Toronto, ON- Who doesn’t love a good deal? This Friday, across North America the iconic day that signals the end of November and truly the start of Christmas season will be upon us once again.
That’s right, it’s Black Friday, the day in years past for people to flood stores in search of the best deals on everything from coffeemakers and waffle irons to car tires and Christmas presents.
Now like most of our lives this year, Black Friday will be different, with the lockdown in my home city of Toronto, the long lines will not make an appearance this year but the spirit of the day remains the same. Trying to find the best deal possible for your money.
All this is a very long-winded way of getting to what we are talking about today. Good deals, more specifically we are going to look at U SPORTS MHKY and in the spirit of Black Friday going to try to find the best “value-buy.”
A “value buy” means a player that did not get recruited out of a top league like the CHL, we are looking for players who may have been more unheralded but made it worth it for their teams in the end.
So, what that means is we are going look across the three conferences and try to build the best five-man roster of value buy players. Some of these are players who are just starting to show great returns and others have wrapped up their U SPORTS Careers after giving strong returns on their team’s investments.
Goalie – Matt Berlin, Alberta Golden Bears
Recruited From: Sherwood Park Crusaders – (AJHL)
Career Numbers: 15GP | 10-4-0 | 1.92 GAA | .907SV%
Berlin is an example of a luxury item that got marked down but still has that luxury item quality. Berlin did spend parts of three seasons as a WHL backup before ending up in Sherwood Park for 2018-2019 but it was in Sherwood Park he did his best work going 28-9-1 for the Crusaders. He carried that play into Canada West finishing his rookie season with the second lowest GAA in the League.
Defender – Connor Blake, Mount Royal Cougars
Recruited from Grande Prairie Storm (AJHL)
Career Numbers: 28GP | 7G | 18A | 25PTS
A couple weeks ago we said that Connor Blake deserved a spot on the U SPORTS All-Star Team, and it is deservedly so. His masterful work with the man advantage paced Canada West in Power-Play points among defensemen with 15.
Defender – Rylan Bechtel, Western Mustangs
Recruited from: Chilliwack Chiefs – (BCHL)
Career Numbers: 109GP | 11GP | 32A | 43PTS
Ryan Bechtel’s impact was less noticeable on the score sheet. Across four seasons between 2016 and 2020 the defender never had an outstanding year but was a steady member of the Mustangs defence core. His true impact was in his leadership, just before 2020 he was given the honour of being named Captain of the Mustangs, cementing his status as a leader on the roster.
Forward – Ethan Skinner, Windsor Lancers
Recruited From: Elmira Sugar Kings – (GOJHL)
Career Numbers: 52GP | 17G | 26A | 43PTS
Just like Connor Blake, Ethan Skinner is slowly starting to show that the investment in him was worth it for the Lancers. Coming from the Elmira Sugar Kings where he served as captain in his final season, Skinner had a slower start his first year with 21 points in 27 games. He picked it up this past year though tallying 22 points in just 25 appearances for the Lancers.
Forward – Anthony Repaci, St Mary’s Huskies
Recruited from: Toronto Jr Canadiens – (OJHL)
Career Numbers – 126GP | 60G | 58A | 118PTS
Anthony Repaci is another player who just wrapped a long and successful U SPORTS Career. Coming from the Toronto Jr. Canadiens program in the OJHL, Repaci had a quiet rookie season with just 12 points in 21 games but across his final four seasons he averaged over a point per game. The same as Rylan Bechtel this previous lesser known athlete was also named captain of his Huskies, being another player who made his teams investment worth it.
Austin Eastman, Ontario Tech Ridgebacks
Recruited from: Aurora Tigers – (OJHL)
Career Numbers – 56GP | 19G | 25A | 44PTS
Austin Eastman is true case of a Black Friday-esque pickup of a player. He spent parts of three seasons in the QMJHL but after only 3 points in 18 games with Gatineau in 2017-2018, he left the Q and went to Aurora to play for the Tigers where he put up 44 points in 26 games. This was enough for the Ridgebacks hockey program to take notice and this past season it paid off. His team leading 30 points along with just four PIM, won him OUA East First All-Star Team Honours and the OUA East Most Sportsmanlike Athlete award.
So those are some of my players who have had the best results, even though they did not come from the “best” leagues. What do you think? Who else deserves to be part of this group of players? Let me know, and have fun shopping this week.