Last week, details were released on the 2019 CPL-U SPORTS Draft, which will be staged on Nov. 11 in Montreal around the U SPORTS Men’s Soccer Championship that will take place at Université de Montreal. The Carabins host this year’s tournament after taking last year’s national title in Vancouver by downing Cape Breton in the final.
There was an added incentive for athletes competing in the 2018 U SPORTS championship. The Canadian Premier League, in conjunction with U SPORTS, held the inaugural CPL-U SPORTS Draft during the finals.
Looking at Canada’s varsity men’s soccer athletes ahead of their first season, CPL teams completed a three-round snake draft, selecting 21 players.
A total of 13 players made the jump to CPL clubs in 2019; Cavalry FC’s Gabriel Bitar (1st overall), Valour FC’s Dylan Carreiro (2nd overall), Forge FC’s Jace Kotsopoulos (3rd overall), York9 FC’s Daniel Gogarty (4th overall), HFX Wanderers FC’s Peter Schaale (5th overall), FC Edmonton’s Connor James (7th overall), FC Edmonton’s Ajeej Sarkaria (8th overall), Pacific FC’s Zach Verhoven (9th overall), HFX Wanderers FC’s André Bona (10th overall), York9 FC’s Emmanuel Zambazis (11th overall), Cavalry FC’s Joel Waterman (14th overall), FC Edmonton’s Easton Ongaro (15th overall) and HFX Wanderers FC’s Christian Oxner (19th overall).
They all made an impact on CPL’s Year 1. Here’s a closer look…
15,249 – Minutes played by draft picks
There’s serious talent in Canada’s post-secondary varsity sports.
Thirteen CPL-U SPORTS Draft picks combined for 15,249 minutes of playing time during the 2019 regular season for an average of 1,730 minutes (which is above the league median).
HFX Wanderers fullback Andre Bona led the pack with a blistering 2,053 minutes – just behind Cavalry’s Marco Carducci for the 15th-most amongst all players in Year 1.
Elsewhere, FC Edmonton’s Connor James (1,980), Cavalry FC’s Joel Waterman (1,682) and York9 FC’s Daniel Gogarty (1,551) also earned major playing time this year after coming out of the draft.
Thirteen is an unlucky number, but not for the players and teams involved.
Of the 21 players selected during the three-round 2018 draft, 12 made the team they were picked by, and Easton Ongaro switched from Cavalry FC to FC Edmonton. Six-of-seven first-round selections, including Valour FC’s Dylan Carreiro and HFX Wanderers’ Peter Schaale, make up the bulk of this total.
The lowest selections to sign with a CPL team? Cavalry’s Joel Waterman was picked 14th overall, at the end of the second round, while HFX goalkeeper Christian Oxner was chosen third-from-last at 19th overall. It worked out for them, didn’t it?
9th – Overall pick, Zach Verhoeven
What a steal this was.
Pacific FC’s lone 2018 pick to make the club, a then-20-year-old Verhoeven came off a decent season with the UBC Thunderbirds. A solid pick, but few expected this.
His late-season form put him on the lips of CPL pundits everywhere as one of the best two-way wide midfielders in the league.
1.30 – Goals per 90 for Forge’s Kotsopoulos
Jace Kotsopoulos, we hardly knew ye. Forge’s sneaky striker ended up returning to the University of Guelph to complete his schooling – but not before posting one of the most efficient goalscoring records of anyone in the CPL.
Two goals through just 138 minutes of play is a production rate that any striker would love to have. It’s better than Pacific FC’s Terran Campbell, Cavalry’s Dominique Malonga, Forge’s Tristan Borges … literally everyone in the CPL golden boot race.
He also attempted 4.74 shots per 90 minutes, which SportLogiq estimates is the best of any CPLer in the Spring season.
10 – Goals from Easton Ongaro
Beaston Ongaro as he’s affectionately known.
Picked by Cavalry, the 6-foot-6 centre-forward went through training camp but was ultimately snubbed, and he landed in Edmonton with FCE coach Jeff Paulus.
‘Thank you very much, lads,’ Paulus presumably said, because the 21-year-old has been nothing short of superb. A staggering 10 goals, a couple of assists and some premier positional play has given the University of Alberta standout quite the springboard for a professional career.
3 – HFX & Eddies feature maximum draft content in Year 1
How about all three?
Jeff Paulus and Stephen Hart took clear advantage of last year’s university selection, using three USPORTS products from May to October.
HFX’s selections of Schaale, Bona and Oxner have been part of a solid East Coast backline all season. FCE’s drafted players – Ongaro, James and Ajeej Sakaria – played a big part in the club’s mid-season winning run.