Friday’s 2021 CPL-U SPORTS Draft saw a new batch of university players earn professional opportunities in the Canadian Premier League.
A total of 16 of the top U SPORTS prospects, whittled down from the 48 players who declared for the draft, were picked up by CPL clubs during the draft.
Some familiar names were chosen, such as former Cavalry FC midfielder Victor Loturi, and previous draft picks such as FC Edmonton’s Thomas Gardner (more on him later).
But many more fresh faces emerged on the scene and are set to be invited to CPL training camps and, if retained by the club, can sign U SPORTS Development Contracts or full-fledged professional deals.
Here are eight numbers that tell the story of 2021’s CPL-U SPORTS Draft.
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3 – Times Thomas Gardner has been drafted
A first-round pick in 2018 and a second-round 2019, respectively, a now-22-year-old Thomas Gardner was selected first overall by FC Edmonton on Friday. The UBC midfielder is the only CPL-U SPORTS Draft player selected in all three events after being selected twice by Pacific FC.
“It’s pretty surreal,” Gardner told CanPL.ca. “I’ve been picked a couple of times before, but due to an injury and COVID I wasn’t able to go. I’m super happy to join Edmonton this time around, and I can’t wait to get started.”
FC Edmonton coach Alan Koch, meanwhile, saw value in Gardner.
“If somebody’s been drafted twice before, other people see value in him,” Koch said.
4 – UBC Draftees (Most of any school)
Four players on two CPL teams.
The University of British Columbia Thunderbirds led U SPORTS in drafted players in 2021, bookended by FC Edmonton pickups Thomas Gardner (1st overall, first round) and Jackson Farmer (16th overall, second round). The pair played under new Eddies coach Alan Koch at Whitecaps 2.
Pacific FC grabbed the other two UBC players: defender Chris Lee and forward Victory Shambusho.
18 years, 9 months, 12 days – Youngest player picked
Cavalry FC’s second pick Ethan Keen was the youngest player selected on Friday, making the jump from Mount Royal Cougars alongside former Cavs player Victor Loturi, who was one of the youngest CPLers in 2019.
Keen, who has yet to make an appearance for Mount Royal, is well-known to the Cavs and Tommy Wheeldon Jr. after making a handful of appearances for Calgary Foothills in USL 2 two seasons ago.
25 years, 8 months, 26 days – Oldest player picked
At the other end of the spectrum, 25-year-old Jackson Farmer stands at the mature end of the 2021 CPL-U SPORTS Draft. Taken by his hometown FC Edmonton 16th overall, Farmer returns after stints with the Vancouver Whitecaps setup and a couple of seasons with the UBC Thunderbirds.
10 – Defenders drafted
As CanPL.ca’s Charlie O’Connor Clarke predicted on the latest CanPL.ca Virtual Newsroom podcast, CPL clubs were more apt to grab defence-minded players out of university with an eye to develop the next Joel Waterman or Peter Schaale. A total of 10 defenders were selected compared to just three forwards and a handful of midfielders.
35 – Goals by Stefan Karajovanovic
A staggering 35 goals (and four assists) in 37 games by Carleton University and HFX Wanderers FC draftee Stefan Karajovanovic is far-and-away the most of any player in the draft.
8 – Schools represented
Eight schools produced the 16 players selected at Friday’s 2021 CPL-U SPORTS Draft, with aforementioned UBC leading the way with four draftees. Carleton provided three players while Montreal, Mount Royal, and Ontario Tech saw two students earn invites to CPL training camps.
Ontario Tech (Christopher Campoli & Danial Rafisamii of York United) and Concordia (Garven-Michée Metusala of Forge FC) saw their first players drafted into the CPL system since the draft was instituted in 2018.
7 – Under-21 eligible players
Nearly half of selections at the 2021 CPL-U SPORTS Draft are under-21-minutes eligible for the upcoming CPL season
Christopher Campoli (York United), Christopher Lee (Pacific FC), Victor Loturi (Cavalry FC), José Maria da Cunha (Forge FC), Kareem Sow (HFX Wanderers), Ethan Keen (Cavalry FC), and Danial Rafisamii (York United) were all born after January 1, 2020 – the new cutoff for the under-21 threshold which was recently increased to 1,500 minutes.