Lakers bait hook for this week's WLA draft

An injection of offence is what Kevin Hill envisions as the spoils from this week's Western Lacrosse Association junior draft.

The Burnaby Lakers general manager is pretty confident that with the club's first couple of selections they'll get what they need and more.

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The Lakers, who missed the WLA 2019 playoffs by a single point last summer, have the opportunity to pick up an impact player when the draft commences on Thursday in Langley.

Right now, however, he's keeping his cards close to his vest.

"We feel this is a very deep draft, and with the territorial (round) pick and first round pick that we possess, we expect to add someone who'll be a good addition," Hill said on Monday.

"If we can add more offence for the team, I'd consider it a very successful draft."

This is the first year that the WLA has held territorial protected picks -- which implements a whole new first round on top of the long-standing draft order.

As announced Tuesday, the Coquitlam senior Adanacs have protected junior Adanac captain Reid Bowering, a six-foot, lefthanded defender, while the Maple Ridge Burrards protected six-foot-one transition player Anthony Kalinich, who played junior in Langley and is currently playing for the Calgary Roughnecks of the National Lacrosse League.

The remaining five teams will be compensated with a pick of the remaining eligible 21-year-olds in the draft, with Langley selecting first and Burnaby picking second.

Front and centre, for teams yearning for offensive help, are three strong options.

New West junior Tre Leclaire, a Delta product, is considered one of the top shooters in this graduation class. He tallied 35 goals and 43 assists over 17 games, and has averaged almost 4.6 points per game over his junior career. Ryan Martel, an Aldergrove native who played for the junior Thunder, produced the third-most points in 2019, scoring 46 times and setting up 56 others over 17 games. Victoria's Zach Manns, a Saanich minor product and thus not eligible for the senior Shamrocks to protect, was tied for second, behind Martel, for points-per-game average last season with five. He's already making a name for himself as a member of the NLL's Toronto Rock.

Also considered as possible top-seven selections are Langley junior Nathaniel Kozevnikov and Coquitlam's Dennon Armstrong.

"It's lefty-heavy," noted Hill. "Although we're solid on the left side with Eli (McLaughlin), Dane (Stevens), Darryl (Veltman) and Zach (Gould), they're always good commodities to have.

"Normally, the draft is one-to-two rounds deep, but even with the territorial protections and compensatory picks, there's about another good two rounds of good players available."

Hill also confirmed that incoming head coach Glen Clark made the initial contact when Burnaby's head coaching position became vacant last September.

"He's a fantastic addition to our organization. He reached out to us the day after (coach Peter Tellis) resigned, and said he was looking for a situation out west, that he was looking to relocate."

Clark coached last year's Team Canada at the World box lacrosse championships, and is currently the head coach of the New England Black Wolves of the NLL, whose roster includes Laker Tristan Rai and New West's Anthony Malcom. Clark retired from his job as a high school teacher in Ontario last summer.

"If he's capable of leading Team Canada, where he had a lot of responsibilities and pressure, I have full confidence that he can lead us," added the GM.

The foundation of the team is solid, led by league MVP Robert Church and fellow veterans Veltman and Stevens, goalies Eric Penney and Zac Boychuk, and last year's No. 2 overall draft pick Ryland Rees.

While the draft opens the door for some incoming talent, it is also time to address anticipated holes from a team that fell just shy of a playoff berth. Hill said players like Josh Byrne, who missed last year, and Matt Beers are unlikely to be in Laker green this year.

"Josh is most likely going to stay back east, where he's established himself," said Hill, referring to Byrne's career with the NLL's Buffalo Bandits and Major League Lacrosse during the summer. "I also don't think (Beers) will be back. He was an important addition for us and he's a great leader, both on the floor and the locker room."

That's where utilizing the draft picks wisely will help guide the team to a stronger position in the league.

"I'm feeling pretty positive going forward," Hill added. "We've got a good mix of veterans and younger players, and we should get some good young players from the draft."


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