Back in April 2019, the CFL ran their first ever European Draft. Nine players were selected from an original 18 who went to the CFL combine that year. Following a lottery we saw the CFL teams get their pick slots, with Hamilton having the first selection.
Once that happened we knew there would be nine European Draft players taken. And that they would be known as global prospects.
However, whether they will still follow this blueprint remains an open question. Will the league become more insular amidst financial restraints and the pain of a lost season?
We do know that the CFL Combine will be virtual this year. And that “the league’s Global Draft will be announced soon.” So we could see European players drafted again.
The question is would it be worth it? Well we have a very small sample size. Because there were only nine players, and because they have only had one season it is difficult to judge.
But let’s see how the pioneers did. What has happened to the first CFL European Draft players ever taken (so far)?
Pick 1 Valentin Gnahoua DL Hamilton Tiger-Cats
The first overall pick in the European Draft signed with the Tiger-Cats in May and was in the squad for the 2019 season.
He made his debut in August against the BC Lions. Gnahoua dressed for 11 regular season games and registered one defensive tackle, four special teams tackles and one forced fumble.
According to the Hamilton website he also played in both of the Tiger-Cats’ playoff games including the 107th Grey Cup versus Winnipeg.
Pick 2 Thiadric Hansen LB Winnipeg Blue Bombers
The number 2 pick was the poster boy of what success could look like for a player taken in the European Draft.
The former Potsdam Royal found a home with the Blue Bombers on the Defensive Line.
Hansen dressed for every game in the 2019 season and became part of the team’s defensive-line rotation, finishing with five tackles, a sack and two forced fumbles.
Then there was the ‘hit heard around the world.’ In the Blue Bombers Grey Cup win in 2019 he had arguably the play of the game on a huge special teams hit. Hansen was released by Winnipeg for the 2020 season so he could go and play for the Wroclaw Panthers of the Liga Futbolu Amerykańskiego (in Poland).
However, Hansen should be back in Winnipeg as he signed a one-year contract extension to remain with the club this January.
Pick 3 Asnnel Robo RB Montreal Alouettes
Robo, out of the University of Montreal played both pre-season games for the Alouettes, making 19 rushing yards and making one catch for 10 yards. But he did not stick with the team.
The Calgary Stampeders briefly picked him up. He appeared in three games for Calgary and was on the team’s practice roster at the conclusion of the season.
He does not appear to be on the roster at this time.
Pick 4 Maxime Rouyer LB Edmonton Football Team
Rouyer appeared in 17 games for Edmonton and recorded three special teams tackles. In the East Semi-Final, Rouyer recorded one special teams tackle. He also dressed for the 2019 Eastern Final.
Rouyer is currently on the Edmonton squad having signed a contract extension in December.
Pick 5 Marc Anthony Hor DL Toronto Argonauts
Despite a strong CFL Combine showing, and being picked up by the Argos, Hor didn’t catch on in the CFL.
The Argonauts drafted 3 players in the in the LFA (Mexico) Draft and one in the European Draft. None are with the team.
Pick 6 Max Zimmermann WR Saskatchewan Roughriders
Zimmerman spent the 2019 season on the Roughriders practice roster. He is currently listed as still being with the team.
Pick 7 Benjamin Plu WR BC Lions
Plu attended training camp with the Lions and spent the majority of the year on the practice roster until being activated for the final four regular season games.
He is currently listed as still being with the team.
Pick 8 Jordan Bouah Ottawa RedBlacks
Bouah saw limited preseason time with Ottawa. But in a squeeze for global places, he and Maximiliano Soto both missed out on a squad place.
He said being signed was “more of a dream than a possibility” and was eventually cut.
After his CFL adventure he signed with the Dresden Monarchs in the GFL.
Pick 9 Roni Salonen LB Calgary Stampeders
Salonen has returned to the GFL and has signed back with the defending champions and perennial powerhouse the New Yorker Lions.
Reflecting on the first European CFL Draft
No Draft is perfect. And the CFL is no exception. Since we have been following the CFL we have seen this for example in the main CFL Draft.
For something like a first ever CFL European Draft then what would be considered a success? Given that only nine players were picked and drafts are a lottery I would say any pick catching on would be a success.
Instead of that, of the nine pioneering picks, five still appear to be on CFL rosters. Beyond that others made practice rosters, two played in the Grey Cup. And one, Hansen, is the perfect example of what could be for aspiring European players if a follow up Draft like this would ever follow.