February 25th, 2024

Valour FC takes Cape Breton winger Owen Sheppard first in CPL-U Sports draft

By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press on December 14, 2023.

University of Cape Breton winger Owen Sheppard (centre, #7) celebrates with teammates in a recent handout photo. Valour FC selected Sheppard first overall in Thursday's CPL-U Sports draft. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-CPL **MANDATORY CREDIT**

Valour FC selected University of Cape Breton winger Owen Sheppard first overall in Thursday’s CPL-U Sports draft.

Sheppard, a native of St. John’s, becomes the first player drafted from Newfoundland by a CPL team. He scored nine goals in 11 matches this season for Canadian champion Cape Breton. A first-team all-Canadian, he scored three goals and was named MVP at the national championships.

Sheppard was one of three Cape Breton players taken in the two-round draft, meaning the Capers have now seen a record 15 players taken in the CPL-U Sports draft. Cape Breton players have played 176 CPL games in total, the most of any school.

The draft is open to any U-Sports underclassmen with one to four years of eligibility remaining, provided they are in good standing with their school’s athletic program and educational institution and are planning to return to school the following year.

Once selected, players may be invited to pre-season training with their Canadian Premier League club, where they can compete for a roster spot for the 2024 CPL season.

Eryk Kobza is one of the draft’s success stories. Taken 14th overall last year, the University of Calgary defender/midfielder won a job with Cavalry FC.

Cavalry and Vancouver FC swung a trade in advance of the draft with Cavalry sending its second-round pick (15th overall) and future considerations to Vancouver in exchange for the 10th pick in the draft.

Vancouver used the second pick to take UBC midfielder Luke Norman, a Whitecaps academy product, with Atletico Ottawa selecting Carleton captain/midfielder Luca Piccioli. Both players have previously trained with the team that selected them.

York United FC also went local with the fourth pick, taking York University midfielder Christian Zeppieri. A first-team all-Canadian, Zeppieri joined York ahead of the 2023 season after four years in the Toronto FC academy.

Playing for Vaughan Azzurri in League1 Ontario, Zeppieri came off the bench against CF Montreal in Canadian Championship play earlier this year.

HFX Wanderers FC took Cape Breton goalkeeper Daniel Clarke with the fifth pick.

Born in Milton Keynes, England, Clarke began his playing career at Northampton Town before moving to Ontario with his family. Clarke has already spent time in Halifax’s under-23 setup.

Pacific FC took University of Toronto forward Michael Maslanka with the sixth pick. Cavalry FC then chose Mount Royal defender Caden Rogozinki, whom they also picked two years ago.

CPL champion Forge FC then closed out the first round by taking UQTR midfielder Mouhamed Ndiaye, who helped his school win the RSEQ title this season.

Winnipeg’s Valour opened the second round by taking University of Windsor defender Frank Facchineri, a former Canada under-17 captain.

Midfielder Jason Hartill was the third Cape Breton player taken when he went 12th overall to York United.

Some 203 players declared for the draft.

In other CPL news Thursday, York United announced Martin Nash signed a new contract that extends his stay as head coach. Nash, a former Canadian international, took over York in December 2021.

“I’m extremely happy and humbled to remain with the Nine Stripes because I genuinely feel there’s unfinished business from the past two years,” the 47-year-old Nash said in a statement.

York, which finished fifth last season at 11-12-5, was recently purchased by Mexican brothers Eduardo, Miguel and Ricardo Pasquel.

CPL-U Sports Draft

First Round

1. Valour FC, Owen Sheppard, forward, Cape Breton University (St. John’s, N.L.); 2. Vancouver FC, Luke Norman, midfielder UBC (Vancouver); 3. Atletico Ottawa, Luca Piccioli, midfielder, Carleton (Ottawa); York United FC, Christian Zeppieri, midfielder, York University (Maple, Ont.); Halifax Wanderers, Daniel Clarke, goalkeeper, Cape Breton University (Toronto); 6. Pacific FC, Michael Maslanka, forward, | University of Toronto (Mississauga, Ont.); 7. Cavalry FC, Caden Rogozinski, defender, Mount Royal (Calgary); 8. Forge FC, Mouhamed Ndiaye, midfielder, UQTR (Trois-Rivieres, Que.).

Second Round 9. Valour FC, Frank Facchineri, defender, University of Windsor (Windsor, Ont.); 10. Cavalry FC: Rodane Cato, midfielder, University of Alberta (Edmonton); 11. Atletico Ottawa: Samuel Laplante, defender, UQTR (Saint-Julie, Que.); 14 York United FC, Jason Hartill, midfielder, Cape Breton University (Carleton Place, Ont.); 13. Halifax Wanderers FC: Max Bodurtha, defender, St. Francis Xavier University (Halifax); 14. Pacific FC, Ibrahem Saadi, defender, Western University (London, Ont.); 15. Vancouver FC, Thomas Powell, midfielder, Trinity Western University (Coquitlam, B.C.); 16. Forge FC, Amadou Kone, midfielder, Carleton University (Ottawa).

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 14, 2023

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