3DownNation’s 2022 all-Canadian CFL team

Photo: Paul Swanson/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Canadian players have always been the heart and soul of the CFL, even if attempts have been made in recent years to minimize the impact of homegrown talent.

My colleague JC Abbott created an all-rookie team last week to recognize first-year players around the league and I felt inspired to do the same for Canadian talent. It’s common to see national players make an impact across the offensive line but this year highlighted how Canadians can excel at any position — even quarterback.

Here are the Canadian players who stood out the most at each starting position in the CFL this season.

Photo courtesy: Paul Yates/B.C. Lions

Quarterback: Nathan Rourke, B.C. Lions

The second-year passer took the league by storm during the first half of the season before undergoing foot surgery in late August. Rourke threw for 3,281 yards, 25 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions and ran for 304 yards and seven touchdowns over nine starts and was on pace to shatter a number of single-season league records before getting hurt. He earned this spot by a country mile.

Honourable mention: Tre Ford, Edmonton Elks

Photo courtesy: Tiffany Luke/B.C. Lions

Running back: Brady Oliveira, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The 25-year-old got off to a slow start this season but quickly became an impact player for his hometown team, rushing for 929 yards and four touchdowns along with 23 receptions for 252 yards and one touchdown. Were it not for having a reduced workload this past week, Oliveira would likely have already become the fourth Canadian to rush for 1,000 yards over the past decade, joining Jon Cornish, Andrew Harris, and Jerome Messam.

Honourable mention: Jeshrun Antwi, Montreal Alouettes

Photo: Bob Butrym/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Receiver: Kurleigh Gittens Jr., Toronto Argonauts; Kian Schaffer-Baker, Saskatchewan Roughriders; Nic Demski, Winnipeg Blue Bombers; Nate Behar, Ottawa Redblacks; Tyson Philpot, Montreal Alouettes

Gittens reached superstardom this year, making 81 catches for 1,101 yards and five touchdowns to record the second-best single-season receiving total by a Canadian in a decade. Schaffer-Baker was Saskatchewan’s best offensive player this year, while Demski made 10 touchdown catches over a nine-game stretch. Behar quietly set new career highs across the board in Ottawa, while Philpot made plays each time he got on the field.

Honourable mentions: Jevon Cottoy, B.C. Lions; Kaion Julien-Grant, Montreal Alouettes; Drew Wolitarsky, Winnipeg Blue Bombers; Jalen Philpot, Calgary Stampeders; Luther Hakunavanhu, Calgary Stampeders

Photo: Larry MacDougal/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Offensive line: Sean McEwen, Calgary Stampeders; Brandon Revenberg, Hamilton Tiger-Cats; Patrick Neufeld, Winnipeg Blue Bombers; Philip Blake, Toronto Argonauts; Landon Rice, Montreal Alouettes

McEwen anchors an offensive line that has allowed a league-best 15 sacks and helped generate a league-best 6.1 yards per rush this season. Revenberg and Neufeld are as consistent as they come at guard, while Blake and Rice are the only Canadians in the league to start more than six games at left tackle and right tackle, respectively.

Honourable mentions: Kristian Matte, Montreal Alouettes; Dariusz Bladek, Toronto Argonauts; Mark Korte, Edmonton Elks; Sukh Chungh, B.C. Lions; Zack Williams, Calgary Stampeders; David Beard, Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Photo courtesy: Paul Yates/B.C. Lions

Defensive line: Mathieu Betts, B.C. Lions; David Menard, B.C. Lions; Jake Thomas, Winnipeg Blue Bombers; Cleyon Laing, Ottawa Redblacks

Betts lived up to the big contract he signed in free agency, recording 27 total tackles and seven sacks, while Menard got home for a remarkable nine sacks despite not starting a game. Thomas flew under the radar while recording 15 tackles and four sacks, while Laing clogged the middle for an Ottawa team that allowed only 4.9 yards per carry this season, tied for second-best in the league.

Honourable mentions: Derek Wiggan, Calgary Stampeders; Mason Bennett, Hamilton Tiger-Cats; Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund, Calgary Stampeders; Ted Laurent, Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Photo: Larry MacDougal/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Linebacker: Cameron Judge, Calgary Stampeders; Jordan Williams, B.C. Lions; Enock Makonzo, Edmonton Elks

Judge had an excellent bounce-back season in his first year in Cowtown, recording 79 total tackles, four sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, and five fumble recoveries. Williams avoided the sophomore slump in B.C., while Makonzo made 57 total tackles, two sacks, and one forced fumble as the league’s only Canadian starter at strong-side linebacker.

Honourable mentions: Henoc Muamba, Toronto Argonauts; Ben Hladik, B.C. Lions; Adam Konar, Edmonton Elks; Boseko Lokombo, B.C. Lions

Photo: Bob Butrym/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Defensive back: Tunde Adeleke, Hamilton Tiger-Cats; Royce Metchie, Toronto Argonauts; Marc-Antoine Dequoy, Montreal Alouettes; Scott Hutter, Edmonton Elks; Stavros Katsantonis, Hamilton Tiger-Cats

The secondary is a tough unit to fill out given that Canadians seldom play cornerback and halfback. As such, most of the players listed above would have to play out of position to take part in our hypothetical squad.

Adeleke proved that he is still the best Canadian defensive back in the league, recording 66 total tackles, one sack, one interception, and one forced fumble. Metchie made 64 tackles and two interceptions from his safety spot, while Dequoy accounted for 41 total tackles, four interceptions, one forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries in Montreal. Hutter impressed down the stretch at safety in Edmonton, while Katsantonis could start for most teams in the league.

Honourable mentions: Mike Edem, Saskatchewan Roughriders; Justin Howell, Ottawa Redblacks; Alonzo Addae, Ottawa Redblacks; Malcolm Thompson, Winnipeg Blue Bombers; Jayden Dalke, Saskatchewan Roughriders

Photo: Larry MacDougal/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Specialists: Rene Paredes, Calgary Stampeders; Marc Liegghio, Winnipeg Blue Bombers; Tyson Philpot, Montreal Alouettes

Paredes has connected on 89.5 percent of his field goal attempts this year, including a league-leading five kicks from 50-plus yards. He also averaged 66 yards on kickoffs, which ranks second among Canadian players. According to CJOB’s Derek Taylor, Liegghio ranks first among punters in adjusted net yards, while Philpot averaged a league-best 28.5 yards on kickoff returns.

Honourable mentions: Sean Whyte, B.C. Lions; Michael Domagala, Hamilton Tiger-Cats; Jalen Philpot, Calgary Stampeders

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.