All 16 picks in the 2022 CPL-U SPORTS Draft are locked in, and fans across the Canadian Premier League have been introduced to the two newest faces who will be vying for a contract with their team this coming season.
Each CPL club approaches the draft with a different strategy — Go for a certain position? Take a local kid? Add someone U-21 eligible? — and so, each team has ended up with a unique pair of draftees. Some clubs have had more success with certain drafting philosophies than others, which surely informed their plan heading into this year.
So, we’ve broken down the full 2022 draft class team by team, to try and make sense of it all.
Ottawa, with the best drafting position, have gone with two talented international players who might be able to make an immediate impact at the CPL level. With the top pick of the draft, they opted for a top-class left-footed centre-back (an extremely valuable profile for any club, especially one rebuilding its defence) in Portuguese defender José Cunha. Thus continues the steady flow of players from Cape Breton University, one of the most productive hubs for U SPORTS talent the past few years.
This is Cunha’s second time in the draft, having gone ninth overall to Forge last year, but at that point he hadn’t played a game for the Capers yet; now, he’s proven himself a little more in a very successful 2021 season, helping CBU to a fifth straight AUS title and a national bronze medal, being named AUS Rookie of the Year (and a finalist for U SPORTS Rookie of the year) in the process. The 20-year-old’s vision for the game, honed on the training pitch of Sporting Lisbon’s academy in his native country, is excellent, and Ottawa will hope he can fit into the lineup right away.
Bruce, meanwhile, is a tricky winger who could add some pop to Ottawa’s attack. Developed in his native France, Bruce was very athletic and difficult for defenders to handle as he helped the Montréal Carabins capture the national championship on penalties (scoring a massive goal for the school in extra time of the final). Versatile wide players have traditionally been good options in the CPL-U SPORTS Draft — look no further than Cory Bent and Zach Verhoven.
As the Eddies continue to rebuild, they’ve looked for value up front. With a huge, Easton Ongaro-shaped hole to fill at the number nine position, Edmonton might’ve been smart to pick Kairo Coore, the most prolific goalscorer in U SPORTS this past year. He transferred to Cape Breton from an NCAA Div. II school (Saginaw Valley State) to enter himself in the draft, and he went on to score 15 goals in 12 games for the Capers. He’s got size, he’s good with his feet, and he’s a clinical finisher — sound familiar, Eddies fans? Plus, as a 2001-born Whitby native, he’ll be U-21 eligible in 2022.
In the second round, FCE went for a creative midfielder to complement their new striker. Quentin Paumier, who learned the game in a top youth academy in France (Côte Bleue), is among the older end of the scale of players drafted, but he’ll be an intelligent player for Alan Koch’s side. He’s comfortable sitting in midfield and managing a game, and he can deliver a free kick perhaps as well as anybody in U SPORTS. He was a national champion this year with Montréal, and he was named an All-Star at the U SPORTS national championship tournament.
HFX Wanderers FC
3rd overall: Christopher Campoli, AM, Ontario Tech 11th overall: Colin Gander, LB, Guelph
Wanderers boss Stephen Hart has gone for two OUA players this time around — both with experience in the Toronto FC Academy. With major new additions surely coming at several positions, HFX have added depth to positions where they already have some strength. Chris Campoli, an attack-minded midfielder who can create from all over the pitch, joins a strong midfield in Halifax alongside the likes of newcomer Aidan Daniels. Campoli has a very good track record of assisting and scoring goals himself, and considering how the Wanderers (aside from Joao Morelli) struggled to score in 2021, adding more creative options can’t hurt. Campoli heard his name called by York United at last year’s draft, but perhaps the 21-year-old will be a better fit in Nova Scotia.
In Colin Gander, the Wanderers will be getting a good wide player out of Guelph University (who also has experience with Guelph United in League1 Ontario). He’s another player who left the NCAA for U SPORTS, and it’s paid off for him with this selection. Though not the most athletic player, Gander can defend and win duels well, and advance the ball intelligently. He’ll fit into a fullback group that includes Jake Ruby, Mateo Restrepo, and occasionally Jérémy Gagnon-Laparé, giving Hart more options for tactical shifts and squad rotation.
4th overall: Raine Lyn, CM, Cape Breton 12th overall: Jacob Carlos, CM, Ryerson
Valour picked the third Cape Breton player of the first round in Raine Lyn, a 2001-born midfielder who’s a little undersized but can hold onto possession with his balance and vision in the centre of the park, as well as contribute to buildup play. The Oakville, Ontario native will look to carve out a role for himself under Phil Dos Santos, who is hoping to put his own mark on this Valour squad after taking over mid-season in 2021. With Raphael Ohin, Diego Gutíerrez, and Daryl Fordyce already signed in Winnipeg, Lyn surely offers a different, fresher dynamic to the Valour midfield.
So, too, does Jacob Carlos, who seems to fit a similar profile to Lyn. He’s also a 2001, and a good technical player though — again — not the biggest or strongest. He’s seen the game at various levels around the world, from the Toronto FC Academy to Europe, with stints at Portuguese side Académico de Viseu and Swedish outfit IK Frej. Carlos is versatile and young enough to fit into a new system at Valour, with the experience and technical ability to execute what’s required.
York United FC
5th overall: Christian Rossi, FW, Trinity Western 13th overall: Soji Olatoye, WM, York
It’s possible York might have made an absolute steal with their fifth overall pick, taking the 2021 U SPORTS Rookie of the Year in Christian Rossi. The 19-year-old was a revelation for Trinity Western this year, drawing attention across the country despite the Spartans missing the Canada West playoffs. Rossi is one of the most dynamic and exciting attackers in this draft; he’s got a penchant for beating defenders out wide and cutting in from the wing, with an ability to bury spectacular curling shots from distance. With York’s roster already mostly assembled for 2022, they do have space for some extra attacking talent, having seen more turnover up front than at other positions with five forwards moving on from the club.
Soji Olatoye may well be competing with Rossi for a spot in that York attack under Martin Nash. The local product has a similar skillset to Rossi with his ability to take on defenders and cut inside, but at 22 years old he might be somewhat farther along in his development. Olatoye came out of the Sigma FC academy — notable for how many Forge FC players it’s produced (in fact, Olatoye had a trial with Forge last year) — and he has some NCAA experience with La Salle University. He’ll be on familiar ground at York Lions Stadium, coming from York University.
6th overall: Caden Rogozinski, CB, Mount Royal 14th overall: Markus Kaiser, CM, British Columbia
Cavalry stuck closer to home with their picks, taking a pair of Calgary natives — as they did in 2021. Tommy Wheeldon Jr. is likely already familiar with Caden Rogozinski and Markus Kaiser, both of whom came through the Calgary Foothills academy.
The Cavs have had success strengthening their backline through the U SPORTS pathway before, having selected Joel Waterman 14th overall in 2018 — still possibly the greatest draft success story to date. With Karifa Yao now back with CF Montréal after his loan spell, Cavalry needed a centre-back to maintain their defensive depth, so Rogozinski should be a good choice. The six-foot-two 19-year-old has all the physical attributes required of a top central defender, and he has excellent potential. Plus, he’s U-21 eligible, as one of four 2002-born players selected on Thursday.
Their second rounder might be a slightly familiar name to Cavs fans: Markus Kaiser’s brother, Daniel, played for the club in 2021 on a U SPORTS deal. Unlike Dan — a fullback — Markus is a strong all-around midfielder who’s comfortable with the the ball and can hit a pass to pretty much anywhere on the pitch. He was a key part of UBC’s run to the Canada West championship in 2021, as the Cavs will hope to find more value in midfield from the draft — perhaps much like they did last season with Victor Loturi.
True to form, Forge turned to Quebec with their first pick. After drafting Gabriel Balbinotti (UQTR) in 2020 and Garven Metusala (Concordia) in 2021, both of whom earned full contracts for the club, Bobby Smyrniotis has gone for another RSEQ player in Guillaume Pianelli Balisoni at seventh overall. The 23-year-old defender from Corsica has a very strong resume both at home and abroad, and he’s clearly caught Forge’s eye after going undrafted in 2021. Smyrniotis perhaps wasn’t able to rotate his backline as much as he wanted in 2021, so adding another ball-playing centre-back who can fit his system — from a source he’s tapped successfully before — makes a lot of sense.
Meanwhile, in the second round, it’s fitting that Forge are the first team ever to draft a player from McMaster University, right on their doorstep. Alshakman has flown a little under the radar as a youth player, but he’s got good technical skills. Plus, he’s come through Sigma FC, which means Smyrniotis and co. will already be quite familiar with him. They’ll likely have a plan for the youngster, perhaps not unlike Cavalry’s approach with Loturi last year to draft a local player the coach has worked with previously.
8th overall: Luca Ricci, CM, Montréal 16th overall: Rees Goertzen, CB, Victoria
Finally, the champions have gone two very different directions with their two picks. Their first rounder, Luca Ricci, was one of the highest-profile players available; he’s already had a brief taste of the pro level as a CF Montréal academy product, having spent time on loan with the Ottawa Fury and Phoenix Rising (plus he signed an emergency short-term MLS deal with Montréal in 2019, though he didn’t see game time). Ricci has been very reliable in midfield in his U SPORTS career, helping them to the national championship in 2021 and earning himself a tournament All-Star nod. He’s comfortable on the ball, though perhaps not likely to play a huge role in the attack. With Alessandro Hojabrpour leaving Pacific this winter, Ricci might be the man to step up and fill that gap.
With the final pick of the draft, Pacific stayed local with Rees Goertzen from the University of Victoria. The 21-year-old from Calgary has played for the Foothills, as well as the Vancouver Whitecaps residency program and Vancouver Island Wave right in Pacific’s backyard. He started all 12 games for Victoria this past year, having embraced a recent shift of position from forward to centre-back. With his strong frame and good ball skills, Goertzen could provide depth for the Tridents at the back this year.