CALGARY, AB — When training camp opened for the Calgary Roughnecks, there were quite a few new faces.
For some of the veterans who have been there for a while, they found it odd without so many of their former teammates.
However, they were also excited for the opportunity to play with some new, young, and exciting players like Tyler Digby and Wesley Berg.
“I’m excited about it,” said coach Curt Malawsky. “We got bigger on the front end with Bergy and Digger up there. [Riley] O’Connor is a big kid and Dickson has always been a big man. We added some size and we’re a lot bigger — It’s a new dynamic.”
A new dynamic, indeed.
Without last year’s NLL MVP and leading point man, Shawn Evans, the Roughnecks offence will have a very different feel. While they definitely can’t replace what Evans brought, there is an excitement about the prospects of a new-look offence.
“You can never replace a guy like Shawn Evans,” admitted Malawsky. “The offence was tailored around Evy. He had a lot of success within our offence and he gave our offence a lot of success. This year will truly be an offence by committee. Everyone has got to contribute and pick up the slack. Guys are excited about that. If everyone does 10 percent more, our offence is very solid.”
Without Evans, Daryl Veltman, Geoff Snider, Jeff Moleski, or Andrew McBride, it opens up spots on the roster, which has become a source of optimism amongst the young players at camp.
“There’s a lot of young kids and new faces, but it’s a chance for the guys who have been around and not played as much to get a chance to fill a role and for the young kids to step in,” explained Mike Carnegie. “Team’s have to change and we’re going though it now.”
“I definitely have a better feeling of making the team without them around,” half-joked Tyson Roe.
With three weeks of training camp in the books, the newcomers have been impressive.
In two controlled scrimmages, Wesley berg has nine points (4g, 5a), Jason Jones has eight points (3g, 5a), Tyler Digby has seven points (2g, 5a), and Reilly O’Connor has four points (1g, 3a).
The Roughnecks veterans have taken notice.
“Super impressive,” said Scott Carnegie. “There’s three or four that are going to be able to play right away and we’re going to need that. They’re athletic and big and learning the systems quick. Hopefully we can get it going right away.”
“There’s a great mentality with a lot of them. They’re willing to compete and do whatever they need to do to makes this team,” said Mike Carnegie. “Obviously Wes, coming from a big NCAA program, he shoots it well, he sees it well, and he can run. Reilly is smart with the ball. You can see by the third day of camp that he’s making guys around him better. That’s what we want out of him. Those two have been good. The three on D that I’ve noticed are [Mitch] de Snoo, [Tyson] Bell, and [Kellen] LeClair. They’re big and strong and each brings something different, which I like. I like everyone that we got.”
With many of the rookies having come to the NLL from NCAA programs or senior summer teams, they are well prepared for the pro level.
That preparation hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“When we split up lefty D guys, the lefty guys we saw drafted, it was unbelievable,” mentioned Dan MacRae. “The talent level has really risen with guys going to college and spending four years before coming to the pros. Physically they’re there, mentally they know the roles from playing in the MSL as well, so the gap isn’t what it used to be. Really talented group this year.”