyle Bollers who is the only forward of the bunch. Bollers comes to Ryerson after leading the OJHL in scoring with 86 points in 52 games. While he came to the OUA after a season with the Brantford 99ers in the OJHL, Bollers spent three seasons in the OHL with the Saginaw Spirit and Oshawa Generals. While the Oshawa native’s shot and niftiness on the ice is certainly tantalizing, another interesting aspect is that he is a dual citizen of Canada and Jamaica.
The Ryerson Rams are certainly not done when it comes to recruiting, but the additions of these three players will certainly help the team rebound after losing a handful of important figures last season.
Nick Isaacson, Aidan Brown, Lucas Chiodo
The Gryphons will be the hunted this season, as every team they face will want to beat the defending Queen’s Cup champions. All that means that it becomes even more important than the school brings in top-end talent to outweigh the departures from last year’s championship side.
Guelph has announced three recruits at time of writing, however, only two will be eligible to play in the upcoming season. Forwards Aidan Brown and Nick Isaacson, both from the OHL, will be able to start their U Sports career immediately, while Lucas Chiodo won’t be able to hit the ice until 2021-22.
Brown joins the Gryphons after spending five years in the OHL with the Barrie Colts. Five years with one team is a feat that is not often achieved, especially in the wild west that is the world of OHL trades. The right-winger from Newmarket somehow lasted his entire OHL career with a single team where he scored 106 points en route to becoming a fan favourite. The man known as “Brownie” to Colts fans is heralded as a versatile player, something that is crucial to the way the Gryphons style of play.
Complementing Brown is fellow OHL forward Nick Isaacson, who has spent the last six years in the OHL, where he started off in Peterborough before closing out his junior career in Mississauga. Isaacson has never lit the OHL light offensively, but was a consistent player throughout his career. He is Joining the Gryphons after putting up his highest OHL points tally, having scored 23 points in his most recent campaign.
The recruitment of Lucas Chioro is a very good one, although his in-game impact will not be felt for another year. The former OHL’er spent last season in the Alps League with the Fassa Falcons, therefore scratching one year of U Sports eligibility, forcing himself to sit out his freshman season.
The Gryphons have certainly improved with these three new faces, even though one of them won’t be able to contribute in-game until next season.
The Windsor Lancers were nothing spectacular in 2019-20, but with most of their team remaining intact, the few additions they need could propel them to greater heights in the coming year.
Their only announcement thus far is Robbie Burt who has spent time both in major junior and junior A up to this point. He joins the Lancers from the Maritime Junior A league where he scored 40 points in 45 games with the Amherst Ramblers. Prior to playing on the east coast, Burt spent time in both the QMJHL and OHL with the St.John Sea Dogs, Kingston Frontenacs and Oshawa Generals.
He’s no flashy signing, but a quality one nonetheless. Burt will slot right in with the Lancers, who are hoping to improve on their fourth-place finish last season.
The Brock Badgers have not made a big splash in the recruitment water just yet, but they have added to their forward ranks with the addition of centerman Cristophe Cote. He has spent the majority of his junior career in the CCHL, a Junior A league in eastern Ontario. This past year he scored 42 points in 52 games as he split his season between the Ottawa Junior Senators and the Cornwall Colts. At 6’1”, Cote is on the bigger side of centreman and his size will be something he will have to use if he is to find quick success in U Sports.
Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks:
Cole Waugh, Caleb Rich, Declan Graham, Conor Ali
The Laurier Golden Hawks did not have much to be excited about in 2019-20, but with their four recruits so far, the Kitchener based school is hoping to signal some change ahead of the coming season.
Two of their new players have already played with each other as Caleb Rich and Cole Waugh spent the last three seasons together with the Maritimes Amherst Ramblers. Both forwards averaged over a point per game, however, it was Rich who blew away the competition with 78 points in 52 appearances. Both over six-feet tall, they are hard forecheckers who specialize at getting the puck off opponents in the offensive zone. According to a few scouts who have watched Rich, he is the type of player who dominates the middle of the ice and is able to find space in the slot where other players might not be able to find.
The other two recruits are defenceman Declan Graham and Connor Ali who will further solidify an already stingy Laurier blueline. Graham spent his last four seasons with the Steinbach Pistons, the Manitoba junior A league, where he built a reputation of being one of the hardest-working players in the league. Graham captained the Pistons last season.
Ali, on the other hand, has major junior experience in the OHL, where he spent time with Hamilton Bulldogs, Kingston Frontenacs and Sudbury wolves, before playing alongside Ryerson recruit Kyle Bollers on the Brantford 99ers in 2019-20. One of the more interesting tidbits in Ali’s junior career was the time that he represented the Jamaican junior team in a set of showcase games on Canada’s eastern seaboard. OHL experience is a valuable asset for anyone coming into U Sports, but for a defenseman, the ability to defend against uber skilled forwards such as the ones seen in the OHL automatically vaults a player into the starting lineup.
Colin Van Den Hurk
The Lakehead Thunderwolves, who put up a strong fight to the Ryerson Rams in the opening round of the playoffs, have recruited one of the better sounding names of all of the recruits.
Colin Van Den Hurk
Van Den Hurk joins the Thunderwolves after spending last season as the assistant captain of the Trenton Golden Hawks of the OJHL. He is known for being one of the more offensive defensemen in the league, where he posted 46 points in 52 games as a 20-year-old, while also combining a physical side of his game which resulted in 76 penalty minutes.
Prior to the OJHL, he spent a year with the QMJHL’s Charlottetown Islanders, but never cemented himself as an outstanding major junior player and was forced to step down to junior A in his final season. While not a headliner, he is a solid addition to a decent Thunderwolves defence.
After becoming one of the best stories in U Sports hockey history with their run to the national championships last season, the Western Mustangs have not yet announced any commitments. While the London school has been quiet to this point, they will have to recruit at least three players to replace their seniors from last year. One of the important recruits will be a goaltender as Lucas Peressini, the man who backstopped them to glory, has graduated. Other than a goalkeeper, a defenseman to replace Ryan Bechtel is required as well as a forward to fill the shoes of Mitchell Fitzmorris.
The Warriors did not have the season they were hoping for in 2019-20 as they were one of the two teams in the OUA West to miss the playoffs. That being said, they have begun to address some of the problems that plagued them with the recruitment of Daniel Walker.
The team that scored only 76 goals, the lowest in the conference, is bringing in a proven OHL’er in Walker to aid their offensive output. Walker has spent the last four seasons in the OHL, three in North Bay before finishing off his junior career with the Oshawa Generals. While Walker may not be known for firing the puck in the back of the net, the 6’5” centreman is a physical presence who can certainly instill an element of fear into opponents.
Walker has not played recently after his finals season was cut short due to a shoulder injury, but in an interview with the OHL, he said that he has recently resumed workouts and will be ready to go whenever the U Sports season may begin. In 153 NHL games, Walker posted over 300 penalty minutes as he established himself as one of the league’s premier enforcers.
The Waterloo offence can’t get any worse after last year and the addition of Walker will guarantee the Warriors will be an offensive force to be reckoned with next season.
Dallas Maurovic, Brendan Bonello, Connor Senken, C.J. Clarke
The team that finished last place in the standings was one of the first teams to begin recruiting for next season. At this point, they have announced four recruits, the most of any school in the OUA West. of their four recruits, only two of them have spent time in the same league at the same time.
Brendan Bonello, who backstopped both the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL as well as the OJHL’s Pickering Panthers last season, is joining the Lions where he fills the goalkeeping vacancy left by the graduation of Mack Shields. Bonello, who put up a .946 SV% through 25 OJHL games, will likely compete with fellow OJHL alum Dalton Ewing for the backup role behind presumed starter Cole Ceci who backed up Shields in 2019-20.
Moving up the ice, the Lions have also added a defenseman in Connor Senken. While the addition of another Ontario player may not raise eyebrows immediately, where he played junior certainly will. Senken spent his last two seasons in the USHL with the Des Moines Buccaneers after spending two years in the QMJHL. It is an interesting pickup for the Lions to get a player from the USHL, but if it works, it could open the eyes of future recruiters.
As for the forwards, the Toronto school has added Dallas Maurovic and C.J. Clarke. Maurovic spent last season in the GOJHL where he scored 51 points in 39 games as captain of the Chatham Maroons. The leadership he will bring into the locker room is a valuable asset, especially for a team that lost a handful of seniors last year.
Clarke played last year in the OJHL where he split time between the Milton Menace and Toronto Jr. Canadiens en route to being approached by the Lions. Prior to his time in junior A, the Mississauga native spent six seasons in the OHL with the Peterborough Petes, Flint Firebirds and Mississauga Steelheads where he was a leading presence in any locker room he walked into. Clarke served as Flint’s assistant captain in 2018. With his recruitment alongside Maurovic’s, the Lions are bringing in two players who know how to rally a group together, an invaluable asset for a team hoping to rebound after a disappointing season.
That is all of the recruits in the OUA West as of April 9th, 2020, however, there will certainly be more announced in the very near future. Columns updating the OUA West recruits as well as the OUA East, AUS and Canada West will be published on 49 in the days ahead.