Vancouver, BC- Roy T Bennet, author of “The Light in the Heart” described patience as “not the ability to wait, but to be calm no matter what happens.” That sentiment, although far away from sport, makes a lot of sense when describing the recent announcements in U SPORTS hockey recruiting.
Although each conference of U SPORTS men’s hockey has suspended competition until at least Jan.1.2021, the game will eventually be back, so teams have to continue to build, or they are at risk of falling behind when hockey returns. It’s been a little while since 49 Sports took a look at the men’s hockey recruiting, so here we are- The Canada West Recruiting Notebook.
As we’ve done throughout this series, the order of the list is based on the reverse of the 2019-20 regular-season standings, However, since Canada West does not have two conferences like the OUA, this has been split into two parts. Today, we take a look at the no more, the new kids, and the rebuilders- also known as, the Lethbridge Pronghorns, Alberta Golden Bears, MacEwan Griffins, Trinity Western Spartans, Regina Cougars and Manitoba Bisons.
The No More: Lethbridge Pronghorns
The Lethbridge Pronghorns axed their hockey programs earlier this offseason, but many of their players have found new homes. I won’t go into detail on every player, but I’ve attached a list.
Nine of the departing players have found new homes in Canada West, and are detailed further on. Nik Amundrud has left U SPORTS hockey for the ACAC’s Red Deer Kings, meanwhile, Kyle Gordon, Mackenzie Mindus, Torrin White have left for their respective new Ontario university teams. The shutdown of the Pronghorns program left many scrambling to find a place to play, but the season’s delay has helped many find new teams.
The No More No.2: Alberta Golden Bears
Dylan Plouff, Beck Warm,
Unlike the Lethbridge program, The Golden Bears will be back, just not this year. The 18 time U SPORTS national champions announced that they will not be competing in 2021 if sport returns, due to financial limitations. Despite that decision, the team has added a trio of new faces. I won’t go in-depth on them, I’ll save that for next offseason, but they are WHL veterans Dylan Plouff and Beck Warm, as well as ex-Pronghorn Taz Burman.
The New Kids No.1: Trinity Western Spartans
Landon Fuller, Josh Boelma, Josh Patrician, Josh Borynec, Aiden Steinke, Jake Jurgenit
The Spartans have been looking forward to the upcoming season for 2+ years, they couldn’t have imagined a global pandemic forcing them to wait.
Trinity Western has aggressive in their pursuit of players, so far adding six new faces ahead of their first U SPORTS season. 49 Sports took a look at their first four recruits back in April, but since then, they’ve added two from the fallen Lethbridge program.
As reported on June.10, Josh Borynec and Josh Patrician are both joining the Spartans after a year of U SPORTS experience with the Pronghorns, a year in which they both scored three points. Only difference? Patrician is a defenseman. In his final year of junior hockey with the Humboldt Broncos, Patrician was an offensive player from the blueline, however, he had trouble transferring his dynamic skillset in his first year of U SPORTS hockey. With a year under his belt, Patrician’s contributions could be magnified with the Spartans. The same goes for Borynec, however, it could be harder going up against some very skilled Canada West defensemen.
Six players is a hefty overhaul, but the quality that is being brought in, as well as the likelihood of the team being able to practice before a season given BC’s Covid-19 status, could lead to a successful shortened season in Langely.
The New Kids: MacEwan Griffins
Ryan Winter, Cameron Trott
Compared to their expansion brothers, the MacEwan Griffins have been recruiting quietly. They’ve added goaltender Ryan Winter from the BCHL’s Merrit Centennials, and ex-Lethbridge Pronghorns defensemen Cameron Trott.
Winter is coming off his only season in the BCHL, a year where he posted a .892 SV% through 31 games. He’s likely to split the limited starts with second-year Griffin Thomas Davis, who played seven ACAC games last year to the tune of a .941 SV%. U SPORTS hockey is a step up for both netminders, but in tandem, the adjustment will be eased.
Cameron Trott has two years of eligibility remaining, after spending two seasons with the Pronghorns and one in the NCAA. His two years of experience will be important to the Griffins as their roster makes the transition to a higher level, but as a mature player, he could also contribute on the scoresheet. Acting as the bread to his “10 game NCAA sandwich,” Trott played 131 career regular-season games in the BCHL compiling 15 goals and 50 assists for 65 points.
If I had to hedge a bet on which new Canada West team would have had a better year given their current rosters, I would put my money on the Spartans, however, in a shortened season, anything is possible.
Rebuilder No.1: Regina Cougars
Taylor Fisher, Jeff Rayman, Austin Pratt
It’s been a fairly quiet offseason for the school in Saskatchewan’s capital, however, their smaller graduating class has allowed them a simpler time amidst the pandemic.
The Cougars have added Taylor Fisher and Jeff Rayman from the Lethbridge Pronghorns, and although both have been far from stars through their time in Canada West, the two defensemen have years of U SPORTS experience, an invaluable asset to a Cougars team that conceded 117 goals in 2019-20.
The other recruit is a familiar name to Regina hockey fans, Austin Pratt, the former captain of the WHL’s Regina Pats. The forward has scored 50+ points throughout his last two WHL seasons, and his addition will help a Regina forward core that was led by 16 point Conner Chaulk and 14 point Tristan Frei, who has graduated.
Do the Cougars have the best recruiting class in Canada West? No. Does their class improve them? Yes, each of these players has noticeable attributes that will help the University of Regina whenever they hit the ice, however, at this point, it’s not enough to propel them to any sort of championship.
Rebuilder No.2: Manitoba Bisons
Alec Malo, Noah Basarab
Adam Henry. That’s the name that needs to be replaced, it’s done been done so yet. While the Bisons have added two forwards in Alec Malo and Noah Basarab, their glaring need for defence is still very much present. The Bisons have not been fantastic defensively, but have been kept afloat by multi-time U SPORTS All-Star Adam Henry, who has recently signed with the Fort Wayne Komets in the ECHL. Although the Henry was a defenseman, he led the team last year with 22 points, his graduation leaves a massive hole in the Bisons.
Also leaving the Bisons is Jeremy Leipsic, who was released from the team after being found to be in a misogynistic group chat with other hockey players, including now-former NHL’er and brother Brendan Leipsic, who was released from the NHL’s Washington Capitals. The school made the right decision for forcing him off the roster, however, it does mean that the team is without two of their top-three scorers from 2019-20.
The first player joining the Bisons, Alec Malo is coming from the Flin-Flon Bomber of the SJHL, where he lit the league alight in 2019-20 with 88 points. The 1999 born centreman spent two years in the QMJHL with the Gatineau Olympiques prior to coming out west, but only managed 13 points through 61 games. He’s no world-beater, but given the Bisons’ losses this off-season, he can’t hurt.
The Bisons went to a peculiar place for their second recruit, bringing in Noah Basarab from then NAHL. Based in the USA, players in the NAHL often have NCAA dreams, but for Basarab, he’s returning to his home province after a one-year southern adventure. Prior to the NAHL, Basarab spent four seasons in the MJHL, a Junior “A” league that has produced strong U SPORTS players. However, after putting up a mere 28 points in his NAHL overage season, it’s unlikely he’ll be a big offensive contributor. The Gimili, MB native has been described as a “rugged” player, an adventitious skillset for a defensively weak 2019-20 Manitoba team.
Adam Henry still needs to be replaced, and this team is still without a prominent goalscorer, two needs that will have to be addressed if the team is going to find success in their next season.
That is all for Part One of the Canada West Recruiting Notebook, check back soon for Part Two, where we take a look at the rather large recruiting classes of the UBC Thunderbirds, Mount Royal Cougars, Calgary Dinos and 2020 Canada West champion Saskatchewan Huskies.
All statistical data collected from Elite Prospects