Vancouver, BC- 182 days. The number of days until Jan.1, that’s the earliest point U SPORTS hockey could resume, but the extended offseason hasn’t left teams shy in recruiting.
A few days ago, 49 Sports took a look at all the recruits in the bottom half of Canada West conference, and today we bring you Part 2 of 3, taking a look at the two Calgary based schools.
Before we get started, the Trinity Western Spartans, who were included in Part 1, have added former professional defensemen Connor Vermueluen. The 24-year-old has two years of eligibility, after playing professionally in the USA, and collegiately in Canada.
If you missed Part 1, CLICK HERE to check it out.
Mount Royal Cougars
Rylan Yaremko, Dom Schmiemann, Riley Sawchuck, Lane Gilliss
The MRU Cougars were the victims of playoff heartbreak in 2020, but in 2021, they’re coming back with a reinvigorated agenda. With seven graduating players, turnover is guaranteed, however, only four players have committed so far, leaving spaces open.
The Cougars were an average team last year, but they’re hoping that a mix of skill and experience will help them into the next round of the playoffs. Three players, Riley Sawchuck, Lane Gilliss and Dom Schmiemann are all coming to the team from the WHL, and two have spent time in Alberta.
Sawchuk is the most tantalizing player in the class, coming off of a 76pt season with the Edmonton Oil Kings, which marked his third season with 30+ in the WHL. A CHL scout told 49 Sports that the 180cm forward is a quick decision-maker, and has the ability to read plays before it happens. While a 76pt over-age season isn’t going to earn an NHL opportunity, it has the tantalizing potential of an elite U SPORTS player.
Joining Sawchuck in the forwards is Lane Gilliss, who will be hitting the ice in a new home arena for the first time in four years. Gillis has spent his entire WHL tenure with the Portland Winterhawks but will have to settle into the Flames Community Arenas next time he hits the ice. While he’s not as potent a goalscorer as Sawchuk, the left-handed winger is coming off a pair of 30pt campaigns. He will be an instant impact player for the Cougars, but unlikely a star compared to the aforementioned Sawchuk.
The final WHL’er announced so far is Dom Schmiemann, who is returning to the Calgary hockey scene after playing two years with the WHL’s Hitmen. There is not much to the 193cm defenseman’s game, however, his physical play has endeared him to the fanbases of where he’s played throughout his junior days. I expect him to help, but nothing above an average level.
MRU’s lone non-WHL recruit might be the most intriguing. Rylan Yaremko is joining the Cougars after 88 games over four years in the NCAA with Northern Michigan. The versatile offensive defenseman established himself as an NM regular in his final NCAA season with 36 games but is moving back to his home country to complete his degree. Yarmenko also participated in the New York Rangers 2016 Summer Prospects Camp, but failed to earn any sort of deal with the NHL club.
Seven graduates initiate an instant turnover, however, four players in, that transition is going just fine for the Cougars program. Their Alberta counter-parts, the University of Alberta announced that they won’t be participating in a shortened season, however, 49 Sports has learned that there is a possibility of an exhibition play between the two schools.
Luke Coleman, Brendan De Jong, Arjun Atwal
The Calgary Dinos may not have had the year they were hoping to have in 2019-20, but another great event at the Crowchild Classic, along with testing Saskatchewan in the quarter-finals, it was not all doom and gloom for the Dinos.
Three players is certainly far from the largest recruiting class, but the quality in the trio heading to Calgary are some of the best joining new teams.
For many of the classes, it’s easy to select a marquee recruit, but with Calgary, it’s a near-impossible decision. Luke Coleman is joining the Dinos following a 20 goal season with the University of Lethbridge, and Brendan De Jong is coming off 25 professional games in the ECHL, making these two players some of the best in Canada West.
When the Lethbridge program shut down, teams from across U SPORTS jumped at the opportunity to recruit some experienced players, but the gem of the group was Luke Coleman. The former Calgary Hitmen assistant captain ends up coming back to Calgary, but that’s not before York, Ryerson, UBC, and Alberta took a look at landing the elite goalscorer. After garnering so much attention, I say a Coleman could headline nearly every other school’s recruiting class, save for possibly Queen’s or UNB.
Brendan De Jong is joining the Dinos after 25 games with the ECHL’s Wichita Thunder, and whenever you can bring the professional experience into U SPORTS, it’s a boon for every team. However, with only three points through 25 games and not playing regular minutes, it is going to be a sizeable adjustment for De Jong. He was once heavily relied upon in the WHL with the Portland Winterhawks, a role he will have to become accustomed to again in Calgary.
While Coleman and De Jong are both coming from levels equal to or higher than U SPORTS, that’s not the case with Arjun Atwal. The Edmonton born centreman has spent the last two seasons in the Alberta Junior “A” league and will face a sizeable jump in competition, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be able to score. Atwal scored 107pts through 54 games as captain of the Sherwood Park Crusaders, meaning he’s clearly got an eye for the goal. Although his brief foray into the WHL didn’t amount in much, he found his scoring touch a level down, so it leaves a possibility for success in the university game.
The potential for an Alberta exhibition series is intriguing, and it would certainly offer more than a Manitoba or British Columbia based league would, however, we’re far off from seeing this become reality. For now, we must sit tight, and count down the 182 days until U SPORTS hockey may return.