Toronto,ON- Wow, we’ve actually managed to reach the end of August 2020.
Normally if this was any other normal year we would be right in the middle of my favourite time of the U SPORTS Men’s Hockey year, finalizations of recruitment announcements. If you are a fan of U SPORTS hockey, recruitments are your version of the draft. These are the guys that are going to come in and either turn a program around or take an established program to new heights.
More often than not, the most common place that U SPORTS Hockey programs recruit from are leagues within their own provincial region. It makes sense they are closer to the players to be able to scout them and players are able to typically stay closer to home than they would if they moved across country.
I wanted to test out a theory though, what is the best possible five man team we could make of recruits that didn’t play in a province-based league for that school?
In case that doesn’t make sense, let me lay it out league by league.
– For OUA Programs: That means no players who played in an Ontario league (OHL, OJHL, so on)
– For Canada West Programs: No Players who played in a Canadian league west of Ontario (Manitoba all the way to BC)
– For AUS Programs: No Players who played in a Canadian league east of Ontario (Quebec to Newfoundland)
– The Quebec Teams that play in the OUA are tricky but we’ll cross that bridge if we get to it.
One Condition: If the player for example played in the OHL but then played in a separate league (like the ECHL) the next season they still count because they were recruited from the separate league.
We aren’t going to do all 36 hockey teams but we’ll cover some of my favourites so you can see how difficult this challenge can be.
LW: Lucas Froese | 2014-2018 | 123GP – 20G – 35A – 55PTS | (Melville Millionaires – SJHL)
C: Matt Schmermund | 2009-2011 |57GP – 27G – 29A – 56PTS | (Portland Winterhawks – WHL)
RW: Mathew Santos | 2018-2020 | 54GP – 38G – 41A – 79PTS | (Toledo Walleye – ECHL)
D: Aaron Hyman |2019-2020 | 24GP – 0G – 8A – 8PTS | (Calgary Hitmen – WHL)
D: Tyler Lentz | 2019-2020 | 11GP – 0G – 4A – 4PTS | (Calgary Mustangs -AJHL)
G: Adam Courchaine | 2013-2014 | 9GP – 6-2-0 – 3.84GAA – .874SV% | (Greenville Road Warriors – ECHL)
See how hard it is to build an OUA lineup when you strip out OHL players? There were still some strong names I was able to plug into this lineup. I put Lucas Froese at left wing because despite not being a high profile scorer he was a staple in the Rams Lineup and is 6th all-time in games played. Centre was a tossup between Schmermund and Cavin Leth but Schmermund provided two strong offensive seasons on some bad Rams teams at the turn of the 2010’s. His one season with the Toledo Walleye after three in the OHL allowed me to cheat a little and add Mathew Santos and his 38 OUA goals.
Defence was trickier, with freshmen Aaron Hyman and Tyler Lentz the best two I could find. In goal this Rams team would seriously struggle as the past three starters were all from the OHL in Forrest, Dupuis, and Passingham so I was left with Adam Courchaine who only played one year with the Rams in 2013-2014 in between seven seasons of bouncing around the ECHL and the SPHL.
LW: Derek Knowles | 2006-2010 | 98GP – 30G – 32A – 62PTS | (Victoria Salsa – BCHL)
C: Matt Willoughby | 2005-2008 | 80GP – 19G – 59A – 78PTS | (Winnipeg South Blues – MJHL)
RW: Seth Swenson | 2014-2019 | 101GP – 32G – 48A – 80PTS | (Lethbridge Hurricanes – WHL)
D: Nick Trecapelli | 2012-2016 | 101GP – 12G – 53A – 65PTS | (Truro Bearcats – MHL)
D: Pat Campbell | 2008-2012 | 110GP – 15G – 28A – 43PTS | (Woodstock Slammers – MJAHL)
G: Keith Hamilton | 2013-2017 | 35GP – 13-17-3 – 3.60GAA – .888SV% |(Okotoks Oilers – AJHL)
The reigning Queen’s Cup champs ended up with a roster that is relatively balanced but with similar weak spots. Up front Knowles was never a star but delivered a pair of over 20 point seasons. Willoughby was an assist machine dishing out 59 in 80 career games and Swenson had an up and down five years as an with the Gryphons but did hit a career high 32 points in 2016-2017.
On the back end Nick Trecapelli and Pat Campbell were both solid contributors across four year careers in Guelph with Trecapelli tying for the team high in points with 23 in 2015-2016. In goal once again creates a challenge as Hamilton who spent parts of three rough seasons as the backup on the Gryphons (finishing with an .889 Save Percentage) was the only goalie in the last 20 years that the Gryphons recruited from outside Ontario.
Alberta Golden Bears
LW: Mike McGahn | 1997-2002 | 145GP – 64G – 85A – 149PTS | (Louisville Riverfrogs – ECHL)
C: Tyler Soy |2018-2020 | 32 GP – 18G – 8A – 26PTS | (Tulsa Oilers – ECHL)
RW: Chad Butcher | 2019-2020 | 17GP – 8G – 12A – 20PTS | (Allen Americans – ECHL)
D: Perry Johnson | 2002-2006 | 131GP – 26G- 81A – 107PTS | (Manchester Storm – BISL)
D: Graeme Craig | 2016-2019 | 83GP – 18G – 23A – 41PTS | (Bakersfield Condors – ECHL)
G: Brendan Burke | 2016-2020 | 52GP – 37-7-1 – 2.08GAA – .911SV&| (London Knights – OHL)
This is a lineup that could do some damage. Mike McGahn was never a star but was a solid secondary presence on two National Championship Golden Bears teams in 2001 and 2002 peaking with 43 points in 35 games in 2001. Some might say that adding Tyler Soy is cheating because he joined in 2nd semester 2019 and to those people I say this is my exercise and I make the rules. Soy’s point per game performance last season in his first full season was just too big of a draw and he had a fellow point per game teammate in Chad Butcher who delivered 20 points in 17 games. All in all offensively this is the strongest lineup so far.
On the back end they are still strong as Graeme Craig delivered three solid if unspectacular years for the Golden Bears. Along with him Perry Johnson quarterbacked the Golden Bears on the blueline to the final two conference titles of their six year run in 2005 and 2006 that coincided with their back to back national titles delivering 77 points in 99 games. In goal finally we have a stable option has Brendan Burke backstopped the Golden Bears to three Canada West Titles in four seasons and a 16th national title in 2018.
LW: Hunter Tremblay | 2007-2011 | 108GP – 77G – 124A – 201PTS | (Barrie Colts – OHL)
C: Kris Bennett | 2017-2020 | 89GP – 47G – 66A – 113PTS | (Saginaw Spirit – OHL)
RW: Colin Sinclair | 2003 – 2007 | 108GP – 40G – 53A – 93PTS | (Kootenay Ice – WHL)
D: Dustin Friesen | 2004-2009 | 137GP – 10G – 64A – 74PTS | (Swift Current Broncos – WHL)
D: Kevin Young | 2003-2005 | 40GP – 20G – 17A – 37PTS | (Brampton Battalion – OHL)
G: Etienne Marcoux | 2015-2017 |36GP – 31-2-2 – 1.86GAA – .915SV% | (Rapid City Rush – ECHL)
Considering UNB is one of the most successful programs in U SPORTS you would think they would have success recruiting from across Canada over the years and you would be right. Hunter Tremblay dominated the AUS over four seasons winning Rookie of the Year in 2008 and League MVP in 2010. All told he picked up 201 points in 108 games for the Reds and led them offensively to two AUS titles (2008,2011) and two national titles (2009,2011). Kris Bennett has been in the top three in scoring in each of his three years at UNB helping lead their balanced deadly attack helping the Reds to back to back to back AUS titles and one National Title in 2019. Colin Sinclair is the third wheel on this line but across 108 games contributed 93 points including 32 in his rookie season in 2004.
On the back end Dustin Friesen was the top scoring defender for the Reds in both their AUS title season in 2008 and their U SPORTS title season in 2009. Kevin Young only spent two seasons with UNB but he came in hot his first year getting 29 points in 28 games to win AUS Rookie of the Year in 2004. We have another strong netminder between the pipes as Etienne Marcoux spent only two years at UNB but backstopped the Reds to a pair of titles in 2016 and 2017.
LW: Ryan Johnston | 2002-2005 | 96GP – 32G – 44A – 66PTS | (Missouri River Otters – UHL)
C: Brent Twordik | 2004-2008 | 149GP – 56G – 94A – 150PTS | (Cincinatti Cyclones – ECHL)
RW: Jeremy Stasiuk |1997-2001 | 143GP – 67G – 74A – 141PTS | (Erie Panthers – ECHL)
D: Hugh Hamilton | 2002-2004 | 67GP – 8G – 24A – 32PTS | (Florida Everblades – ECHL)
D: Shane Collins | 2018-2020 | 35GP – 3G – 8A – 11PTS | (London Knights – OHL)
G: Jeff Harvey | 2005-2010 | 65GP – 34-17-4 – 2.41GAA – .912SV% | (Rockford Icehogs – UHL)
The Saskatchewan Huskies have taken a major western Canada approach to their recruiting across the last 10-15 years and it shows in how difficult this exercise was to fulfill for this roster. Ryan Johnston was a strong secondary piece for three seasons peaking at 33 points in 34 games in 2004/2005. Brent Twordik helped run the Huskies offence with 151 points in 149 games in the mid 2000’s culminating in a 2007 Canada West title. Stasiuk was a punishing force for the Huskies at the turn of the millenium finishing with a team record 426 PIM to go along 141 points in 143 career games as Saskatchewan picked up three straight Canada West titles from 1998-2000.
Defence for this group was a struggle, I looked through every single roster and these were the only two defenders in the last 20+ seasons of Huskies hockey to qualify. Hugh Hamilton only had two seasons in Saskatchewan but his first was strong with 21 points in 32 games in 2002/2003. Collins is the most current member and only qualifies becuase he spent the second half of his final junior season in London. His nine points in 25 games this past season found him 3rd in scoring among defenders on the team and hopefully will be the start of something more. In goal we have Jeff Harvey who spent five solid years as the starter for the Huskies including backstopping them to that 2007 Canada West Championship.
Note: They recruit mostly from Eastern Canada so that’s what we will remove.
LW: Evan Vossen | 2007-2012 | 126GP – 53G – 43A – 96PTS | (La Ronge Ice Wolves – SJHL)
C: Tim Iannone | 1986-1990 | 136GP – 136G – 131A – 267 PTS | (Regina Pats – WHL)
RW: Michael Cramarossa | 2017-2020 | 82GP – 15G – 48A – 63PTS | (Hamilton Bulldogs – OHL)
D: Nikolas Brouillard | 2017-2020 | 57GP – 19G – 27A – 46PTS | (Orlando Solar Bears – ECHL)
D: Steve Pearce | 2004-2008 |76GP – 3G – 19A – 22PTS | (Weyburn Redwings – SJHL)
G: Emmanuel Vella | 2019-2020 |8GP – 4-4-0 – 2.65GAA – .915SV% | (Flint Firebirds – OHL)
This is a strong all-around roster that might not be the best but has some overall talent. Up front Vossen was never a star but played on five consecutive Queen’s Cup winning rosters and was a consistent second line contributor on the final three. McGill had a 60 year Queen’s Cup drought from 1946-2006 but in the turn of the 90’s Tim Iannone certainly attempted to change that with 170 points in 76 games between 1987 and 1989. Michael Cramarossa is like Vossen, not a star but a strong contributor to the 2018 Queen’s Cup winning roster including the Game-Winning Goal in Game Three against the Gee Gees in the Eastern Semi-Finals.
On defence Brouillard has teamed up with Dominc Talbot-Tassi to lead the McGill offence from the back end the last two season with Brouillard finishing 3rd and 4th in league defenceman scoring the last two seasons. Pearce was never an offensive defender but was a stable presence on the McGill blueline for two Queen’s Cups in 2006 and 2008. In goal was difficult as most of their starters hail from the QMJHL so the net gets given to 2019-2020 backup Emmanuel Vella of the Flint Firebirds who only got in 8 games but went 4-4-0 with a 2.65 GAA and a .915SV% strong numbers for an OUA backup goalie.
LW: Robert Slaney | 2013-2015 | 53GP – 22G – 22A – 44PTS | (Hamilton Bulldogs – AHL)
C: Bryson Cianfrone | 2016-2020 | 107GP – 34G – 49A – 83PTS | (Owen Sound Attack – OHL)
RW: Holden Cook | 2015-2019 | 109GP – 47G – 73A – 120PTS | (Owen Sound Attack – OHL)
D: Omar Enafatti | 2001-2005 | 93GP – 25G – 37A – 62PTS | (New Orleans Brass – ECHL)
D: Cole McDonald | 2016-2020 | 110GP – 20G – 69A – 89PTS |(Everett Silvertips – WHL)
G: Mike Mole | 2003-2005 | 47GP – 26-14-6 – 2.41GAA – .919SV% | (Belleville Bulls – OHL)
This is a lineup that exudes balance in all areas. Up front, Robert Slaney only played two season with Saint Francis but he arrived like a firecracker with point in ten of his first eleven games. Matt Needham could have just as easily taken the centre position for the X-Men as he and Cianfrone have been the one-two punch up the middle for the X-Men for the last four seasons but Cianfrone having the best individual season with 36 Points this year gives him the nod. Holden Cook did come to Ryerson University in 2019-2020 for only 12 games but in his four year career out east he was a consistent offensive force including a career best 37 points in 2017-2018.
On defence we have a couple of representatives from the StFx title teams. Enafatti spent four years in Antagonish and was the top dog on the blueline for the 2004 CIS championship team. Cole McDonald started slow as a rookie on the 2017 AUS championship team but kept building, peaking in his senior year with 29 points in 30 Games. Goalies was a toss-up between Mike Mole and Drew Owsley but I had to give it to Mole for delivering both an AUS title and StFx’s current only National hockey championship vs Owsley’s AUS title in 2016.
So there you have it, it’s a difficult challenge for some teams, it is easy for other teams. Perhaps that’s because of reputation, distance, education, or something completely different. What did you think? Did I miss anyone? Was there a school I should have looked at that would have blown me away? Let me know in the comments down below.