It’s cool, crisp and wet in Vancouver and that means its NLL lacrosse season and the Vancouver Warriors are looking to take big strides in their sophomore season at Rogers Arena.
Around 38 players will hook up in Langley Friday night for meetings and physicals, before jumping on the floor at the Langley Events Centre Fieldhouse Saturday morning for the first of three weekend practices.
With the Warriors’ inaugural camp cut short due to 2018’s labor dispute, this is the camp the staff has been waiting for – lots of depth to sift through, uber-competitive, and a full month of intensity to ramp things up for opening night November 29th.
Here’s how some of the positional battles will break down.
Last season it was apparent that management was looking for the right third wheel to hang with proven scorers Mitch Jones and Logan Schuss. They may have found their answer signing three time NLL champion Riley Loewen as a free agent.
Loewen is a worker who was quietly a catalyst in Calgary’s championship season last year chipping in 20 goals and 26 assists. Always on the floor to help execute set plays, Loewen will get ample playing time and touches with Vancouver and be another weapon in an offense designed for motion.
Jones led Vancouver in scoring with 35 goals and confidence is high that Logan Schuss can bounce back from the streaky 24 he scored a year ago. Schuss has held himself accountable and is entering camp in fine form.
It’s expected the Warriors would carry four or five lefties for depth and practice roster spots. Those holes will be hotly contested by incumbent Brody Eastwood and free agents Jon Phillips (24 yrs) and Lyndon Bunio (23). Both are younger spark plugs that can bring some hustle to a big three who will all be north of 28 this season.
Two of the best storylines in the NLL last season were righties Jordan McBride and Keegan Bal. Both celebrated #ComebackSzn with 30 plus goals for the Warriors after time away from the pros. This summer Vancouver traded for Mike Mallory, who’s played just 11 games over 3 seasons with 2 different NLL teams, the last coming in 2017. Mallory has been a consistent cog in the Maple Ridge Burrards’ system in the WLA. The team is hoping familiarity with coach Gill and the prospect of playing at home in Vancouver could do for Mallory what it did for McBride and Bal in 2019 and make him a full time number three righty, setting hard picks and earning second possessions.
Draftee Keegan Bell will have a shot at making the team. He’s been blowing teammates away at early shoot arounds with his heavy and accurate outside shot and mere 6’5” presence on the floor.
While a pair of versatile free agents Colton Clark (6’3) and Chase McIntyre (6’5”) will be trying out as offensive players who share not only size, but defensive responsibility in reverse transition.
Veteran Joel McCready is expected to miss the start of camp with a lingering injury, but will force the staff to make some interesting decisions on where to utilize him once healthy.
As much as the depth O battles will be fun to watch at camp, it’s essentially Game Of Thrones on the D side with roughly 22 players battling for around 13 roster spots.
This week the Warriors traded for three time NLL champion Nik Bilic to add some speed and grit. They also get back veteran defender Chris O’Dougherty, who missed all of last season due to injury. Those two additions alone make the Warriors that much more grizzled and tough to play against, and will grab two key roster spots from incumbents or from the boat load of free agent defenders signed this summer.
A focus of Chris Gill in 2020 is to green light a handful of players with speed to run the floor and help chip in on transition offense.
One of the players to address that need is free agent Brent Adams. Maybe the fastest player in the NLL, Adams was coached by Gill in Colorado and is ravenous to prove he belongs in the NLL after getting into 13 games over 2017 and ’19 with the Mammoth.
The team is also fired up about draft pick Derek Lloyd – the Victoria Shamrock who could prove to be a fourth round steal, and full time rookie out of the gate. He has contagious energy and the ability to make big plays out of his own end with blazing speed and tenacity.
And the 6’10” 260-lbs Tyson Roe who is almost unstoppable in full stride. He’s been to a few pro camps, but with developed agility and ball handling skills for a big man could be ready for prime time.
Another off-season goal was to improve face-offs. The Warriors were dead last in the NLL winning just 35% of their draws. They addressed that by signing one of the best to ever do it in the NLL, Bob Snider – a career 62% winner through his 10 seasons. At 34, the wily vet is in top shape and ready to win many key possessions.
The Warriors defensive identity could take many different forms based on which group of players actually makes the team. It’s an eclectic mix of free agents, incumbents who got a small taste last season, and the veteran leaders like captain Matt Beers, Justin Salt, Brandon Goodwin and Ian Hawksbee. Whichever mix they end up with at the end of November, expect it to be a hard-nosed, athletic and quick group that will all be bonded as Warriors after this edgy month is over.
Interested in getting a preview of the 2019/2020 Warriors? All training camp sessions at the Langley Events Centre Fieldhouse, located to the east of the main LEC building, are open to the public! See below for the schedule (dates/times subject to change).
Oct 26: 9 AM – 11 AM (Practice)
Oct 26: 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM (Practice)
Oct 27: 9 AM – 11 AM (Practice)
Nov 2: 9 AM – 11 AM (Practice)
Nov 2: 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM (Practice)
Nov 3: 9 AM – 11 AM (Practice)
Nov 9: 9 AM – 11 AM (Practice)
Nov 9: 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM (Practice)
Nov 16: 6 PM – 8:30 PM (Scrimmage)
Nov 17: 12 PM – 2:00 PM (Scrimmage)