The most talked about Canadian at the MLS combine this year may just have been a player who was not even there. The league's continued pursuit of Cyle Larin looks like it will come up short in the end as the player is looking for a higher wage than in typically offered to Generation Adidas targets. If Larin had signed he would have caused quite the shakeup at the top of a draft that is lacking in quality attacking options but instead he looks set to return to the University of Conneticut for his sophomore year.
The absence of Larin does not leave the draft completely without Canadians capable of having their name called. There are three players with ties to Canada that took place in the MLS combine over the weekend. It is an interesting trio of players who took quite varied routes to get to draft day but there is a chance that their could be two Canadians taken in the first two rounds.
Heading into the combine the highest rated Canadian was forward Mackenzie Pridham. The Toronto born forward has the benefit of a green card thanks to attending high school in California before spending four years at Cal Poly. In college he tallied 27 goals and was named Big West Offensive Player of the Year in each of his final two seasons.
Pridham is capable of scoring goals in a variety of ways and has found the back of the net consistently the past two years. The big question mark is how that will translate when he makes the move to MLS as the Big West is not exactly known for being a tough conference to score goals in. If he is going to find success in MLS it will come the same way it did for him in college. He can finish with both feet and his head and is quite strong on the ball allowing him to be used with his back to the goal when needed. While Pridham lacks real top end speed he has shown a nice bit of acceleration that allows him to create that yard of space he needs to find a shooting chance.
In mock drafts that have included a second round Pridham seems to be popping up around the 30th pick. That seems to be about fair based on what close observers of the college game have been saying about him. He could be a steal for a team in the second round but there are too many question marks about his ability to score in MLS to make him worth a first round pick.
Toronto FC could take a good hard look at drafting him at either 15th or 24th though should he still be on the board. They will know Pridham better than any other team in MLS as he spent six weeks working with the club last summer and the whole coaching staff are familiar with what he has to offer. If TFC do take him they would have the luxury of being able to ease him in to playing time as he would start off well down the depth chart.
Pridham is not the only player with Canadian ties that could have his name called on draft day. In fact, one of the players who has been drawing major attention at the combine just happens to be Calgary born Tesho Akindele. His performances on the first two days had teams buzzing and seven different clubs had interviews with him on Monday thanks to those showings. Some observers are even suggesting that he has done enough to potentially sneak into the first round on draft day.
He has pretty much come out of nowhere to impress though as Akindele leaves Division II school Colorado School of MInes as their all time leading scorer having notched almost as many goals as appearances including twice scoring more than 20 goals. The problem was he did all that in DII which meant that a lot of it went unnoticed by observers.
He may have been relatively obscure while playing in DII but it seems that was all part of Akindele's plan as he passed up the chance to join the Colorado Rapids academy or attend schools in Division I as he was focused on getting a quality education. Now he is nearly completed a degree in electrical engineering from a highly regarded school and still could find his way into the first round of the SuperDraft.
Akindele has the raw abilities that make scouts sit up and pay attention as he is fast and strong. When he gets the ball in space and can run at defenders he is capable of causing problems. As his scoring record in school shows he is more than capable of hitting the back of the net when the chances do come. The fact that he can play on the wing or up top will also appeal to teams.
He does have some pretty major knocks though about his technical ability. He is far from a polished player and can struggle with turning on the ball and knowing where to go to find space when up against stronger defenders. He seems to have answered some of those questions in the combine though as his stock seems to have risen from relative unknown to a potential project for a team that is impressed by his physical abilities.
You will be hard pressed to find a mock draft that actually includes Akindele even if they do a full two rounds. Simply put he just was not on anyone's radar before the combine. That has changed now and it will be interesting to see if someone takes a chance on him. He will be most familiar to the Rapids as he did make the odd guest appearance with their academy sides.
Tomislav Zadro is the third Canadian who could have his name called at the draft. He was born in Bosnia and Herzegovina but he grew up in Toronto before moving to Illinois where he began his college career playing for Illinois Central College. In his two seasons at the school he racked up an impressive 20 goals and 22 assists in just 28 matches.
Zadro then transferred to Wisconsin where he put in two more impressive seasons despite missing all of the 2012 season recovering from ACL surgery. He totalled 10 goals and 16 assists while picking up the honour of Big East Offensive Player of the Year as a senior.
His college resume is impressive but he seems to be well down the draft board for most clubs as their are more appealing options in the midfield. He has the skill to play at the next level with his abilities on set pieces likely to appeal to clubs but the big draw back is that he is quite lacking on the athletic side of things. He lacks the pace to cause problems on the wing, he is not strong enough to play in the middle of the park, and he is too reliant on his left foot.
His left foot should be enough to convince someone to take a chance on him though. Not many players in the draft have the ability to deliver quality set pieces and serve as a play maker. The negatives should ensure he drops out of the early rounds though but could be a steal if given the chance to overcome his short comings which he might just do as he is a very intelligent player.
On the whole, none of the Canadians should be expected to go in the early stages of the draft but come the end of round one all three names are worth keeping an eye out for. The good news for Pridham and Akindele is that they have green cards and would count as domestic for every club in the league which will make them more attractive options than Zadro who may have to rely on one of the Canadian teams taking a chance on him.