July 14, 2024
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Canadiana Premier League Exceptional Young Talent

The CPL’s First Six Exceptional Young Talent Players

By on June 23, 2024 0 745 Views

With Cavalry FC signing 17-year-old striker Chanan Chanda to an Exceptional Young Talent contract – something we surmised was afoot back in March – we wanted to take a look and see what youngsters are stepping into the roster spots made available by the league.

For those new to the Exceptional Young Talent rule, the CPL introduced it last summer as a way to encourage clubs to sign promising Canadian youth prospects to professional deals: each team can assign two U-18 domestic athletes on standard player contracts to that category, where they don’t count against the club’s salary cap and remain eligible for that EYT roster spot up to and including the year they turn 21.

In short, a CPL athlete on an Exceptional Young Talent rule is likely to be a promising youngster who sits outside of the club’s main 23-man roster, giving their side much more flexibility in roster construction.

Without further ado, here’s the first six Canadian teenagers to earn EYT contracts in Canada’s top flight:

Cavalry FC Chanan Chanda
Photo Credit: Mike Sturk

Cavalry FC – Chanan Chanda

Cavalry FC unveiled 17-year-old forward Chanan Chanda as the club’s first-ever Exceptional Young Talent signing on Friday, just hours before the Calgarian teen made his club debut against Atletico Ottawa. Signing a two-and-a-half year deal with an option for 2027, he looks to be a promising addition.

We surmised that Chanda was set for Cavalry after he turned heads in preseason, though the youngster first had to demonstrate his prowess in League1 Alberta: scoring seven goals in just as many games, the L1AB golden boot leader was felt to be ready to enter the professional ranks with a club well-known for maximizing potential.

“He is an intelligent forward that can score goals, create them, and has effective defensive pressing too,” said Tommy Wheeldon Jr. on the teen. “He is also an outstanding young man with an infectious personality. Credit to the CMSA youth clubs that helped develop him for this opportunity. We look forward to supporting him on his first professional chapter with his hometown club.”

With Cavalry signing him to a multi-year deal, it’ll be interesting to see how Chanda progresses in the seasons to come.

Forge FC Kadim Kane
Photo Credit: Canadian Premier League

Forge FC – Khadim Kane

Arriving as a depth signing last season, 19-year-old defensive midfielder Khadim Kane came in before the Exceptional Young Talent rule was made official. When it was, however, Forge designated him a roster spot under the category immediately, making him another forever first in the Forge history books.

The six-foot-three Senegal-born athlete had come in from CF Montreal’s U-23 Ligue1 Quebec side, with the younger brother of Mamadou Kane going on to make fifteen appearances in his first pro season. Most of those were off the bench, and that’s a theme that continues in his sophomore campaign: he’s made seven appearances all off the bench in 2024, average just six-and-a-half minutes per appearance.

Halifax Wanderers – Tavio Ciccarelli

The Halifax Wanderers have struggled to produce goals this season, so the acquisition of Sheffield United prospect Tavio Ciccarelli will hopefully be one worth the wait: the club is still awaiting his ITC in July, so even though Tavio signed last month he’s not able to make his Wanderers debut just yet.

The Winnipeg-born forward put pen to paper on a three year deal out east after two seasons with the Sheffield United Academy, who described him as a tricky forward who found consistency in net, though some niggling injuries saw him miss a chunk of gametime whilst abroad.

He’s also a Canada U-20 team athlete, having scored a hat-trick against Saint Vincent and the Grenadines this February. If he can hit similar notes in the CPL, it’ll be job well done for the Halifax front office.

Vancouver FC James Cameron
Photo Credit: Beau Chevalier

Vancouver FC – James Cameron

Alongside his teammate TJ Tahid, James Cameron‘s Exceptional Young Talent contract was announced in tandem with the rule itself. It was a logical fit, with the 19-year-old’s rookie season seeing him earn massive plaudits. He only missed one match that season after his debut on June 11, with the full-back leading his team in tackles per game and duals won before earning Best Canadian U-21 Player nomination.

After trialing with Luton Town this offseason, however, Cameron has fallen out of favour as a starter: he’s appeared in only half of Vancouver’s league games this season, getting limited minutes mostly from the bench to help fill in for injuries. Midfielder Elliot Simmons had a similar fallout after trialing in England, though he opted to leave VFC afterwards. For this Exceptional Young Talent, it remains to be seen if he rallies back with the Eagles following his head-turning rookie season.

Vancovuer FC TJ Tahid Juan Cordova
Photo Credit: John Jacques

Vancouver FC – TJ Tahid

TJ Tahid made history last season as the the Canadian Premier League’s youngest player at the time of his signing, inking a professional contract at the age of sixteen years and sixteen days. With James Cameron, he become the first Exceptional Young Talent athletes when the rule was made official months later, and the Canada U-17 midfielder introduced himself well to Canada’s top flight with three goals in twenty appearances.

A Chat With The Canadian Premier League’s Youngest Pro

Following an offseason trial with Feyenoord, Tahid’s sophomore season has seen Ghotbi use him fairly sparingly: he’s made four appearances averaging 25 minutes apiece, starting only once. Still, the Maple Ridge-born midfielder has a high ceiling and we expect he’ll take his opportunities when they come.

York United Shola Jimoh
Photo Credit: York United FC

York United – Shola Jimoh

Former TFC Academy standout Shola Jimoh‘s path to York United began last year through the United Football Academy, who’s partnership with the CPL side stopped after the new owners came in.

Jimoh, 16, reportedly impressed in the club’s Mexico-based preseason camp, signing a Exceptional Young Talent earlier this month before making his debut against Vancouver FC. Club President Ricardo Pasquel thinks he has a lot of upside, describing him as a teenager with not only an impressive skillset and technical ability, but terrific attitude and spirit, too.

Having only come off the bench for an added time debut, it’ll be interesting to see how the sixteen-year-old develops on a three-year deal with a club option for 2027.

We’ve now seen just over half the league take advantage of the Exceptional Young Talent rule, though we’re still waiting to see what domestic rising star lures Pacific FC, Valour FC, and Atletico Ottawa into using one of limited roster spots. Half of the current EYT athletes have come in this season, so it’ll be fun to watch their development as they mature in Canada’s top flight.

Header Image Photo Credits: John Jacques, Mike Sturk, Canadian Premier League

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