The U SPORTS Alumni in North America’s Return-to-Play

Vancouver, BC- In the face of the global pandemic and with adjusted government health regulations, professional sports are returning. While no U SPORTS competition outside of Quebec will happen in before Jan 1, 2021, there are a number of U SPORTS alumni competing in North American professional return-to-play plans. 

The CFL would have the highest concentration of U SPORTS players returning to action, however, both they and the Canadian soccer league (CanPL) are stalled on their immediate future. Despite that, there are still U SPORTS alumni hitting the court, pitch and ice.

NHL: August 1 in Edmonton/Toronto

Although Canada is the most represented country in the NHL, U SPORTS alumni are often a far cry from the lights on the NHL Playoffs. This time around, the context of the playoffs looks a lot different. 

The NHL has 24 teams preparing to return, with each holding a training camp to get up to speed. The usual roster sizes have been expanded for the special summer camps, meaning a trio of U SPORTS alumni will get their NHL shot. 

Derek Ryan, Philippe Maillet and Logan Thompson are the three former U SPORTS players hitting NHL ice. While the former two will have a kick at Stanley’s Can (Yes, it’s the Cup, please humour me.), Thompson will only get a chance to participate in training camp having signed recently. 

Derek Ryan – Calgary Flames

Derek Ryan (Ben Steiner/49 Sports)

Derek Ryan is the only sure thing of the three, as the former Alberta Golden Bear spent the entirety of season with the Calgary Flames, and will be on their roster for their opening series against the Winnipeg Jets. The American forward was a part of Calgary’s brief Stanley Cup Playoff run in 2018-19, where he earned his five games of NHL playoff experience.

Phil Maillet- Washington Capitals

2017 BLG Awards PHILIPPE MAILLET - YouTube
(UNB Athletics)

Phil Maillet is a surprising name to have in the conversation, as he is yet to play an NHL game outside of the pre-season. Formerly of the UNB Reds, Maillet will be attending the Washington Capitals training camp, however, his inclusion in the final lineup is unlikely. The two-time U CUP champion has spent parts of the last four seasons in the AHL, within the LA Kings and Washington Capitals organizations. He’s scored 50+ AHL points in the past two years and while he doesn’t have a great shot of cracking the Capitals lineup, any NHL experience is a bonus for a developing player.

Logan Thompson- Vegas Golden Knights

Unlike the previous pair, Thompson cannot play in the NHL Playoffs, however, he can participate in training camps. The former Brock Badgers netminder signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Golden Knights on July 13. 

(Vegas Golden Knights Hockey Club)

He only spent a year in U SPORTS, however it was a crazy year on the stat-sheet and at the awards banquet. Through his 24 OUA games, Thompson posted a .934 save percentage en route to being named the OUA West goaltender of the year. While his time in U SPORTS was brief, it was enough to earn him a quick professional opportunity in the ECHL, something the 23-year-old has now turned into an NHL opportunity.

MLS: The MLS is Back Tournament

Joel Waterman- Montreal Impact 

TWU Joel Waterman first Spartan to sign a contract with a Major ...
Waterman with TWU (TWU Spartans Athletics)

Formerly of the Trinity Western Spartans, Joel Waterman is the lone U SPORTS representative in the MLS is Back Tournament. Although the league has many fine Canadians, including those developed through the NCAA, Waterman stands out coming from Canadian university athletics. 

Waterman - Impact are Ready... - Mount Royal Soccer
Waterman in CONCACAF Champions League action (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Waterman is continuing to settle into an Impact side he joined in the off-season and is not one of the elite players on Montreal’s roster. The Impact kicked off their MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando, FL on July 9 with a loss to the New England Revolution, however, Waterman watched his team fall from the stand.

Waterman and the Montreal Impact are scheduled to have at least two more games at the hub-city tournament, as they face Toronto FC on July 16, and D.C. United on July 21.

CEBL: July 25 in St.Catherines

(49 Sports)

The Canadian Elite Basketball League has the highest concentration of U SPORTS alumni, as the university circuit serves as the main development league for Canada’s professional first division. While there are too many U SPORTS alum to review here, 49 Sports highlighted one U SPORTS alum to watch on each of the teams. 

U SPORTS alumni athletes don’t cover the major leagues as NCAA players do, but there are a certain few who are able to make it to the top of their sport, and an even luckier group who are getting the chance to participate in return-to-play.

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