Monday, August 15, 2016

V-Reds Stay Local For Recruits

The University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds finally announced their 2016-2017 recruiting class today and it features three players who are all natives of Fredericton and graduates of the V-Reds Prospects Program. Defenceman Matt Murphy and forwards Oliver Cooper and Mark Simpson have all signed Letters of Intent and are expected to suit up for the defending CIS Champion Varsity Reds when the season gets started in September.

Murphy is a 6'2", 196 pound defenceman who enjoyed a stellar five year QMJHL career across four different franchises. He split last season between the Quebec Remparts and Saint John Sea Dogs. posting a career-high 51 points (11 goals, 40 assists) in 68 games. A 2012-2013 Memorial Cup champion with the Halifax Mooseheads, Murphy amassed a total 166 points (34 goals, 132 assists) in 321 regular season games. He added another 33 points (13 goals, 20 assists) in 75 postseason contests.

Cooper also played five seasons in the QMJHL, spending his first three years in Saint John before moving on to the Charlottetown Islanders for his final two seasons. The 6'3", 194 pound centre, who served as the Islanders team captain last year, comes to UNB after putting up 24 goals and 25 assists in 61 games played. His best season came with Saint John in 2013-2014 when he had 57 points (28 goals, 29 assists) in 68 games. For his career the former QMJHL champion had 183 points in 320 regular season games and another 16 points in 31 playoff games.  

Rounding out the class is the 6'5", 187 pound Mark Simpson. Originally born in Fredericton, but now residing in Rothesay, the centre/left winger played four seasons in the QMHJL with Moncton and Acadie-Bathurst. After minimal success with the Wildcats Simpson broke out as a member of the Titan, culminating with a 59 point (20 goals, 39 assists) campaign last year. In 168 career regular season games Simpson put up 124 points (45 goals, 79 assists). He posted 5 points in 11 playoff contests. He was also known for being one of the better face-off men and penalty killers in the league.

While being a rookie in the AUS always comes with an adjustment period, it isn't a stretch to imagine each of these three eventually filling the roles vacated by the three graduating players - defenceman Alex Wall and forwards Tyler Carroll and Taylor MacDougall - and playing a similar style of game. Although there aren't many players who are as smooth skaters as Wall, Murphy appears capable of not only providing solid offense, but also the puck-moving skills from the back-end that Wall was known for. Meanwhile, Cooper is a big body who is strong on the puck and can also score, which sounds a lot like Tyler Carroll. Simpson, on the other hand, "has some of the attributes that Taylor MacDougall brought here, the penalty kill and faceoffs", according to coach Gardiner MacDougall.

Interestingly, the Varsity Reds ended last season with a full roster and have, as far as we know, only lost the aforementioned three graduated players. With these three additions it appears the Varsity Reds will enter the season with the full allotment of 22 skaters, the maximum allowed under the roster cap. This would be a change in philosophy from previous years in which the coaching staff would leave a spot or two open in the event a player becomes available over the Christmas break. If you remember, the V-Reds added Christopher Clapperton and Cam Braes to the roster last season and Dana Fraser the year before that.