The big prospect news this week is the debut of Jason Noble with the Kitchener-Waterloo Kodiaks. Noble was the second overall pick in the Major Series Lacrosse draft behind is brother Jeremy and could easily go in the same spot in the National Lacrosse League draft this fall (only this time it would most likely be behind Logan Schuss). Noble missed KW’s first two games of the season while he was helping Cornell reach the final four of the NCAA field lacrosse championship.
Monday, Noble appeared in the grey, black and purple of the Kodiaks for the first time and he immediately showed why he was such a coveted player coming out of the Orangeville Northmen system. The 2012 OLA Jr A defender of the year played a solid defensive game, showing that the intelligence, strength and footwork that made him so successful in junior and college will allow him to succeed at the highest levels of the game, as well.
Let’s get this out of the way, because it can’t be avoided in any assessment of Noble’s prospects in the pro game. Yes, he’s short. Standing around 5′9”, Noble will never be the kind of beast that Kyle Rubisch is. But the aforementioned attributes, along with tremendous speed, stick skills and floor vision, make his size irrelevant.
Noble had a beautiful transition assist in each of his first two games with KW. In a 7-6 win over Oakville, Noble broke out of his own zone, sped down the floor and fed Jamie Batson a touch pass at the perfect moment for the Kodiaks first goal of the game. Two nights later, KW pushed the Brooklin Redmen to the brink of their first loss of the season, finally falling by the same 7-6 score.
One reason the game was so close was a huge momentum-shifting shorthanded goal that Noble set up by stealing a ball in his own zone and racing up the floor, then making a very similar pass as the one that set up Batson. This time, the recipient was Ryan Dilks.
Noble also revealed his toughness. Cutting across the slot to fire a shot on yet another breakout against Brooklin, Noble was on the receiving end of a perfect, clean shoulder check right to the chest from Steve Priolo. Noble’s feet lifted off the ground and he landed with a thud on the concrete. Noble picked himself up off the ground, ran to the bench and came out for his next shift.
Noble’s teammate in both junior and MSL, Dillon Ward, also made his debut in the senior league this week and was just as impressive as Noble was. Ward, the 2012 Minto Cup MVP, faced the league-leading Redmen in Brooklin Wednesday. He stopped 40 of the 47 shots he faced and many of them were high-quality scoring chances.
It’s been a while since a goalie went in the first round, but Ward could be the one to break that trend. He would be a natural fit for a team that could use a young backup to groom for the future, a perfect description of Washington picking at #8. They have star starter Tyler Richards being backed up by veteran Matt Roik and could stand to add the mix a reliable youngster who has the potential to be a solid starter down the road.
Out west, Keegan Bal and Riley Loewen are both making an impression as they prepare for the 2013 draft. Bal has scored 16 points (4g, 12a) in five games with the New Westminster Salmonbellies. Teddy Jenner, who calls games for Western Lacrosse Association webcats, compares his shifty style of play to Kyle Belton, the Langley Thunder player who earned a transition role with the Toronto Rock after being drafted in 2012. Loewen has played three games for Maple Ridge and has contributed 4 goals and 3 assists. Jenner says he likes Loewen’s work ethic and skill set.
Bal, a wiry right-hander, could go as high as the early second round, depending on how his summer goes and the needs and preferences of the teams selecting. Loewen, who was a USILA All-American the last three years with Limestone, projects to go a bit later. This is a tough year to predict for later choices, though. After the first half dozen or so picks, there is a mass of good players who could be selected anywhere from late first round to further on down the draft. Even more than recent years, performance this summer could have a huge impact on when players are chosen.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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