CALGARY, AB — Calgary Roughnecks general manager Mike Board left the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre after the NLL Draft with an impressive number of prospects.
After losing a number of starters from last year’s roster, those prospects will be expected to fill some immediate holes.
However, with lots of bodies and only so many spots, competition will be high at training camp.
“I think that’s something that happens because of the numbers,” Board said. “There are some kids out there that are hungry to show what they can do. We’re excited about that part. We’re excited that we’re going to have some competition at camp and potentially get younger.
“We expect the kids to come in shape and push the veterans. We expect the veterans to come in shape and be ready to play. There’s some options out there. We want to see what they can do and see where we are once we get to camp.”
With the departures of Sean Pollock and Daryl Veltman, the Roughnecks will need both a right-handed and left-handed forward to fill the gaps on offence.
That’s where first round picks Wesley Berg and Reilly O’Connor come into play. Two highly talented players, they should be able to make the leap to the highest level and contribute alongside an already talented Roughnecks offence.
As the third righty behind Curtis Dickson and Tyler Digby, Berg can fill a similar role to that of Pollock — being that he can use his body to work on the inside, grind, and find the back of the net. He also possesses a great shot that can add a dimension to the offence.
At least, he hopes.
“I’m a big body that can create some space for them,” Berg said. “Then I have some good vision and they can find me in front of the net along with a lot of the other players on the left side so hopefully it will work well and I can complement them well.”
O’Connor will have a tough time replacing a former No. 1 pick in Veltman, who was integral to the Roughnecks power play and left side.
That’s not to say that he can’t still contribute at a high level, however.
O’Connor is known as a passer and had a season in junior where he recorded 91 assists. That ability should work well for him as he can feed the likes of Dickson and Dane Dobbie, two of the leagues most proficient goal scorers.
“What I look to bring is an unselfish brand of lacrosse, a kind of guy that buys into the coaches game plan and does whatever it takes and whatever is asked of me,” O’Connor said. “In junior I was more of a guy who carried the ball a lot and was more of a setup and playmaker but I really can do whatever the coaches ask of me.”
On the draw, the Roughnecks may be without an important player — NLL All-Time leader in face-off wins, Geoff Snider.
One rookie intends to fill that spot.
Carson Barton, a forward out of Grand Canyon University, is willing to play any role needed for a chance to make the team and one way to do that is in the face-off circle.
“I welcome every opportunity I can get,” Barton said. “Obviously he’s one of the greatest face-off guys in the history of the game, but any opportunity to make the team is great.”
Calgary’s first second round selection, Mitch de Snoo, will be gunning for a spot with the transition group. He is strong in the defensive zone and can push the ball up the floor when needed.
With departures on defence, those qualities may be enough to help him find his name on the roster.
It won’t be that easy, though. Fellow rookies Tyson Bell and Kellon LeClair will be looking to secure a spot in the defensive rotation.
“I hope to make the roster, but there is more things that I need to improve on,” Bell said. “Coming out of junior lacrosse and playing with guys that age, moving to the top league, there will be a lot to learn.”
“The goal is, obviously, to make the roster,” added LeClair. “I’m one of the younger guys in the draft, so I want to come out, work as hard as I can and learn from the older guys. See what I can do and take it as I go.”
In the crease, there will be no shortage of talent.
With incumbent starter Frankie Scigliano and former Goaltender of the Year Mike Poulin both returning, the Roughnecks appear set between the pipes.
That will not stop prospects Christian Del Bianco and Jordan Kancsal from showing what they can do. Del Bianco, the youngest player drafted in 2015, was a standout on the Coquitlam Adanacs Jr. A squad. Kancsal, a hometown kid, was fantastic for the Calgary Mountaineers and Okotoks Raiders in the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League.
In addition to all of the rookies, free agent signees Jason Jones and Mitch Banister will be in the mix for a roster spot, muddying the picture even further. Banister, son of former Roughnecks owner Brad Banister, has played in the NLL with the Edmonton Rush, recording one assist.
Jones, meanwhile, has spent the past seven seasons playing in the WLA between the Burnaby Lakers and the Coquitlam Adanacs. The 27-year old appeared in 81 games and notched 230 points (100g, 130a).
With jobs available all over the floor and young, hungry athletes ready to compete, Mike Board and the coaching staff will have some tough decisions ahead.