Acadia Mines CHL For Future Players

The Acadia Grizzly Bears went CHL heavy during the 2023 SICHL Draft by using 9 of their 11 selections on players from Major Junior Hockey.
by Marcel Cormier | September 27, 2023, 7:30 PM ET

"It's been the top prducer of SICHL talent for years and that's not going to change any time soon," said Acadia head scout Chris McCarthy, "We like the USHL and we've taken several players from that league, typically guys that need a longer runway via college hockey, but it doesn't compare to the Canadian Hockey League. I'm sorry, it just doesn't."

The topic seems to be one that is gaining some momentum recently as some in the hockey community try and make an argument that the CHL has lost its spot at the top of the prospect development model but the Bears aren't buying it.

"The USHL is a very good league, I'm not trying to say that it isn't, but the numbers people are throwing around about how many players are coming from there and making impacts at the SICHL level, they're lumping the US-NTDP in with actual full-time USHL players and that's really misleading. The guys in the NTDP play two years in the program and in each of those years, they play less than half of their games in the USHL. They've got a heavy international schedule and also play a lot of NCAA opponents too. You look at a guy like Cutter Gauthier a couple of years ago as an example. He played 32 USHL games with the U17 team and then only 22 the next year in his draft season. That's a total of 54 games over two seasons in a league where they play 62 regular season games in a year."

"It's misleading but the league uses the program, despite it's very part-time status, to inflate their numbers. They'll claim they had more players drafted from their league than anyone else but in reality, minus the NTDP, they are typically less than the three CHL leagues and most of their players are taken outside of the top 2 rounds. The argument that the USHL is as good or better than the CHL is junk."

It should be pointed out that Acadia often dips into the USHL, or other NCAA feeder leagues like the AJHL and BCHL, when it comes to the SICHL Draft. In fact, in 2022 the Bears made 15 selections and only two were on CHL players. 

"There are many factors that go into our draft strategy every year - where are we with our current pool of prospects and how close are they to being ready to contribute to our team? Some years may be either a down year or a banner year for a particular league and then it also matter on where our draft picks fall too. This year I would suggest that it was about the high quality of the CHL crop, the lack of depth in the USHL (apart from the NTDP which is always strong since it's an all-star team of American talent) and our general disinterest in the majority of European players."


Acadia had a list of four names to target with their trio of 1st round picks and were able to choose the three they realistically projected that they would. 

"We had one player listed that we didn't honestly think would be available when we picked first but it almost worked out, not quite but we were prepared to take him if he'd slipped just a little further."

24th overall: Calum Ritchie (C) Oshawa Generals - The 6'2, right handed center was a point per game scorer last season despite playing through an injury for much of the year. Ritchie was Canada's top scorer at the 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup and was 3rd in scoring at the 2023 World U18s. "We look at him and where he is in his career right now and remember how we felt about Ryan O'Reilly at the same age when we drafted him. We can forsee Ritchie developing into a similar style of player with maybe a little more offensive upside without losing any of his defensive traits. He's also a leader."

28th overall: Adam Gajan (G) Chippewa Steel - One of two non-CHLers to be chosen this year by Acadia, Gajan's breakout performance for Slovakia at the 2023 U20 World Junior Championship helped establish his USS ranking as the top goaltender available in the draft class. "We had Adam's name written down for this pick but I'll admit that when Banff surprised everyone by taking a different goalie with the 20th pick, we were a little nervous and considered taking him 24th. In the end we stuck with our list and thankfully Adam was still available where we planned to take him. We think he's still got a ton of potential and will benefit a lot from eventually going the college path to Minnesota Duluth. Unfortunately the Bulldogs don't have room for him this year and he'll have to play a season in the USHL but it's not the end of the world. In 2024-25, he should be the starter at UMD. Goalies take time, there is no rush."

30th overall: Ethan Gauthier (RW) Sherbrooke Phoenix - Gauthier scored 30 goals for Sherbrooke last season and will looked to be even more offensive this year after being acquired by the Drummondville Voltigeurs. The 6'0 forward was 3rd in scoring for Canada at the 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup. "Another guy cut from a similar cloth as Ritchie and quite honestly, it wouldn't shock me if they were linemates for us one day. Like Ritchie, Ethan can play very well at both ends of the ice so we feel very confident that he'll have a long SICHL career."

ROUND 2      

Armed with five picks in the round, Acadia had a deeper shortlist of players that they were keen on. They did not get all of them. "There were maybe a dozen names that we had written down that we felt could potentially be available and while we got our guy at 44, the players we were targeting at 47, 48 and 54 were all gone so we had to improvise a bit. 

44th overall: Etienne Morin (D) Moncton Wildcasts - He's average sized at 6'0 and 185 lbs but he hits like a truck and he fires the puck like a cannon. Skating may be a work in progress but shouldn't hold him back. "We can work on skating and I think it's more of a mechanical thing. His natural affinity for crushing people is not something you can easily teach; you're either built that way or you're not. Then there is the fact that he was 2nd in QMJHL scoring by a defenceman (21 goals, 72 points) and you can see why we made him a priority."

47th overall: Gracyn Sawchyn (C) Seattle Thunderbirds - Another point-per-game player, Sawchyn was part of a ridicuously deep T-Birds team that captured the WHL Championship and played in the final of the Memorial Cup. Slightly undersized at 5'11 and 165 lbs, Sawchyn is more playmaker than goal scorer although 18 lamp-lighters is worth noting. "We think he'll be a top line player in Seattle this year as that team lost a chunk of it's roster over the summer. It will be a good test for him and I hope he's challenged by the added responsibility. We like him a lot but maybe last year was a little too easy for him."

48th overall: Lukas Dragicevic (D) Tri-City Americans - Only three defencemen outscored Dragicevic last year and all of them were in their final WHL year. Dragicevic's 75 points were only 6 off the lead and were exceptional for a 17-year-old. "I know some will say that he's got a lot of work to do in his own end but his skating is so effortless that he can make up for errors that others can't. You can't overlook offence like that, especially in today's SICHL."

54th overall: Koehn Ziemmer (RW) Prince George Cougars - Speaking of offence, 18-year-old Ziemmer scored 41 goals and 89 points for the Cougars. The 6'0, 210 lb winger can also play the physical style of game that Acadia's scouting staff is drawn to. "Offensive skill and IQ are the first things we look for but if you find a guy that also brings an element of destruction with him, well he can play on my team any day of the week and twice on Saturdays. His skating isn't his greatest asset but it won't hold him back either."

60th overall: Nico Myatovic (LW/RW) Seattle Thunderbirds - Ziemmer was originally slotted for this pick or the next one in the early 3rd round but as the draft unfolded, Acadia's target list shrank. At this point, every player the Bears felt comfortable taking in the top 60 were all gone. However, there was still one player that USS had ranked much higher that was still available. "We saw Nico still sitting in the stands with his parents and felt, why is this 6'2, 30-goal scorer not gone already? It was like in 2017 when no one seemed to want Mario Ferraro so he fell to us and look what he's done since? Nico isn't perfect but he's a natural goal scorer with size and we'll go from there."


61st overall: Yegor Sidorov (RW) Saskatoon Blades - Past over in 2022, Sidorov used that as motivation in Saskatoon by scoring 40 goals in just 53 games for the Blades. Then the Belarussian had 19 points in 16 playoff games before being sidelined in the series against Winnipeg. "Some would suggest that Saskatoon may be the top team in the WHL's eastern conference this year and if so, a large reason for that is Sidorov. I don't think I have ever seen anyone enjoy scoring goals more than this kid. Average skater but offensive skills like few his age."

84th overall: Gavin McCarthy (D) Muskegon Lumberjacks - A decent sized, all-around style of defenceman that might not excel in any one department but is quite capable in all of them. He's not going to be the most physical or lead the team in scoring, he might not be the #1 guy on the power play or the top shutdown guy but he might be #2 in all of those departments. Going to Boston University for 2023-24. "I think he was the 5th ranked player from the USHL accoring to USS, obviously not including the US-NTDP players. It's the 3rd round, you start throwing darts."


111th overall: Carter Sotheran (D) Portland Winterhawks - At 6'3 and 210 lbs, Sotheran is the physical stay-at-home defenceman that anchors a blueline corps. "He had 23 points last year but as far as we are concerned, any points from him are a bonus. We expect him to be a tough guy for opposing forward to beat and when he sets them on their butt, he takes the puck and moves it up to the skilled forwards. He starts the offence from his own end. If he crosses the other team's blueline at all, it's a bonus."

117th overall: Vojtech Port (D) Edmonton Oil Kings - The Oil Kings struggled last season only winning 10 games all year but the Czech defenceman was arguably the team's most consitently reliable player until he went down to a season ending injury. "Port stodd out on a very young team and looked mature beyond his years. If he can build on that this season, he's got a lot of upside. He may play in the U20 World Junior Championship as early as this year and that's hard to do as a 18-year-old. He's got size and skates very well."

120th overall: Vladislav Nikitin (G) Victoria Grizzlies - "He's a 6'4 goaltender from Kazakhstan so who knows. We wanted the 6'6 goalie from Italy so I guess this is us taking a big netminder from a weird country and hoping for the best."


Bear Tracks

  • Prospects Conner Roulette (Spokane) and Carson Latimer (Red Deer) are off to hot starts in the Western Hockey League. Both have 4 points after 2 games. 
  • Netminder Adam Gajan (Green Bay) managed a 1.96 GAA and .929 sv% after the USHL's annual Fall Classic during which he started both games for the Gamblers.
  • Goaltender Mason Beaupit has been cut by the Wenatchee Wild who needed to trim their 2003-born players down to three. Beaupit is expected to play the rest of this season in the USHL with the Muskegon Lumberjacks.
  • Acadia has 11 restricted free agents to contend with. 10 of those players will absolutely be resigned to new contracts but management has not yet commited to bringing back defenceman Chase Priskie as the team debates freeing up one spot to remain in compliance with the league's 100-asset rule. Free agency is not an avenue that Acadia normally operates in but every year there are one or two potential targets so it may be a pre-emptive decision to move on from Priskie or potentially release a currently unsigned player. 


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