TORONTO, ON – Look at any Canadian Premier League team, and there has been a varying measure of success they have had in the annual CPL-U SPORTS Draft. While players such as Garven Metusala have slotted in swiftly at Forge, others have failed to get a hold on in the league.
On Thursday, the eight CPL sides will pick two players each through two rounds of the draft. A record 165 players are eligible to be drafted this season, making it a peculiar and unique challenge for each club.
There have been several trends in the three past drafts. Firstly, CPL clubs stick local. There is often a pre-established connection with players with so many local ties in the Canadian soccer scene. This year, Markus Kaiser is available, despite being attached to the Cavalry system in the past.
Teams also tend to draft for a positional need rather than the best player available. The best player is likely a goalkeeper, Stanyslav Artemenko from Guelph, who previously played for Valour. However, most clubs are set for goalkeepers.
With questions abound, 49 Sports and Canucks at School present the 2022 CPL-U SPORTS Mock Draft.
1. Atletico Ottawa: Svyatoslav Artemenko (Guelph)
Atletico Ottawa has not been a strong team in their first two seasons. While they found some success on their backline with Drew Beckie in 2021, adding a solid goalkeeper to the mix would emphasize their defensive transition while staying calm at the back.
Artemenko spent time as Valour’s third goalkeeper in the 2020 season and was a star with the Gryphons this season, leading them to the OUA Championship. His strong goalkeeping, paired with Ottawa’s current lack of a single goalie on the roster, make this an easy pick for Atletico.
2. FC Edmonton: Moe El Gandour (Mount Royal)
While FC Edmonton may be a club in turmoil, now being run by the CPL rather than the Fath family, they still need to field a competitive team. The Eddies have not had tremendous success in their first three seasons and recently lost former Alberta Golden Bear and star striker Easton Ongaro.
With Ongaro’s departure, Edmonton has to get some scoring. That’s where Moe El-Gandour comes into the fray. A striker with the MRU Cougars, El-Gandour scored nine times in 12 matches in 2021. While playing alongside midfielder Dane Domic aided his success, the third-year forward has a knack for scoring goals and is already familiar with playing in Alberta.
3. HFX Wanderers: Quentin Paumier (Montreal)
The HFX Wanderers got their pick right in 2021, and they look to be on the right track after falling in the North Star Shield Final at the Island Games in 2020. Former Carleton Raven Stefan Karajovanovic found success in Nova Scotia this season, as have the likes of Corey Bent, Kareem Sow, among others.
Stephen Hart’s team knows how to draft from U SPORTS, and they will take a chance on Montreal Carabins midfielder Quentin Paumier. Born in France, the 1998-born Paumier played with Kareem Sow with the Carabins and dominated against RSEQ and U SPORTS competition this season, en route to winning the RSEQ and U SPORTS championships.
There is a lot to like about Paumier, a skilled player who can find passes and space throughout the pitch while also calming down a game in hectic moments. He has thrived under Carabins Head Coach Pat Raimondo’s system and would be a simple addition to an already strong HFX Wanderers side.
4. Valour FC: Raphael Garcia (Carleton)
Putting on an old hat is always for comfortable than a new one; that’s why Valour FC will take Raphael Garcia in the 2022 CPL-U SPORTS Draft. While conceding 36 goals in 2021 put Valour in the middle of the table, bringing in a high-quality wingback could aid their chances at both ends of the pitch.
Coming off a U SPORTS silver medal year at Carleton, Garcia is more prepared to take on the pro game than when he was with Valour in 2019. He played 16 matches in the inaugural CPL season. Although the league’s level of play has improved since then, the 22-year-old is familiar with the club, and after being named a First Team U SPORTS All-Canadian, is ready for the next level again.
5. York United: Gabriel Bitar (Carleton)
After a rebrand in 2020, York United has another new-look season in 2022, this time on the pitch. Head Coach Jimmy Brennan left the club in the offseason, and this will be the first time that former Vancouver Whitecaps star Martin Nash is controlling the sidelines.
Coming from Cavalry FC, a club that drafted Carleton striker Gabriel Bitar twice, I expect Nash to take a similar road. While York does not need a striker after signing Czechian forward Martin Graciar and Canadian Mamadou Kane, adding Bitar is a strong choice.
At 23-years-old, Bitar has CPL experience, offers a few more years in the game to a young team, and is familiar with Nash in the manager’s first season. However, if Artemenko falls to the fifth selection, expect the Nine Stripes to take him after losing Nathan Ingham.
6. Cavalry FC: Kairo Coore (Cape Breton)
There are many reasons to like Kairo Coore — most importantly, his goals. While his qualities are far better than sixth overall, local favourites and positional circumstances could have him falling in the draft. While there is no stage to run up to for the CPL-U SPORTS Draft, Cavalry should run to pick Coore.
On the younger side, Coore, born in 2001, moved to Deano Morley’s CBU Capers after a year with Saginaw Valley in the NCAA II. He led the Capers to the AUS title with 15 goals in 12 matches and was the top goalscorer in the AUS, en route to CBU’s U SPORTS bronze medal.
He’s quick, can finish, and can get behind defences. There aren’t many players that offer everything Coore does in this year’s draft, making him an excellent pick for whichever team adds him.
7. Forge FC (Soji Olatoye) York
Entering their first CPL season as non-defending North Star Shield Champions, Forge FC has already bolstered their roster for the upcoming season. By te-signing club staples and adding Alessandro Hojabrpour and Terran Campbell from Pacific FC, Forge is better than they were when they lost the CPL Final.
Still, they will play a lot of games this season with Canadian Championship, CONCACAF Champions League and the CPL, and they will require a lot of players to do that. York Lions midfielder Soji Olatoye is not a player who will start for Forge, but he could become a competitive player on their roster.
Olatoye helped York to the OUA Final in 2021, where they fell to Artemenko’s Guelph. A Second Team U SPORTS All-Canadian, the winger is familiar with Forge, having trained and played at Forge and Sigma FC, a League 1 Ontario organization with countless Forge connections.
8. Pacific FC (Ian Whibley)
There is very little chance that Ian Whibley is taken ahead of Pacific’s first pick, and the ideal landing spot for the athlete and the team would be the same place: Starlight Stadium.
After losing star striker Terran Campbell to Forge earlier this offseason, the Tridents need a replacement. Ian Whibley is not a perfect fit for the hole left Campbell left, but as more of a second striker, he is someone Pacific can work with.
Having grown up on Vancouver Island, the 1997-born Whibley has a local connection seldom seen for the Langford-based club. In terms of fitting in with the team, Pacific has a long way to go in building their roster to contend again, but having Manny Aparicio and likely Marco Bustos would allow Whibley to thrive.
ROUND 2 MOCK DRAFT
9: Atletico Ottawa: Jadon Vilfort (York University)
10: FC Edmonton – Dane Domic (Mount Royal)
11: HFX Wanderers- Julien Bruce (University of Montreal)
12: Valour FC – Chris Campoli (Ontario Tech)
13: York United – Luca Ricci (Montreal)
14: Cavalry – Eryk Kobza (Calgary)
15: Forge FC- Jose Da Cunha (Cape Breton)
16: Pacific FC – Victory Shumbusho (UBC)