HFX Wanderers FC made an interesting addition to their roster earlier this week when they announced the signing of Cory Bent, the first overall pick from the 2019 CPL-U SPORTS Draft.
Bent, a 22-year-old attacker from Preston, England, impressed during four seasons at Cape Breton University by scoring 24 goals and winning the U SPORTS Championship in 2017 with the Capers.
Incredibly, he was also one of four Cape Breton players who were picked in the 2019 draft, more than any other school. Marcus Campanile (Valour FC, 2nd overall), Isaiah Johnston (York9 FC, 10th overall), and Charlie Waters (Valour, 13th overall) were the other CBU players who were selected.
In adding Bent to its roster, HFX became the first CPL club to sign a player from last November’s U SPORTS Draft held in Montreal. As of right now, the 13 other athletes selected in the two-round draft have yet to earn contracts.
All of which raises the question: Who will follow in Bent’s footsteps and become the second player from the 2019 CPL-U SPORTS Draft to sign with a CPL club?
The CanPL.ca editorial crew of John Molinaro, Marty Thompson, and Charlie O’Connor-Clarke offer their predictions.
O’CONNOR-CLARKE: Gabriel Bitar, Cavalry FC
This one feels like a bit of a slam dunk, to the point that it might be cheating. Bitar was picked first overall by Cavalry FC in the 2018 draft, played three times for the club last season, then returned to Carleton University. This time around, Tommy Wheeldon Jr. saw fit to use his first-round selection on the winger once again, sixth overall.
Bitar, a former U SPORTS rookie of the year, had an outstanding three years with the Ravens, and he made enough of an impression on the Cavs last season to earn an invite back to camp this time around.
The Ottawa native helped Cavalry get over the under-21 minutes threshold last year, and although he won’t be eligible for that this time around, he could still inject some youth (and Canadian flavour) into a fairly international Cavs attack.
Cavalry had quite a few players on trial in their pre-season camp, and only a couple of open roster spots remain available, but of the group it seems likely Bitar could get the nod — especially since he’s already familiar with the organization.
Pacific FC made smart moves in last November’s draft when they picked German centre-back Jan Pirretas Glasmacher in the first round, and local talent Tommy Gardner in the second.
Gardner, a former Whitecaps FC’s Residency Program product, is a lock to be brought to VanIsle. He was slated to enjoy a season of CPL action under his belt with Pacific in 2019, but was ruled out for three months with a knee injury shortly after being drafted following a standout campaign with UBC when he was named U SPORTS rookie of the year.
His connections to Pacific are plentiful after playing alongside many of PFC’s youngsters – including Terran Campbell, Matthew Baldisimo, and Kadin Chung – with WFC 2 before the side disbanded in 2017. There are connections with the famed Residency program, too, where Pacific assistant James Merriman previously coached him.
Currently in his second year at UBC, the talented attacking midfielder is very much in Pa-Modou Kah’s long-term plans. Giving Gardner professional minutes now would undoubtedly elevate the youngster, who clearly has the trust of Merriman and the PFC coaching staff.
CanPL.ca pegged Waters going No. 1 overall in its mock draft. Instead, he ended up going second-last in the draft when Valour picked him 13th overall. Don’t let that fool you, though. Waters is a prospect with a bright future ahead him.
The talented forward bagged 10 goals for Cape Breton University during the 2019 U SPORTS regular season, and another five in the playoffs, as the Capers bowed out in the semifinals before beating Carleton in the third-place match.
A native of England, Waters spent time in the Liverpool and Manchester United youth academies before crossing the pond to play in U SPORTS, where he has consistently attacked defences with his pace and by effectively running into space.
Looking at Valour’s current roster, they only have 16 players under contract for the 2020 CPL season, and only two forwards locked up: Moses Dyer and Daryl Fordyce. Adding a spark plug such as Waters could help inject some life into a Valour offence that managed only 30 goals last season (third-worst in the league), and give coach Rob Gale some more attacking options.