OTTAWA (Courtesy: Jeff Krever, CFL) – The draft is in the books but for Canadian Football League teams there's no time to rest.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE (including ticket info): http://english.cis-sic.ca/eastwestbowl
A new draft year has kicked off in Montreal with a week of events culminating in the 14th annual CIS East-West Bowl on Saturday, May 14 at 1 p.m. ET at Percival Molson Memorial Stadium.
The prospects game will be hosted by McGill University for the second straight season, highlighting many of the country's top draft-eligible players for the 2017 CFL Draft.
The contest will be streamed live on CIS-SIC.tv.
The 2016 edition included three days of practices which started on Wednesday, a combine for participating players and a CFL free-agent camp, as well as the traditional banquet.
The East squad is comprised – for the most part - of players from the AUS and RSEQ conferences, in addition to Carleton, Ottawa and Queen's. The West contingent is made up of student-athletes from the Canada West conference and the remaining OUA universities.
For fans looking to get a sneak peek at the top prospects for next year's CFL Draft, there's no better place than the East-West Bowl. All four CIS standout selected in the first round of Tuesday night's Draft participated in last year's showcase, including Laval offensive lineman Philippe Gagnon (second overall), Acadia wide receiver Brian Jones (fourth) as well as two more Laval O-linemen, Charles Vaillancourt (fifth) and Jason Lauzon-Seguin (seventh).
Queen's receiver Doug Corby meanwhile was selected in the sixth round by the Edmonton Eskimos, after last year dominating in the East-West Bowl with a record-setting three touchdown receptions and 131 yards through the air.
In all, 29 of the 53 CIS players picked in the 2016 CFL Draft participated in last year's East-West Bowl, including six chosen in the first two rounds, four from the third round and six in the fourth round.
For the players, this is the time to start turning heads.
"It's the first time scouts focus on the top CIS prospects in the 2017 CFL Draft class," said CFL.ca insider Justin Dunk. "First impressions are always important."
St. Francis Xavier pivot Dante Djan and Guelph quarterback James Roberts will lead the East while Manitoba's 6-foot-5 gunslinger Theo Deezar will take control of the West offence along with McMaster pivot Asher Hastings.
Hastings, a Regina native, will be one to watch this weekend after averaging 323.3 yards per game last fall (fifth in the CIS) and leading the country with a CIS single-season record 31 TD passes.
Carleton's Nathaniel Behar, McMaster's Danny Vandervoort and Saskatchewan's Mitch Hillis will likely be common targets on Saturday, especially Hillis -- the CIS leader in receptions with 66 in 2015 and ranked third in yards (1,052) and yards per game (131.5).
Also put Laval offensive lineman Jean-Simon Roy in the category of players to watch after a total of five Rouge et Or O-linemen were selected in the first round of the last two drafts, most recently Gagnon, Vaillancourt and Lauzon-Seguin. The 6-foot-3, 290-pounder, who tied for the lead in the bench press at Wednesday's combine with 36 repetitions of 225 pounds, will be difficult to beat for anyone on the West side, including Laurier's Kwaku Boateng, a 6-foot-2, 240-pound lineman who had four sacks and nine tackles for a loss in 2015, the latter good for ninth in the country.
Of all the players to watch, Dunk says don't miss 6-foot-2, 300-pound Montreal defensive lineman Junior Luke. He didn't dominate on the stat sheet by any means last fall with 7.5 tackles in eight league games but is an imposing figure on the D-line.
"He's a big, athletic load on the defensive line," said Dunk of the 2015 Mitchell Bowl MVP. "Agile for a 300-plus pounder. He can stuff the run and rush the passer at the CIS level."
Returning to coach the East for a second straight season is Montreal Carabins bench boss and former Grey Cup-winning head coach Danny Maciocia, who led the East to a 29-21 win a year ago at Molson Stadium after guiding Montreal to the first CIS national championship in program history in 2014. Maciocia has coached the Carabins in back-to-back Vanier Cup appearances.
He'll be opposed by Blake Nill, who will coach the West after directing the UBC Thunderbirds to their first Vanier Cup triumph since 1997, with a thrilling 26-23 win over Maciocia's Carabins last fall in Quebec City.
The East has won the last two Bowl games and five of the past six. However, the West still leads the all-time series 7-6.
EAST-WEST BOWL RESULTS:
2015 (at McGill): East 29, West 21
2014 (at Western): East 19, West 12
2013 (at Western): West 18, East 17
2012 (at Western): East 24, West 16
2011 (at Western): East 34, West 27 (OT)
2010 (at Western): East 12, West 9
2009 (at Western): West 16, East 7
2008 (at McMaster): East 25, West 12
2007 (at Laval): West 22, East 19 (OT)
2006 (at Laval): West 34, East 26 (OT)
2005 (at Laurier): West 34, East 16
2004 (at Laurier): West 21, East 12
2003 (at Laurier): West 10, East 5