Here we go again.
It is a time of great turbulence in blog affairs. I still haven’t watched about 80% of the 2021 CanPL season yet, though I am hoping to get around to it before the 2022 edition starts. I thought about not writing this one.
But university soccer has a special place in my heart. I found myself going through the draft list, and was pleased to see so many players declaring–and surprised to see a few who didn’t declare. This draft is still in a weird place itself, coming out of the pandemic and into a Canadian Premier League facing its first real turn in the road. At least we had a university soccer season this fall, before Covid cut short the hockey and basketball campaigns.
The niche this draft serves in the league is demonstrated by the players on the list–an eclectic mix of stud prospects, journeymen university workhorses, and at least a few of what seem to be influencers-in-training. Rhys Chambers declared! His main accomplishment this year was kneeing a guy in the head. I really want Valour to draft him, and they do need a ‘keeper.
I actually have a lot of respect for the no-hopers. Not just because it makes draft night a bit easier for their friends and teammates who do have a real shot, but because this draft is the closest thing we have to any system that can actually identify and unearth a guy like Chambers, or Memorial’s Harry Carter. Or Moses Kafeero. More on him in a minute.
Having so many players declare gives me a lot of hope for CanPL in another winter where things are already looking a bit bleak. There are players all across Canada who desperately want an opportunity to push themselves to a higher level. That is hugely commendable, and Canadian clubs would do well to pay attention to it.
Whether they will or not, well, we’ll find out tomorrow night (come for the liveblog, stay for the jokes about Mount Allison). CanPL teams have been a bit all over the place in how they’ve used (or not used) this draft. Is it a place to acquire lesser-known but still valuable talent? A way to sign local youth on the cheap? A workaround for the international restrictions? It can be all of these things, and it has been.
Predicting it is utterly impossible, but I think there’s value in trying partly as an exercise in helping the league take itself more seriously, partly as an exercise in learning about your local team.
University soccer remains some of the best, most accessible soccer in the country, and will regardless of where and how CanPL goes from here. Go to a game some time.
Tell Me Who My Team Is Gonna Take
If you don’t like mock drafts, come back Friday-ish for my run-down of who each team took, why, and why it probably won’t work out. The grading is always very fair, scientific, and I’m told, highly prestigious.
Mostly, this will be my ranking of who I think should go, based on what I was able to watch this fall, which was by no means even close to everything because USPORTs is actually a very big league. I then weight my picks a bit based on what I think a team needs and how a player fits into a coach’s past strategy. For teams that do not have a coach, I mostly just guess.
Most university picks don’t make it, which is fine. There is a big gap between USPORTs soccer and the professional game, but maybe less of a gap than some of the professional folks make it out to be on occasion. A draft pick is basically a camp invite, so we’re looking at depth players, guys who can come in and push someone else as much as they push themselves. This year’s draft class is, I think, a bit weaker than average, likely because some of the stars in USPORTs have been signed up by CanPL clubs already, or have opted out of the draft system to pursue more lucrative careers in almost any other industry.1This is yet another reason CanPL should stop treating its players like Tim Hortons cups. You eventually end up with Roll Up The Rim Regret and realize you’ve wasted quite a bit of goodwill.
I’ll note where I think my pick will differ significantly from what a club is likelier to do.
Still doesn’t exactly roll of the tongue, does it? Ottleti are onto false start #3 at this point, given the roster teardown currently underway. I think they usually disqualify you after two.
The draft, and this draft in particular, is never likely to present the centre-piece of a rebuild, but both Valour and Wanderers have proven a team can get dependable depth out of it, and when there’s not much of a roster to go on, depth has a way of becoming very valuable.
Ottawa haven’t made great use of the draft thus far, selecting but then not signing some quite decent players in Chris Malekos and Reggie Laryea before going onto ship 47 goals. I might suggest another centre-back wouldn’t have gone amiss. Mista has now departed after just one full year, adding to his legacy after scoring just one full goal in Canada as a player. There’s no immediate replacement, so I’m flying blind here. I suspect they’ll go to Carleton again, but for who?
Pick #1: Moses Kafeero – Carleton, right-back
The consensus #1 pick in this draft was Matteo di Brienne, who’d even played for Ottleti (if you stretch the term a bit) in 2020, so this was all going to be fairly easy until he signed with Valour on Tuesday. Whoops.
Kafeero may not be the #1 pick, but I’ve always had the sense coaches coordinate this thing a bit, and aren’t likely to care about the prestige of pick order. Kafeero is an attacking fullback who started off at Guelph, where he won OUA rookie of the year, then moved to Carleton and made a national final this year, starting eight games in OUA even if he played mostly off the bench at nationals.
He was also called up by the Ugandan U20 team for their pre-AFCON camp. He’s by no means a sure thing–no one in this draft is–but he’s why we need this draft, because he was never even invited to so much as a Canada youth camp while coming up through the system in Ottawa. Hopefully someone at the club knows him because fast, attacking fullbacks are kind of a hot commodity right now.
I’ll be honest and note that almost anyone else could go here. But I have my doubts Kafeero will stick around, especially after Tony Mikhael–another Raven defender who was called up by a youth national team–succeeded last year. CanPL clibs will have noted that, and have proven quite happy to let national programs do their scouting even in their own backyard.
Pick #9: Horace-Patient Sobze Zemo – Laval, goalkeeper
If Svyatik Artemenko is still there, Ottleti should probably grab him, but he might not be, and Sobze Zemo has the existing Ottawa connection, having been their third GK on PEI in 2020, which puts him somewhere at the level of the assistant kit guy in the club’s history. I am all for honouring history.
Laval, while an unappealing team to watch, are always one of the more defensively solid university programs, and rode that all the way to a very unappealing nationals. Defense can make a ‘keeper look good, of course, but at 28, Sobze Zemo is an experienced goalkeeper and likely leader, and Ottleti have neither of those things right now.
I have no idea what this team needs. An owner, I guess?
Scoring of any kind has been pretty much absent from this club since inception, and while I’d like to think the solution to that might come from some other avenue, I can’t see the Eddies spending much while the league’s other owners are footing the bill. So they’d best draft better than they have in the past.
Last year, Alan Koch did alright considering he’d only just arrived, going with guys he knew from Vancouver, which made sense given there wasn’t a university season to go on. Tommy Gardner worked out alright and Jackson Farmer played, but the Eddies were still well out of the running. They need something slightly special.
Pick #2: Syvlatoslav Artemenko – Guelph, goalkeeper
I don’t actually think they’ll go that way.
Artemenko isn’t a bad pick, though, especially considering the Eddies’ only goalkeeper on the roster is 21-year-old academy graduate Darlington Murasiranwe, who has played a grand total of six games in two years.
Artemenko is just 22, but is coming off a very good League 1 Ontario season with a new club in Guelph, and a very good USPORTs campaign with the Gryphons. He’s shown he can come in and do a job in a lot of circumstances, and FC Edmonton right now is a circumstance.
He was essentially an emergency goalkeeper for Valour in 2019, and being a Valour goalie is still harder than playing for a club with no front office. Tim Melia, who is probably the best ‘keeper in MLS, was a pool GK for years before developing out when given a chance. Artemenko’s stuck around and will go somewhere in here. He’s from the Prairies, Manitoba specifically, but Edmonton need a ‘keeper too much to let Valour draft him.
Pick #10: Michael Enes – MacEwan, central midfield
I think it’s important for the Eddies to send a message–any message–to the local soccer scene. They need to be relevant. Enes came up through Edmonton’s scene, first with the Drillers, then with FC Edmonton’s academy. The academy is gone; it’s legacy can and should live on.
Plus Enes is a #8 with some recent experience in Porto’s local leagues, which are by no means bad quality. He put up respectable numbers with a respectable MacEwan team this year, and and is only 19, so has plenty of time to grow. Edmonton are relatively deep in midfield, but with Allan Zebie retiring there’s room for another local depth piece.
It’s not been a great season for Wanderers, really. There were bright spots, to be sure. There always are. But they yet again finished below 30 goals scored, which just isn’t enough to continue delighting fans at the Grounds. They know it.
They’re also bullish on the draft and university talent in general. I suspect they’ll be looking elsewhere for scoring help, but they’re also tight on international spots and probably cap, so grabbing some offense tomorrow night makes sense, especially after declining an option on Stef Karajovanovic. There isn’t a lot of solid offense in this draft, but there is some, and a lot of it is Atlantic Canadian to boot.
Pick #3: Kairo Coore – Cape Breton, second forward
Wanderers are extremely open about rating the university pipeline, and just promoted a former university coach in Matt Fegan to Director of Football. (Congratulation, Matt, by the way. He was one of the first people I interviewed while covering soccer and remains one of the friendliest.)
Coore has put up his best numbers in university ball of one sort or another. He spent a season in NCAA Div. 2 with Saginaw, where he scored nine in 14 games, then graduated to 15 in 12 for Cape Breton this fall. A lot of those came against lower-tier AUS sides, and he faded a tad at nationals, but scored in the third-place game and the skill is obvious. His best comparison is Charlie Waters, and I think we’ll actually see the best of him–and the Capers–next year, when Waters is gone and they no longer have to torque their shape quite so much to get both Coore and him on the pitch. Because you have to get Coore on the pitch. He’s young enough to be a bit of a project, but not so much of one I couldn’t see him winning a spot at camp.
More likely he’d play more with Wanderers’ U23 program and then head back to Cape Breton in the fall for another run at that national title. He won’t be around to be a key part of the next generation for Deano Morley, though. Too many CanPL teams are interested and he’s too good a player, so better to draft him now.
PIck #11: Jacob Grant – Memorial, centre forward
Here I’ll go a bit off-board. I don’t necessarily think Wanderers will pick two strikers. I could see them going with Jamie Watson, Brandon Phelps, or even Sean Freeman here if they do want a second striker.
But Grant is who I’d go with. His teammate Emmanuel Dolo gets more press, but Grant’s actually closer to being ready. He’s strong with soft feet, a lethal shot, and good instincts to find space. A finisher, basically. Memorial are still not a great team, but he’s put up consistent numbers over two years there, and is open (in a good way) about wanting more.
Realistically, he’s probably a better prospect for Wanderers’ U23 program, who are also more likely to play a game or two in St. John’s where I fully believe Grant would sell tickets. If he has a weakness, though, it’s probably that he overdoes it a bit trying so hard to impress, which is not a bad attitude to have in camp. CanPL would be a big jump up for him because he’s really only played in Newfoundland, but that’s what this draft should be about, and CanPL need a way to generate interest on the rock.
Sadly, Rob Gale won’t be a part of the draft this year, so he won’t be able to select Raphael Garcia and then cut him in camp. I have no idea what Phil dos Santos will do, though he has drafted with Vancouver before, so the format won’t be unfamiliar. Both dos Santos brothers have connections, but Valour only have nine guys confirmed as signed right now, including university star Matteo di Brienne. (Who, interestingly, they’re calling a left-back rather than a left-winger. But that’s for the spring previews.)
Pick #4: Jose Maria Ribeiro da Cunha – Cape Breton, centre-back
Valour could go for any of the bigger names available, but da Cunha is Portuguese (as are the dos Santos brothers) and Valour are still a bit thin at the back, especially if you want a centre-back who can move the ball.
da Cunha can really move the ball. He’s the best player on the ball in USPORTs. I thought Valour should have drafted him last year and I wonder a bit if Valour think so too. Now I’ve seen him play, I can see why Bobby Smyrniotis cut him, because da Cunha looked a bit like a youth player in AUS this year–just a very, very talented one. There are still holes in his game, especially defensively.
The dos Santos’ brothers have always been good defensive coaches, though, so this might be as good a fit for da Cunha as it would be for Valour, who did well with Tony Mikhael last year and need warm bodies for when Arnold Bouka Moutou and Andrew Jean-Baptiste get injured.
Pick #12: Daniel Sagno – Thompson Rivers, right-back
Sagno is no longer a prospect, but that’s not necessarily what this draft is for–university players are typically a bit older, a bit more grounded and experienced, and there’s value in that, especially when they’ve consistently been a part of good teams.
Phil will know Sagno from Vancouver–he was briefly in the Whitecaps program but also spent time with TSS Rovers, and has been solid at TRU for several years. His CanU17 involvement came a while ago, but that was a good team as well, and another one dos Santos will be familiar with given how many Whitecaps were on it. Sagno’s been a bit overlooked, but that’s the mold of a dos Santos player, plus he’s from Winnipeg and I think it might behoove Valour to use a second-round pick on someone local for a change–Rob Gale tended not to rate Winnipeggers.
Clanacahn only knows where they’ll go this time. I think Gus McNab is running the show out of the back room of a Spadina deli, but it’s worth noting that new head coach Martin Nash is knowledgeable about the lower level game in Canada and the gaps it fills in the system. If they do go off-board, I suspect them to do so a bit more successfully than Jimmy Brennan, whose draft record was still more spotty than actually bad.
What the club really needs to do is develop some of the players it takes. Nothing they do Thursday can prove anything there, but York are sitting on the biggest talent mine in this country and are currently watching TFC snag most of it. They could do with sending a message tomorrow, and they’re the one team that, if they go young, I might not grade them harshly for it, especially after last season’s success.
Except they went and fired Brennan after that success. Right.
Pick #5: Luca Ricci – Montreal Carabins, playmaking mid
I’d actually be a bit surprised if Ricci falls this far, but I think he’s the best fit for York, legitimately worth a high pick while coming with both good numbers and a good résumé. He is essentially another of the Impact academy grads, many of whom have made it in CanPL already, so part of a proven formula, but he also snagged a loan to Phoenix Rising and made four appearances for them in the league and played 120 minutes in the US Open Cup. Those are actual pro minutes, in a very fierce competition. It bodes well for his ability to compete right away, and York need a playmaker.
Pick #13: Aidan Bauer-Marr – Western, centre-back
Here we depart from the board. Bauer-Marr hasn’t actually played much in USPORTs, which might be good because Western aren’t very much of a team, but he declared for the draft, which is often a sign someone has an eye on him. He came from the same University of South Florida program that’s produced a couple other CanPLers, so there is background, and he’s young. At #13, I think that’s okay.
I could also see York re-drafting Chris Campoli here, who had a decent but not quite as good season at Ontario Tech. Or, if Kafeero or Sagno are available, they might fit for Nash. But I’ll stick with a reach for my projection because it is, after all, York.
We know a bit more, by this point, about how Tommy Wheeldon goes about this draft. For all I think Joel Waterman remains the template for how to do this thing right ($100K! For a draft pick!), he’s gone pretty much wherever he likes, but often with a Foothills connection and often young.
I think a lot of teams have been trying to approach the draft this way. I’m not completely sure it works–I gave Cavalry an F last year, and thought Victor Loturi worked out okay in the end, there’s zero chance he wasn’t going to be at camp regardless of whether they picked him or not. Local talent exists in each CanPL market, but is largely known already, and some of those kids need a year or two at university to get their heads. If you can draft a dependable local player at that point, though, I think it’s a win, and there are two really good fits this year who would work with Wheeldon’s approach.
Pick #6: Markus Kaiser – UBC, midfield but very flexible
It makes a lot of sense to reunite the two brothers, who were very good together at UBC and who both came through Foothills. If Cavalry don’t–or get unlucky–Edmonton might take him earlier, and I think Pacific would take him later.
Cavalry don’t really need a midfielder, but Kaiser can play a few different positions and Wheeldon doesn’t generally draft starters. Kaiser has had a way of impressing wherever he’s gone, though, sometimes beyond expectations. Long-time readers of this blog will know I don’t rate Thunderbirds, but I do rate both Kaisers.
Pick #14: Akwasi Agyekum – Thompson Rivers, defensive mid
Cavalry might want to re-draft Moe El-Gandour or, heaven forfend, Gabriel Bitar again2This is his last, last chance as he’ll be a fifth-year next year and ineligible.. Agyekum won’t be on too many other draft boards, but he’s part of Cavalry’s U20 program, has been good there, and went and started every game for the Wolfpack this year at a critical spot, as a rookie. Cavalry know him and there are worse ways to use pick #14.
Keep an eye on Eryk Kobza here, too. He’s another local d-mid, with the University of Cavalry, and he spent last summer with a Polish third division side, which is a nice show of professional ambition and I liked his game at nationals in 2019.
Bobby’s draft philosophy has typically been to take the best player at nationals and the best goalscorer in OUA. Last year he had to improvise a bit without a USPORTs season and he still got Garven Metusala and a good look at Jose da Cunha. Even if he doesn’t always sign the prospects, there’s a way to go about a draft you don’t rate that highly.
He might go back for another look at da Cunha this year if he liked what he saw in camp. I get the sense that Bobby is a very shrewd shopper and never buys anything without a good haggle. Neither of the top two goalscorers in OUA declared for the draft this year, and Isaac Koch, who I thought was the best player at nationals, went out in the quarters on a bad-luck shootout. Whatever will Bobby do?
Pick #7: Tareq Hamad – Carleton, centre-back
Probably knock it out of the park again. Bobby would somehow have got di Brienne at #7 were he not already in Winnipeg; the next best would be drafting the player who fed him the ball for that goal.
That is a very, very good pass, too.
Hamad is also big, mean, and quick. Forge don’t really need another centre-back, but Hamad can play in a back two or back three, or even at fullback if you squint a bit. Carleton impressed at nationals (this time), and Hamad was a big part of a defense that wasn’t necessarily expected to be as good without Mikhael and Malekos. There will be other options with this pick, depending on Bobby’s needs and who’s gone already, but I’ve got a feeling Hamad will pay off for whomever drafts him, which means he’ll end up getting cut in pre-season at Forge.
Pick #15: Ricky Comba – Carleton, left-back / midfield
Kwame Awuah is casting his eyes elsewhere. It’s the nature of top players to look beyond, and Forge have had a lot of top players for three years. They plan well and maintain decent depth, which you have to do when there’s a cap. Eventually the crunch comes due.
Comba is Carleton’s captain, a USPORTs veteran, has played in League 1 Ontario, and is dependable at several different positions, sound defensively in a midfield full of players (lookin’ at you, Dario Conte) who are often trying to do flashy stuff. Forge have guys who can do flashy stuff. Comba can play in the middle or on the left, inverting if need be, plus he’s in Carleton’s journalism program so CanPL might finally be able to out-bid another employer for a player’s services.
We are the champions…. We are the–new season, guys. Time to get back to work.
They took it pretty hard when Terran Campbell decamped to Forge, but that’s a lesson on how the world works. Alessandro Hojabrpour is gone, too. They built that championship roster out of ex-Whitecaps guys who’d gone on to UBC, so it’s a fair bet they’ll keep looking there. Markus Kaiser will be gone already–if he’s not, they’ll likely take him to help pad out their young depth in midfield. Daniel Sagno might also be interesting, but Pacific have tended to draft, like Cavalry, very young.
Pick #8: Victory Shumbusho – UBC, wide forward
I am sending psychic signals to try and force Pa-Modou Kah to draft Tristan Nkoghe now he’s at UBC. I’ll break him yet, but if my sheer force of will is not enough (I’ve got the time-zones on my side, Pa, you can’t win), I think they’ll probably re-draft Shumbusho. He’s a similar kind of player honestly, probably a little better one-on-one and a little less physically dominant than Nkoghe, witha slightly better résumé having played with Highlanders rather than in Quebec’s second division and, latterly, at UNB. Either way, fleshing out the depth up front makes sense, and both players play similarly to Terran Campbell. This might be Shumbusho’s time, and he’s got a great story, which I think Kah would respect. Draft Nkoghe.
Pick #16: Adyn Lamont – Univ. of Alberta, centre-back
They could draft Nkoghe here except I suspect Pacific will want to take Lamont with the very last pick. I can’t really see any soccer reason for this–he’s barely played this year and looks very raw in what I’ve seen of him online, very much a youth player. What he is, is the first USPORTs player to have come through Pacific’s new U23 Wave program. This club loves a headline like no other, and will sell it as being for U21 minutes.
Plus they always need centre-backs.
A lot of these guys could easily go, and could easily have fit above. A few are more marginal names that I’m familiar with from watching AUS. There’s a lot of regional bias in this; there’s a lot of it in everything USPORTs. This is a very big country and CanPL would do well to disabuse themselves of the notion they can scout it from a chrome-and-brick designer office in Toronto.
Gabriel Pianelli-Balisoni – He’s back in the draft, and I still rather rate him, but UQTR took a step back this year, he wasn’t at nationals, and there are probably better CBs available, though his combination of speed and smarts fits the Metusala mold. If someone has a notebook on him from last year, he might go.
Doryan Soualem – I should have found a place to get this guy in above. I’ll end up regretting that tomorrow. He’s the best of a bunch of interesting European prospects, and comes to USPORTs with significant minutes for a Ligue 2 reserve side. He scored at nationals and is part of a very good, if very unsexy, Laval defense. He’s not as smooth as da Cunha but he is big and mean, and should interest a team like Valour or York. He’d be an international in a couple years, though.
Dario Conte – I feel like Conte may have drifted out of the draft table much like he drifts out of position. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. For me, he’s not quite decisive enough or quick enough to look like a star player at the CanPL level, and he’s not good enough defensively to be a role player, which leaves him in that weird spot where he’s probably too good to get picked. In a CanPL with 30+ roster spots, he’d be a great grab because these are all things that should be worked on in a pro environment. Arguably, that’s Carleton, and he still hasn’t quite put it together, but it’s possible a national final will convince someone. This is his last chance to be drafted, I can’t quite talk myself into where he’d go, and I notice he’s disappeared a bit from the other draft previews. But it’s totally possible a team that wants a playmaker gives him a shot and gets rewarded.
Sebastian Colyn – He might actually be the best goalkeeper in the draft, certainly the best behind Artemenko. He’s the winningest keeper in history for a very winning TWU program, and a regular around Vancouver’s local circuit, a shoo-in for a spot with the new BC semi-pro league if he’s not drafted. I suspect he’d do well in CanPL if a team gave him a shot, and if more than one team wants to draft a GK, he could get one.
Aiden Rushenas – If three teams want to draft a GK… they’d probably still overlook Rushenas, whose Dalhousie side were pretty iffy this year. It would have been worse without Rushenas, who was a rookie playing behind a rookie backline, with predictable results. He has excellent technique, though, would have been in NCAA but for the pandemic. Keep an eye on him for the future, because I doubt his work in AUS is done.
Emmanuel Dolo – He got some attention earlier in the fall when he put up seven goals in three games. Six of them came against Mt. Allison, who actually had several players declare for the draft despite being Mt. A. This draft should be about finding talent that isn’t already identified–a last chance, in many ways. That’s why I went with Jacob Grant over Dolo, who actually did leave Newfoundland (they always do) to trial with both the Impact and Ottawa Fury. He has a very fun skills package and can beat anyone, but his understanding of space and his decision-making, not to mention his willingness to release the ball, are why he hasn’t caught on anywhere and why he faded badly in AUS playoffs against better defenses. He desperately needs time in a pro environment, but is probably a better fit for a U23 program.
Jamie Watson – I actually think Wanderers will draft him in the second round instead of Grant, in which case he’d be essentially a third-round pick from 2021. His experience in the Scottish third division still speaks for itself. His season with Cape Breton wasn’t quite as impactful as it might’ve been, but he was reliable enough defending out wide while letting Coore and Waters do dazzly things ahead of him. Think Fraser Aird without the discipline problems. He’d be by no means a bad pick.
Soji Olatoye – One of the better scorers in OUA available for the draft this year, with six goals for York, he was also available last year, and had a Sigma connection from League 1 Ontario. In last year’s pandemic-limited draft, it made sense for Forge to take him, and they didn’t. It might also make sense for York to take him, but they didn’t either. I’m not sure I see enough in his numbers to convince me–or anyone else–that he’ll go this year, but he still deserves to be on this list somewhere.
Colin Gander – Much like Olatoye, he was available last year and didn’t get picked in a much shorter list. He’s still very young and comes off as a bit immature–there’s a strong argument, in my mind, in waiting until a player’s in third or fourth year and has settled into life and soccer before throwing him into the churn of a pro environment where everyone is out for themselves. Gander was a TFC prospect for a good long while, so he does have experience in that world. If he comes back to Earth, he might make a good CanPL CB.
Sean Freeman – Another AUS guy, Freeman is a very young local Halifax product who scored for fun this fall as a rookie before an injury slowed him a bit. He’s a small but saucy poacher who can play wide and create or go right through a centre-back to get on the end of service. He gets that service at Saint Mary’s, where he put up 7g/5a, which is a lot. Because of the Mesut Mert connection, Wanderers will be aware of him. I think there are better strikers available, and Freeman will be there next year, too. They should get him into the U23 set-up this summer, though.
Brandon Phelps – If Wanderers want to stay more in-house–and reach a bit, in my opinion–they might take Brandon Phelps, a rookie from Concordia who’s spent a couple pre-seasons training with the CanPL team. They do need a fullback now Morey Doner’s gone, but I suspect will look to fill that on the market. Phelps, and his younger brother Anthony, who also declared, are probably better fits for Wanderers U23. They need a year or two playing some real games against real men. But if another CanPL team starts sniffing around, they might draft him for security.
- Raphael Garcia – I almost forgot to but Garcia on here, which is very apt for his style of play, but he was a steady part for Carleton and in League 1 Ontario this year. I never felt he got much of a shot at Valour, who were tumultuous in 2019. Having the option to go off to school, get into a good place, and then get drafted might be a good route back in for Garcia, who has 16 games of CanPL experience, making him one of the most known entities in a draft filled with longshots.
- Gabriel Balbinotti – Last but not least. I saw nothing on PEI that suggested to me that Balbinotti couldn’t be a CanPL player. He was actually pretty unlucky not to score a couple in that tournament, then didn’t get picked up by Forge for 2021 probably because it’s Forge. I thought someone else would give him a shot. He’s no prospect now, which complicates things, but he’s still out there scoring in PLSQ. I’m still a bit unsure he’s a pure #9, but in the right set-up, he would score in CanPL, assuming he’s willing to sign a cheap USPORTs deal. Declaring for the draft again suggests he wants another chance, which I like.