Sudbury,ON- It’s no surprise that recruitment season is essential in any school’s quest to improve their athletics programs. With many schools jostling for similar players, representatives from various Canadian post secondary institutions have and continue to make their pitches for athletes exiting some of the top junior leagues in the country.
The same can be said about the Laurentian Voyageurs. After posting a 10-18-0 record this past season, which is good for just seventh in the OUA’s East Division, the Voyageurs had some work to do in the offseason. In order to compete with top teams like McGill and Queen’s, Laurentian recruited an astounding eight players to join their men’s hockey program for the upcoming season.
The Laurentian Voyageurs have no shortage of uncertainty regarding the future of the 2020-21 season, but head coach Craig Duncanson and his staff have a lot to be excited about with their newest recruits.
Caleb Serre: Blind River Beavers / NOJHL
With 210 NOJHL games and 269 career points under his belt, former Blind River Beavers’ captain Caleb Serre is embarking on a new hockey journey with the Laurentian Voyageurs. After being named the NOJHL MVP and winning the scoring race by a landslide, it’s no surprise that the Voyageurs needed an offensive weapon like Serre.
His new head coach had nothing but praise for the future Sport and Physical Education student, describing him as “an exceptional scorer who also contributed as a strong penalty killer for his team” while speaking to Laurentian Athletics. While the Voyageurs averaged less than three goals per game last season, Serre will undoubtedly have a big role to play in order to improve their offensive structure.
Benjamin Hatanaka: Rayside-Balfour Canadians / NOJHL
Another recruit coming out of the NOJHL is Rayside-Balfour Canadians alumni Benjamin Hatanaka. After two impressive seasons in the NOJHL, posting nearly a point-per-game this past year, Hatanaka will look to continue his overall consistency during his first OUA season. However, the Burlington native is quick to point out that offense isn’t his main focus, explaining that “I think my biggest impact on the ice would be my defense”. Having a consistent offensive threat as well as a defensively inclined centre is a two-way combination that Laurentian desperately needs.
As the Voyageurs averaged over four goals allowed as a team this past season, the future Biology/Con. Ed. student Hatanaka will be expected to contribute at both ends of the rink; something that has earned praise from head coach Craig Duncanson; “Ben has blossomed into a consistent performer over the past two seasons… we look to him to provide both speed and intensity to our line up.”
David Perrault: Terrebonne Cobras / QJAAAHL
One of three players heading to Laurentian from the Quebec Junior Hockey League is Terrebonne Cobras graduate David Perrault. After spending three of his four QJAAAHL seasons with the Cobras, averaging nearly two points a game during the 2019-20 season, Perrault continues his hockey career with Laurentian, committing to study Sport and Physical Education.
While Perrault finished second on his team in scoring, he was quick to point out his two-way ability, stating that “I can bring offense while also being reliable and responsible on defense” when speaking with Laurentian representatives. Craig Duncanson added his insight regarding the Mascouche, QC, native noting that Perrault will be a key two-way addition that will bring intensity and tenacity to the OUA.
Charles Farmer: Terrebonne Cobras / QJAAAHL
Joining Perrault as the second QJAAAHL graduate is his Terrebonne Cobras teammate, Charles Farmer. The future Sport Psychology student exploded offensively this past season, leading the Cobras in points with 86. After three separate stints with the Val-d’Or Foreurs of the QMJHL, Farmer finished his junior career with the Cobras. When asked about his game, Farmer was quick to give a detailed description of his playing ability. “I think that the best qualities I have as a hockey player is my hockey IQ, I have great abilities with the puck and I am a good skater. The large ice in Sudbury will certainly be something I will look to exploit and it will help my game a lot.” Duncanson agreed with the Blainville, QC, native’s description adding that “[Charles] will be looked upon to create offense for us over his tenure here at Laurentian”.
Alex Plamondon: Princeville Titans / QJAAAHL
The fifth and final forward joining Laurentian’s hockey program is Alex Plamondon. While rounding out the trio of QJAAAHL imports, Plamondon is arguably the most prominent offensive recruit for the Voyageurs. After notching an incredible 115 points in just 46 games during the 2019-20 season and spending parts of three stints with the QMJHL’s Shawinigan Cataractes, Plamondon brings a wealth of junior hockey experience to Laurentian. When asked about his game, the St-Charles-de-Drummond, QC native didn’t give much insight into his game, stating that “I am a two-way player, hard to play against, with good hockey sense, good hands and I am not afraid of blocking pucks. I will help the team putting up some goals on the board.”
On the contrary, Duncanson had nothing but praise for his future centre and Sports Administration student. “Alex is an exceptional scoring center who plays a solid 200ft game and provides the character and leadership qualities that will exemplify the model Voyageur student athlete”. After posting incredible numbers in the QJAAAHL, I expect Alex Plamondon to make an immediate and significant impact in the OUA.
Renat Dadadzhanov: Saint-Jérôme Panthères / QJAAAHL
Laurentian’s first defensive recruit has quite an intriguing story behind it. Academics and athletics aside, the convincing factor for Dadadzhanov was lasagna made by Mrs. Duncanson, the wife of Laurentian’s head coach, when he invited the Moscow native over for dinner.
Amazing lasagna aside, the future Sport and Physical Education student brings with him over two years of experience in the QMJHL, spending two full seasons with Shawinigan and parts of the 2018-19 season with Val-d’Or. Posting 35 points in just 42 games during his second stint with Saint-Jérôme, Dadadzhanov has proven already that he is capable of leading a defensive core and contributing offensively.
Noting that his biggest asset is his physicality and penalty-killing ability, Duncanson was quick to highlight the immediate impact that the 20 year-old will make as the departure of notable Laurentian defensemen Tyler Cooper and Jayme Forslund left a void on the blueline.
Alex Rondeau: Melfort Mustangs / SJHL
Another high calibre defenseman, Alex Rondeau spent the past two seasons with the Melfort Mustangs in Saskatchewan’s junior league. Posting an admirable 41 points in fifty games, earning him the title of Defenceman of the Year for his division, Rondeau has consistently shown that he can contribute at both ends of the ice; something that the Voyageurs desperately need in an offensive heavy OUA division.
Duncanson praised the incoming defensive class for their offensive ability, adding that Rondeau “is another large, mobile defenseman that will add depth and offensive ability on our blue line”. In addition, Rondeau had a unique explanation as to why he ultimately chose Laurentian to continue his hockey career. “I had the same gut feeling choosing Laurentian as when I decided on my junior team… Laurentian University seems like it is the perfect fit for me to fulfill my goals as a student athlete and for achieving my education goals”.
Mattais Salem: Espanola Express / NOJHL
Laurentian’s final recruit is reigning NOJHL Defenceman of the Year Mattais Salem. After nearly two full seasons with the Espanola Express, Salem exploded offensively while also serving as captain this past season, averaging above a point-per-game as a defenseman. The Brampton native and future Business Administration student was quick to point out his offensive upside, saying that “I am a two-way defenseman who jumps into the play when presented the opportunity but I can also play defensively sound and stop the opposing teams’ top guys”.
After a drastic improvement following his 2018-19 campaign, Duncanson explained why Laurentian was a great fit for Salem. “Mattais has upside in every aspect of his game” Duncanson said. “We look forward to giving him the opportunity to let it flourish here as a Voyageur.” Athletics aside, Salem was also quick to acknowledge Laurentian’s notable business program and how excited he was to earn his degree while playing hockey.
By relying on top players from both Quebec and Saskatchewan’s junior hockey leagues, it’ll be interesting to see how the skillset from each player will translate into OUA play. Evidently, Laurentian needed the reinforcements and sports aside, it’s impressive that Laurentian was able to assemble a cast of this many high calibre players in such a short period of time. Ultimately, their offense will improve dramatically, with the additions of top scorers from the QJAAAHL. However, I believe that Laurentian’s defense will have improved the most, with the notable additions of the offensive defensemen from across the country. Having the offensive threats up front along with the defensive versatility on the back end, Laurentian is poised to make a statement in men’s hockey this season.