So which of the 7 Western Lacrosse Association teams did the best at last week’s draft? Depends on who you ask. But it’s easy to get the sense that if you were able to corner the GM of each team, he’d tell you his team came away the happiest. Maple Ridge is excited to see what No. 1 overall pick Ben McIntosh can deliver. And in New Westminster, the Salmonbellies say they have players drooling over the prospect of having No. 2 pick Logan Schuss coming in on the left side. Oh, and Jeff Cornwall, too. We could go on (and we will later), but suffice it to say that the happiness each team is talking about is a direct reflection of how deep the talent was in this draft class. And you can thank the Coquitlam Junior Adanacs for much of that as they had 10 players drafted, including 4 of the first 5 picks. So let’s catch up with each team, in alphabetical order, to get some post-draft thoughts.
The Lakers took the approach to improving their 9-7-2 record of 2012 the right way. As in loading up on right-handers. Burnaby took Coquitlam’s Robert Church with the No. 4 overall pick, then used the No. 6 overall pick on Tyler Digby out of New Westminster. Both are big right-handers with Church coming in at 6-feet and Digby at 6-3. “We took the best player available. With Church we’re really excited, and Digby could have been higher,” new coach Rory McDade told Burnaby Now. Digby’s availability is somewhat of a question. He played football and lacrosse at Robert Morris University, where he is a senior. But he’s a possible CFL draft pick on May 6 and even if he isn’t, he may get a free agent offer, which would certainly affect his status with the Lakers. The Lakers used the rest of their picks to bolster the back end, opening speculation that the Lakers may be active in the free agent market and the trade market.
The Adanacs, who were 10-8 last summer, said they tried to work a deal so they could get a pair of picks in the first round to land both Robert Church and Marty Dinsdale, but nothing came of the talks and they used the No. 5 overall pick to take Dinsdale. The right-hander led the BCJALL in scoring last summer and even though the NLL rookie is being used in a defensive transition role with the Calgary Roughnecks right now, Adanacs GM Randy Delmonico has different plans. “We’re very happy to have Marty Dinsdale,” Delmonico told Coquitlam Now. “We see him as an offensive guy with us.” Delmonico also is pleased with his second pick, at No. 9 overall, in another former Junior Adanac, Kevin Neufeld, a solid defender. “He’s a stay-at-home defender … He’s hard to get around.” Coquitlam selected a few more defenders before the draft was over to beef up an already strong back end that could be tougher, Delmonico said. “We thought we could be more physical, and we want to be a physically imposing team to play. Even more than we were last year.”
The league’s 2-time defending champion (12-6 last summer) knows a thing or two about evaluating talent, and they’re excited about their top pick, the left-handed Brandon Goodwin at No. 7 overall. The New Westminster product racked up 46 points in just 13 Jr. Salmonbellies games games last summer and Langley GM Gerry Van Beek said Goodwin made quite an impression in the 2011 playoffs against Langley as a call-up for the Sr. Salmonbellies. He had 12 points in 6 games. “He is a phenomenal left-handed offensive player,” Van Beek told The Langley Times. “In a typical draft, he would be a top 3 pick.” The Thunder then turned to defense, picking up a pair of Junior Adanacs in Trent Hawke and Hugh Weir. Van Beek said Hawke is “WLA-ready” and Weir flew under the radar on a stacked Coquitlam Jr. team.
A 4-13-1 record in 2012 handed the Burrards the No. 1 overall pick and after so much speculation heading into the draft, the Burrards settled on Ben McIntosh as their man. He’ll join older brother Garrett McIntosh, a defenseman heading into his third season with the team. But this wasn’t nepotism at work. Ben McIntosh is a real presence on the crease who can finish. “He’s a natural creaseman, he plays a bit of a bigger role on the floor and goes to that greasy area at the net,” coach and GM Daren Fridge told Coquitlam Now. Maple Ridge had 2 picks in the second round and used them on Mike Mallory, last year’s MVP of the BCJALL, and Jaeden Gastaldo. They also picked up goalie Carson Michaud, whose brother Dayne is an assistant captain with the team. Team president Lance Andre told The Maple Ridge News that he’s excited with the new talent that wants to be in Maple Ridge and even was so bold as to say the Burrards could make a run at the top if everyone can stay healthy. Fridge is amped, too, but for more practical reasons. “We’ve got a full attack now, with a balance of righties and lefties, and some depth,” he told The Maple Ridge News.
The Timbermen missed the playoffs after posting a 6-11-1 record and it didn’t look promising going into this draft as they didn’t have a pick until the third round. But GM Earl Nicholson told The Nanaimo Daily News that they still got the man they wanted at No. 16 overall in Paul Brebber. “He’s a local kid, he’s just got a solid two-way game,” Nicholson told the newspaper. “He’s coachable and he’s everything that you’re looking for when you’re trying to add a piece.” For his part, Brebber says a late-season callup gave him some WLA experience and he understand it’s a different world from BCJALL. “The game is a lot faster and the guys are a lot bigger, so I’m not playing against boys anymore, I’m playing against men and it’s something I’ll have to get used to but I feel up to the task,” he told The Nanaimo Daily News. Making the choice even easier is that Brebber is an Island kid, but the T-Men strayed a bit from that philosophy when they drafted Saskatoon product Tom Newton, who said he’s willing to play in Nanaimo. “He’s got good foot speed, defends real well and doesn’t make mistakes,” Nicholson told the Nanaimo News Bulletin. “He’s nice and steady back there.” Nicholson also said he’s excited about Ross Radcliffe, who “could be the sleeper pick of the draft.”
If you were to doubt the happiness of any team after the draft, the New Westminster Salmonbellies are not one of those teams. Not when they landed Logan Schuss with the No. 2 overall pick. “He was by far the best player and we got him in the No. 2 spot,” New West president Dan Richardson told the New Westminster News Leader. “Our players are just drooling in the fact he’s going to be on the left side.” Questions of his availability as he pursues an MLL career (after he finishes his senior season at Ohio State) apparently didn’t scare off the New West brass, and it’s easy to see why. The left-hander scored 65 points (34-31) in 9 Junior A games last summer with the Delta Islanders, the led all BCJALL players with 53 points (27-26) in 10 playoff games. That’s 118 points in 19 games. “We’re willing to wait for him and work for him. You just can’t pass up on a kid that is that talented. I don’t care what people say.” New West had the No. 3 overall pick too, and selected defender Jeff Cornwall, who Richardson says brings an offensive touch from the back end. “He is going to come into a system where he will be given the green light to bring the ball up the floor,” Richardson told The Royal City Record. And when you have a player like Reid Mydske available at the No. 10 overall slot, you can understand why the ‘Bellies are so enthused about 2013. “It exceeded our expectations,” Richardson told the News Leader of the draft as he works to improve on the 9-9 record the ‘Bellies posted last summer in missing the playoffs.
Six of the 7 draft picks for Victoria (11-7 last summer) played Junior A ball with the Shamrocks, and their first pick didn’t come until the third round. So they used the No. 20 overall pick on Jake Emms, who has a big upside in his offensive growth after scoring 37 points (12-25) in 16 games, GM Chris Welch told the Times Colonist. “Jake is a gritty right-hander who doesn’t have any fear and brings offensive upside. We’ve had our eye on Jake for a long time and we were pleased he was there when we picked.” The team’s second pick, Kyle Dexter of Okotoks, brings a 6-foot-5, 205-pound frame to Victoria. They’re new parts of the Victoria puzzle who will be counted on to help the Shamrocks improve on last year’s 11-7 record and first-round playoff exit.Chavez is an avid lacrosse player in Rochester and a journalist for the Democrat and Chronicle as well as a longtime Inside Lacrosse contributor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to RochesterSports.com.
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