The 2023 CPL-U SPORTS Draft took place on Thursday afternoon, with 16 players from universities across the country drafted by Canadian Premier League clubs ahead of the 2023 season.
Anthony White (University of Toronto) and Ameer Kinani (Toronto Metropolitan University) went first and second overall, respectively, both to expansion club Vancouver FC. Anthony Stolar of Cape Breton University rounded out the top three, selected by Halifax Wanderers.
Here is a breakdown of every player selected in the 2023 CPL-U SPORTS Draft.
Pick 1 (Vancouver FC): Anthony White, University of Toronto
With the first overall pick in this year’s draft, and their first draft pick in club history, Vancouver FC picked up Anthony White, a centre-back from the University of Toronto. White has played 22 times for the Varsity Blues through two seasons, starting eighteen of those matches — including all eleven of his appearances in 2022. In the past, he has trained at FC Nurenberg in Germany, as well as Dinamo Zagreb and NK Sibenik in Croatia, and won the inaugural League1 BC title with TSS Rovers this season.
A second-year kinesiology student at U of T, White will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of Varsity Blues alumni Lukas MacNaughton, who went on to be a CPL champion and now plies his trade in Major League Soccer with Toronto FC.
Pick 2 (Vancouver FC): Ameer Kinani, Toronto Metropolitan University
The CPL’s newest club also had the second overall pick in this year’s draft, and used it to select Ameer Kinani, a forward from Toronto Metropolitan University. Kinani scored four times in eleven games for the Bold this season, including a 90th-minute penalty in the OUA quarter-finals.
The Iraq youth international also scored 17 goals in 20 games for ProStars FC in League1 Ontario this summer, and was previously with Cartagena FC in Spain.
Pick 3 (Halifax Wanderers): Anthony Stolar, Cape Breton University
As they did in last year’s draft, Halifax used one of their draft picks to select a full back, bringing in Anthony Stolar from Cape Breton University. The Capers have produced several CPL difference-makers over the past few years, including Peter Schaale and Cory Bent, who were both drafted by the Wanderers in past seasons, along with several other players around the league.
Stolar started seven times in eight appearances for the undefeated CBU squad this season, often playing alongside his brother Daniel, who also plays for Cape Breton but wasn’t selected in this year’s draft.
Pick 4 (York United FC): Christopher Campoli, Ontario Tech University
For the third season in a row, Christopher Campoli of Ontario Tech has been drafted in the first round. Drafted third by HFX Wanderers last year, and fourth by York United the year before that, Campoli has yet to play a game at the professional level, but has lit up the OUA for the past few seasons.
Campoli scored a conference-leading 13 goals in 11 games this season, adding a joint league-high six assists as well. He could be a real spark in the York midfield if they choose to sign him and give him some opportunities to play, and has been seen as an up-and-coming prospect for a few years now.
Pick 5 (Valour FC): Guillaume Pianelli Balisoni, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières
Another player previously drafted by a CPL club returning to the fold is Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières defender Guillaume Pianelli Balisoni. He was drafted seventh overall last year by Forge FC, but like Campoli, didn’t make an appearance for the club in 2022.
The 24-year-old centre-back, born in France, helped UQTR win the 2019 U SPORTS Championship, and his importance to the side was recognized with a spot in the all-tournament team. He previously spent time in the S.C. Bastia youth system, and played for EF Bastia of the Championnat National 2 (the French fourth tier) as well.
Pick 6 (Pacific FC): Eric Lajeunesse, University of British Columbia
With their first pick in this year’s draft, Pacific FC stayed local, selecting University of British Columbia Thunderbirds defender Eric Lajeunesse. He started all 21 games for UBC as they went all the way to the U SPORTS championship game, where they would lose on penalties to the Thompson Rivers WolfPack.
Lajeunesse, who has played in the Vancouver Whitecaps Academy, added a goal and an assist throughout his 2,012 minutes on the pitch, as well as ten clean sheets. His head coach at UBC, Mike Mosher, had high praise for him in an interview with CanPL.ca this week.
“I think really highly of Eric, I think he’s got quite a nice upside and possibilities to him, just given some of the qualities that he’s got. I think you look at guys like [Joel] Waterman and [Lukas] MacNaughton that I mentioned, and I think what you find with some of the U SPORTS players is you get some of the real quality intangibles. You get good kids, great attitudes, intelligent, and that’s where I would put Eric — I think he’s a good player. He’s very composed on the ball, he’s left sided, he’s a centre-back. I’ll be very interested to see where Eric is at not only this year but in the coming years because I think really highly of this player.”
Pick 7 (Cavalry FC): William Omoreniye, University of Calgary
Cavalry FC selected William Omoreniye with their first pick in the 2023 draft, adding a promising young fullback/midfielder developed in their own backyard. Omoreniye was part of a backline that conceded the fifth-fewest goals in Canada West, but where his stats really catch the eye is in attack.
The Calgary native led the Dinos with four goals on the year, and shared the team lead with three assists — impressive numbers for a player in his position on the pitch. Omoreniye was named to the U SPORTS All-Rookie Team for his efforts, and now he gets drafted by his hometown club, looking to impress Tommy Wheeldon Jr and his crew while staying close to home.
Pick 8 (Atlético Ottawa): Junior Agyekum, Thompson Rivers University
Junior Agyekum was one of the stars of this past U SPORTS season, as the Thompson Rivers University midfielder picked up the 2022 Championship MVP, and was named to the Championship All-Star Team along with three of his teammates. The WolfPack won their first-ever national championship in any sport with Agyekum in midfield, beating the University of British Columbia.
Agyekum started 17 of TRU’s 22 games in his second U SPORTS season, up from 10 starts in 11 matches a season prior, making his mark and establishing himself as a key piece of their squad.
Pick 9 (Forge FC): Miles Green, McMaster University
For the second draft in a row, Forge FC picked a player out of local McMaster University, fourth-year midfielder Miles Green. Green is coming off his best season for the Marauders, in which he scored nine goals and added three assists in 15 matches, all starts.
In total, he’s scored 18 goals and provided four assists in 39 games played during his U SPORTS career, and has shown signs of growth as he looks to turn college success into a spot in the professional ranks.
Pick 1 (Halifax Wanderers): Aiden Rushenas, Dalhousie University
Halifax recently let both of their goalkeepers from this past season go, and with their second pick in this draft selected Aiden Rushenas out of Dalhousie University. He’s a player familiar to the club, having played for the Wanderers U23s this summer, and finished third in the AUS with 47 saves made.
Rushenas is just the fourth goalkeeper ever selected in the CPL-U SPORTS Draft, joining Valour FC’s Rayane Yesli, former Wanderers goalkeeper Christian Oxner, and former FC Edmonton netminder Connor James.
He previously trained with North Toronto Nitros of League1 Ontario as well, and was undoubtedly one of the top goalkeeping prospects available for selection.
Pick 2 (York United FC): Trivine Esprit, Ontario Tech University
After picking Christopher Campoli in the first round, York United went back to Ontario Tech with their second pick as well, selecting his fellow Ridgebacks midfielder Trivine Esprit.
Esprit was a freshman this season, playing and starting all eleven games for the team as they won nine of them, drawing once with Nipissing and losing once to the TMU Bold. He also made 16 appearances for League1 Ontario side Simcoe County Rovers, getting a further 785 minutes of competitive soccer under his belt as his young career begins, and previously played for Unionville Milliken S.C. as well.
Pick 3 (Valour FC): Samuel Laplante, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières
Like York did, picking two teammates in the draft, Valour followed in their footsteps by selecting a teammate of their first pick Guillaume Pianelli Balisoni. With the 12th overall pick, Valour selected Samuel Laplante, a defender out of Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières.
Suiting up at left back for the Patriotes, Laplante made nine appearances, starting all of them. He picked up two assists on the year, both in games against Sherbrooke, and could be a good understudy for Phil Dos Santos’ team, behind recently-signed left back Jordan Haynes.
Pick 4 (Pacific FC): Brandon Torresan, Trinity Western University
The Tridents stayed local for their second pick of the draft as well, picking attack-minded left back Brandon Torresan 14th overall out of Trinity Western University. Torresan started all 16 games for the Spartans in 2022, scoring a game-winning goal against the University of Northern British Columbia and contributing to three clean sheets, including back-to-back ones in September.
After both Jordan Haynes and Nathan Mavila departed the club this offseason, there might be a good opportunity for Torresan to get some minutes in James Merriman’s side, should they sign him.
Pick 5 (Cavalry FC): Eryk Kobza, University of Calgary
Cavalry picked a second University of Calgary player with the 14th overall spot, selecting midfielder Eryk Kobza. Kobza, a fourth-year student in Calgary, was part of the team that had the aforementioned fifth-best goals-against record in Canada West this season. Kobza was the definition of reliable for the Dinos, playing 1492 of a possible 1500 minutes in 2022. He scored three goals and added three assists, including scoring a brace against Saskatchewan in a 3-2 comeback victory on the road.
He has previously spent time with Polish third-division club Podlasie Biała Podlaska.
Pick 6 (Atlético Ottawa): Mohamed Bouzidi, Carleton University
Atlético Ottawa stayed closer to home for their second pick, drafting Carleton University striker Mohamed Bouzidi. A local player, previously with West Ottawa Soccer Club, Bouzidi has won the OPDL Championship, and finished as the league’s top scorer prior to joining the Ravens.
Bouzidi started seven of his ten matches for the Ravens this season, scoring an impressive seven goals, putting him into a tie for sixth in the OUA.
Pick 7 (Forge FC): Milo Djuricic, York University
With their second pick in this year’s draft, the reigning CPL champions Forge FC selected Milo Djuricic, a defender out of York University. With a goal and an assist in 12 matches (11 starts) for the team, Djuricic was a more regular contributor to the Lions after five starts and 11 appearances in 2021-22.
He’s a physical presence on the back line, and is a player that may excite The Hammers after a season in which their group of defenders dealt with several injuries. The Hammers have drafted promising centre-backs before, picking Garven Metusala eighth overall in the 2021 draft.