CALGARY, AB — One day, that elusive, highly-anticipated someday, predicts Curt Malawsky, isn’t a day all that far away.
“I was looking at the NLL Insider, ranking the Top 50 players,’’ the Calgary Roughnecks’ coach is saying. “They had him, I think, at 47.”
Malawsky stops, disbelieving, with a short, almost imperceptible shake of the head.
“ … 47.
“Now I understand that’s just somebody’s opinion but I had to chuckle.
“‘Cause I know where he’s going to be.
“And that’s right at the top; one of the best players in the NLL.
“Sooner than later.”
The coronation of Wesley Berg, many anticipate, is close at hand.
After being selected fourth overall by the ‘Necks at the 2015 NLL draft, the pure from Coquitlam, B.C., posted 67 points as a freshman, third on the team while finishing second among all league newbies with 27 goals.
He arrived here a year ago armed with a collegiate pedigree from the University of Denver Pioneers that didn’t simply shine, it glittered like a ‘80s dance-floor disco ball: A 2015 NCAA champion, tournament MOP, all-time school points leader (255) and three-time USILA All-American.
In acclimatizing to the pro game, he certainly didn’t disappoint.
And now, a new one-year deal in hand, the 6-1, 180-pound pure sniper intends to up his game.
“I coached Wesley when he was just a junior, a kid, and then in intermediate in 2010,’’ reminds Malawsky. “You always knew the potential he had. It was easy to recognize.
“Remember, he’s just getting his feet wet in this league.
“You’re seeing times where he went off for four or five goals then scoring the OT winner, when it’s clutch.
“That’s the Wesley Berg that I know.
“Great inside game. Great outside game. Fearless. A good person, very unselfish and a guy who’s won a lot wherever he’s been.”
Initial reviews from the past season as Berg integrated into the hurly-burly of the pro game touched on his power, pace, pins as sturdy as a pair of sequoias and that innate appetite prolific goal scorers in any sport instinctively possess.
“Talking to my brother (Bob) the other day after the Roughnecks’ training camp, all he said was: ‘Bergy’s the real deal’,” says retired face-off kingpin Geoff Snider.
“Beyond being an incredible athlete Wes is just an exceptional person. A natural, consummate leader, physically imposing – look at him, in incredible shape.
“From a lacrosse IQ and competition perspective, the guys’ got ice in his veins.
“In regards to being one of the top players in the league, his rookie season was outstanding. He’s going to have a lot more responsibility this season, be relied upon a lot more, see the ball a lot more.
“And he’s up for it, I’m sure.
“He can play the game.”
As the Roughnecks look to improves upon an 8-10 record in the West Division, more, understandably, is being expected of Berg.
“Today, for me, is a lot different than the first day of camp last year,’’ he emphasizes, during fitness training out at WinSport. “Now I know what to expect. This year there shouldn’t be any learning curve. I’ve done the homework.
“The NLL game’s faster, guys are more skilled. It’s the next step. So there are games you’re still trying to find your groove. It always takes time.
“But I learned a lot. The guys who’ve been in the league a while helped me. I thought it was a pretty quick adjustment process. I mean, there wasn’t a time that I wondered whether I could play in the league or not.
“You make a couple mistakes early in the season, and make adjustments. I think I got that all out of my system.”
“Now I need to step up in games we’re losing, maybe 11-9, say, and help more. Whether that’s opening guys up or scoring myself so we start winning those games.
“So instead of having a .500 record we’re one of the leaders in the league and get a home game for playoffs.
“I need to be one of those guys who contributes more at crucial points in games. It can’t always be (Curtis) Dickson, (Dane) Dobbie and (Jeff) Shattler.”
By the next NLL Insider Top 50, Curt Malawsky forecasts a quantum leap in ranking for his 23-year-old on-the-cusp-of-stardom sophomore.
The coronation of Wesley Berg, he and many others believe, is close at hand.
“Last year as the season went on he was beginning to understand what it takes,’’ critiques the coach. “He’ll be the first to tell you he’s looking to be a little more consistent.
“That only comes with experience and confidence. Everybody goes through some growing pains.
“He was kinda trying to find his way. He’s going to be more of a go-to guy this year.
“He’s already a great complementary player to (Curtis) Dickson. We were pretty happy with what he did as a rookie and we’re expecting more now.
“He’s not far off.
“Put it this way: He’s already a very good player. He’s going to be a special player.”