The Vancouver Warriors are looking to swipe right on right-handed offensive players.
Joel McCready is now the active leading right handed goal scorer for the franchise after the release of Rhys Duch. With south paw Mitch Jones joining the team this week to play alongside Logan Schuss, left is almost set, it’s the other side of the offense where the Warriors will be looking to balance production, and where will the goals come from with Duch now across the Rockies?
Entering training camp are four new free agent signings at the position – all of who were not in the league in 2018, and three returning Warriors in McCready, Tony Malcom and James Rahe.
“McCready scares the crap out of every defensive player,” grins head coach Chris Gill. “When he’s on he’s a scary man to play against. I think this guy in our system; his level is going to go way up and his points are going to go up. I know he’s been working out with Matt Beers real hard. He’s someone I’m real excited about.”
30-year-old McCready notched 34 points (20g, 34a) in 2018, as a Swiss-army knife for Vancouver. He played on the face-off team and jumped out of the back gate as a defender when needed. He’s had seasons of 30, 29, 19 and 20 goals since arriving in Vancouver in 2015. The stocky 5-foot-11, 210-pounder is scary in his unpredictably with the ball and fearlessness crashing the crease.
“I’ve been a big fan of Tony Malcom the past few years,” said Gill. “His speed, his quickness, his first step is so fast, and a guy like that should be able to thrive in this offence. I don’t think he’s been given the right opportunities yet to succeed. He’s another guy like McCready who in this system, his points should go up and he becomes a household name.”
Malcom led the righties with 23 goals last season – a career high for the 25-year-old New Westminster native. In his third season in the NLL and first in Vancouver, Malcom also set career highs in assists (24), loose balls (78) and shooting percentage (.180).
Vancouver’s highest draft pick in recent years (11th overall, 2016) James Rahe struggled to find his role in the line-up last season. He scored 6 goals as a sophomore playing both offense and defense in 12 of 18 games.
“I told him what type of style I think he should be playing and he agrees,” Gill says of Rahe. “He needs to do just a few things in his game to get his spot.”
Rahe is a 6-foot-4, 230-lbs big man with nice hands who has heard comparisons to former Vancouver 38 goal man Tyler Digby throughout his career. Rahe should be able to draw doubles with his size and strength.
“It’s pretty much wide open on that right side,” says Gill. “We brought some guys in that probably should have been playing in the league and just never got that shot. We had Keegan Bal in Colorado and he was our last cut and it wasn’t unanimous. Looking back at it, he should have made the team. He’s hungry and he’s got a real good opportunity to not only make the team but be an impact player.”
26-year-old Bal, scored 6g and 22a in 11 games with Vancouver in parts of two seasons (2016 and 2017), before trying out for Colorado in 2018. A summertime stud with the 3-peat President’s Cup Senior B National Champion St. Albert Miners, Bal is a wiry highly athletic body whose name comes up repeatedly as the righty the team is looking to build around.
“We think Keegan is just coming into his own,” says GM Dan Richardson. “He has explosive speed, a very quick first step and a great shot. He can run out of trouble and is very slippery to hit. We like his play and we like his maturity on and off the floor. He’s a great teammate and we think the fans are going to enjoy watching him at Rogers Arena.”
Bal signed as a free-agent along with St. Albert teammate and 27-year-old NLL rookie, Richard Lachlan (51g, 52a, in 16 games in the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League.)
“Richard Lachlan – he’s got a bomb. I want to see if he can bring an all-around game and work with the others,” says coach.
Also signed over the summer was Austin Jerhoff – a 23-year-old, 6-foot-2, 205-lbs prospect who shined for the Calgary Junior ‘A’ Mounties.
“He’s a big body that we’re hoping can take that next step and use his size to get to dirty areas,” says Richardson. “He’s a hard worker, very coachable, and keeps getting better.”
Last but certainly not least there is the comeback kid, Jordan McBride. A pure goal scorer, the 32-year-old New West native is looking to get back to the NLL after playing three seasons with Colorado (2012-2014). He has 76 points (35g, 41a) in 28 pro games. A hard and deceptive outside shot, along with a strong two-man mind and veteran poise, McBride could be another dark horse looking to get back to the pros in an 11 team league.
Vancouver scored just 69 goals from offensive right in 2018. Gill and Richardson are hoping any combination of the aforementioned seven can make those digits looks silly. It is certainly the battle to watch as training camp opens up this weekend.