2024 CNPL Draft Recap

Lions Start Rebuild by Selecting Montreal Native Ernesto Fajardo 1st Overall

While it wasn’t a huge surprise, considering his showing at the East qualifier, the Montreal Lions began the process of rebuilding their entire team with area native Ernesto Fajardo. He was followed closely by the only other pick in the first round, veteran Jessica Kawamoto, who returned to the Northern Rollers, who also had to draft a whole team from the top down.

Fajardo, who is an accomplished player, competed in 20 games at the East qualifier, winning 13, including a respectable 6-3 mark in mixed doubles.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the draft was the last pick by champion Toronto United, “Mr. Irrelevant” Chris Alain. We say his nickname tongue-in-cheek of course, as we were probably as surprised as anyone else that he was still available with the eighth and last pick of the 6th round. He was a warrior with the Smash, being Player of the Match once and logging a 13-11 game record in 12 total matches.

What follows is a team-by-team draft list and brief synopsis.

Montreal Lions

  1. Ernesto Fajardo (1st Round, 1st overall) – see above.
  2. Luis-Charles Amyot (2nd Round, 3rd overall) – Amyot was the no. 1 player at the East Qualifier, fashioning a superb overall record of 18-2.
  3. Anne-Sophie Courteau (3rd Round, 6th overall) – Just began playing pickleball in January, so a pretty surprising pick by the Lions.
  4. Jade-Cassandra Laporte (4th Round, 11th overall) – A former tennis pro and another area native
  5. Antoaneta Toskova (5th Round, 18th overall) – Bulgarian born native to Laval, QC. Former high level tennis player.
  6. Mathieu Morneau (6th Round, 26th overall) – Former high level badminton player, he acquitted himself well at the East Qualifier, going 12-7 overall, including a stellar 6-2 in doubles play.

Northern Rollers

  1. Jessica Kawamoto (1st Round, 2nd overall) – One of the more dynamic players in the CNPL, no shocker that she was selected second overall by the team she played with in 2023. The Hamilton native played in 17 matches in 2023, with a 14-20 win-loss mark overall.
  2. Ryan Torresin (2nd Round, 4th overall) – The Rollers did well to get Torresin, a former Division 1 golf and tennis standout turned pickleball pro. He was second behind Luis-Charles Amyot in qualifier results, going 14-4 overall, with an admirable 8-2 record in Mixed Doubles.
  3. Casey Rodgers (3rd Round, 7th overall) – The Rollers should be jazzed to have taken Rodgers in this spot. The former member of the Vancouver Rush was an integral part of their playoff push and was named Player of the Match on five separate occasions during league and playoff action.
  4. Matt Stodola (4th Round, 12th overall) – The Rollers reached into the veteran pool once again and got a solid pick in Stodola. He was an invaluable part of the Prairie Pronghorns and will add great depth to the Rollers remade roster. The 40-year-old was Player of the Match once in 2023 and was 18-20 overall in 19 matches.
  5. Tara Di Giuseppe (5th Round, 19th Overall) A Toronto native who owns a fairly high DUPR. Relatively unknown but highly regarded in the GTA pickleball scene.
  6. Corey Osborne (6th Round, 27th Overall) One of the older players, and also manager of the Rollers, Osborne is a very good player who returns to lead the Rollers in an entirely new direction with four new players in the fold.

Southwestern Ontario Brewers

  1. Amanda Rosati (2nd Round 5th overall) – A Rochester, New York native who is new to the Canadian pickleball scene. She has an excellent DUPR rating and was highly regarded at qualifiers.
  2. Victoria DiMuzio (3rd Round 8th overall) – A Burlington Ontario native who also did well at qualifiers.
  3. Mikael Gaumond (4th Round 14th overall) – He came out of the East qualifier third ranked and will be a nice addition to a re-tooled Brewers roster. He was 11-8 overall in qualifying games.
  4. Kyle Hermetz (5th Round 21st overall) – The Brewers may have stole one here, as the Mississauga native had a great Central qualifier, recording a 13-7 mark. He and Gaumond should flourish under the tutelage of returning Brewers veteran Mark Cleminson.
  5. Reese George (6th Round 29th overall) – Kudos to the Brewers, who were fortunate enough to get George back late in the draft. The always smiling and previously undrafted pickleballer did very well in the playoffs after having not played in the regular season.

Prairie Pronghorns

  1. Emma Li (3rd Round, 9th overall) – With just Kim Brent and Brad Chapman returning, perhaps it was a no-brainer selecting the youngish (19) Li with their first pick in the draft. She was a good player for the Rollers and is a nice veteran addition to a mostly remade Pronghorns team.
  2. Jeff Elwood (4th Round, 15th overall) – Sean McCartan’s plan for 2024 involves veterans, with the 44-year-old Elwood surprisingly being left on the board until this pick. He is a well-rounded and exciting player (three Player of the Match awards in 2023) who will provide leadership and mentorship.
  3. Michael McCaffrey (5th Round, 22nd overall) – Another relative unknown, McCaffrey was better than average at the West qualifier, winning 11 and losing 9 in all games.
  4. Kaytlynn Soroka (6th Round 30th overall) – She may not be known to all aficionados in the CNPL, but she is known to fellow team member and veteran Chapman, as the two are due to be married soon.

West Coast Wolverines

  1. Sabrina Lam (3rd Round 10th overall) – The official 10th overall pick is highly regarded but relatively unknown. She is a Victoria, BC native who did quite well at the West qualifier.
  2. Natalie Araya (4th Round 17th overall) – A D1 tennis star from the Mi Tennessee Blue Raiders, Natalie was a national champion and All-American in Junior College.
  3. Sarah Dufour (5th Round 24th overall) – A stellar player out of Quebec, Dufour is a solid addition to the Wolverines.
  4. Jonas Dahler (6th Round 32nd overall) – The Wolverines, like Toronto United, stole one in Dahler, who will add a veteran presence and a hunger for more after a so-so campaign with the Northern Rollers. The Swiss native will be most welcome by fellow Wolverines vets Haddow Thul and Joel Pelletier.

Vancouver Rush

  1. Joe Willemsen (4th Round, 13th overall) – His record at the West qualifier wasn’t all that remarkable (8-11 overall) but he made an impression on the Rush, who made him their first pick. He does well joining Brett Forsythe.
  2. Sophia Racine (4th Round 16th overall) – A native of Montreal and a former high level hockey player, Racine just recently picked up the game and in six months was playing at the highest level in her home province.
  3. Eugene Mak (5th Round, 23rd overall) – Mak could be the sleeper of the draft, as he was a superb 14-2 overall in West qualifier games and very highly regarded in pickleball circles.
  4. Ava Weeks (6th Round, 28th overall) – She comes into the CNPL as one of the better junior pickleballers in the country, as well as the top-ranked junior female player in Alberta in 2023.

East Toronto Smash

  1. Nathan Choi (5th Round, 20th overall) – Given that he has a pretty mercurial temperament, we are quite surprised Choi was still on the board in the fifth round, considering his talent level and drive. We are also quite sure Dalbir Bhandal will love having him in the fold.
  2. Daiho Ozawa (6th Round 31st overall) – His sister Atsuko played in the CNPL and Daiho is a former standout tennis player and big in B.C. pickleball circles.

Toronto United

  1. Joanna Phang (5th Round, 25th overall) – The former tennis player and highly rated native of Waterloo, Ontario did very well at the Central qualifier, going 11-9 in all games enough to catch the eye of the champion United club.
  2. Chris Alain (6th Round 33rd overall) – Like we said above, the 33rd and last player selected in the 2024 CNPL draft is an absolute theft for United, who still have Matt Kawamoto, Mark Gottfried, Hannah Blatt and Carolina Hack in the fold.

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