It’s not often that a team has only one pick in the National Lacrosse League Entry Draft, but that’s exactly the position the Edmonton Rush found themselves in this year. To be sure, the team was happy with the players they’d acquired in the trades in which they gave up their picks, having majorly overhauled the team this off-season.
Still, when you only have one pick, and it’s in the third round at that, you want to make sure you get it right. So it helped that the Rush were familiar with the player they decided they wanted to add to their team with the 20th overall selection.
Jesse Fehr played his Junior A lax in Calgary, winning the 2005 provincial title with the Okotoks Raiders. This summer, he played some Senior B ball and was picked up by the St. Albert Miners for the Presidents Cup. Miners assistant coach Todd Lorenz is also the O coach for Edmonton, so Fehr’s performance with St. Albert was a big factor in making the team aware of what he can do.
Rush Head Coach Derek Keenan says “I really like his athleticism and his size. He runs the floor really well.” Fehr demonstrated that athleticism as a standout middie/attack at Duke and Harvard Universities, and by showing he could play either end of the floor effectively in Senior B.
The big challenge will be adapting to the NLL level of play, a challenge for which Fehr believes the Presidents Cup experience helped him prepare.
“My box lacrosse experience has been limited the past couple of summers,” Fehr says. “I’ve played some pretty high level field lacrosse. Playing at duke, I’ve played against some really great players, but to play against top level box lacrosse players was just a great experience. It showed me the level you have to play at in order to be able to play at to play in the NLL or Senior A, but it also showed me that if I take care of my own stuff that I think I can play at that level, too, so it was good from that perspective.”
Keenan paid Fehr a huge compliment by pointing out that the youngster could help fill the void created by the trade of Brodie Merrill to Philadelphia. Whoa, take it easy. No one said he could be the next Brodie Merrill; no one wants to put that kind of pressure on the kid. Keenan was merely saying that they looked at their roster and realized they could use a lefty transition player.
Fehr is quick to make it clear what he’s thinking. “For me, I just want to focus on trying to make the team. I would never compare myself to Brodie Merrill, but I think I could help the team in a transition role.”
As Keenan points out, with talent in the league concentrated after the folding of Orlando and Boston the last two years, “it’s gonna be an uphill battle for him to crack the 23-man roster. But he’ll be given every opportunity to come in and take somebody’s job.”
Keenan believes that Fehr’s experience at Duke has helped prepare him for this opportunity. U.S. college lacrosse is highly competitive, and in particular Fehr’s time playing midfield will have developed some skills he needs for the pro game. “A two-way guy like that learns how to defend with his feet rather than his body, and that’s really important in our game,” Keenan says.
Keenan’s message to Fehr after drafting him was simple. “Come in in great shape ready to compete,” Fehr says the Rush boss told him. To that end, Fehr says “I’m always working to get faster and stronger. I realize that being a good athlete is what will help me to make the league if I’m going to make it and I work on that and take it very seriously.”
The other thing he thinks will help him make the transition to the NLL is having stepped to the other side of the players’ bench. “I learned a lot helping to coach the Junior A Raiders with Bruce Codd and Andrew McBride and Mark Sherman,” he says. “They’ve taught me a lot about how the Roughnecks do things on defence and how to think about playing D in the NLL. I think I’ve picked up a lot from them.”
It’s tough for any young player to crack an NLL roster these days, and doubly or triply tough for a 3rd round pick whose boxla time has been limited by school and injury the past couple of years, and who came up through the relatively new Alberta minor lacrosse system rather than the powerhouse Ontario or B.C. models. But Jesse Fehr’s athleticism, intelligence and determination give him a real shot at it. Now he just can’t wait till camp opens to give it a go.Stamp is a TV sports announcer and lacrosse lover whose skill set made him a defender but who always dreamed of being a goal-scorer. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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