Compared to last year, Edmonton Rush GM/Head Coach Derek Keenan has a considerable amount of work to do heading into the NLL Entry Draft.
A year ago, it was the biggest no-brainer in team history when it came to the first overall selection of the draft. Nothing was going to move the Rush off of taking Denver University superstar Mark Matthews at No. 1. Matthews was secured without any suspense but plenty of fanfare, and he went on to live up to the billing becoming the Rush's top goal-scorer and NLL Rookie of the Year.
But when it comes to the 2013 Entry Draft and who might look best in the black and silver for the 2014 NLL season, Keenan and his scouts will be doing their homework.
Edmonton has the No. 4 overall pick in the draft (acquired from Philadelphia in the blockbuster Brodie Merrill trade) which takes place in Toronto on Monday, Sept. 16. The Rush also have two key second-round selections at No. 11 (traded to Edmonton from Minnesota in exchange for Shawn Williams) and No. 13 (acquired from Philadelphia). The Rush's own slated picks - No. 5 and No. 14 - were previously traded to Minnesota and Buffalo. Out of those two trades for picks, the Rush landed Zack Greer from the Swarm and Jeremy Thompson from the Bandits.
Keenan hasn't necessarily fixated one type of player or even a specific name for the No. 4 pick, although circumstances beyond his control may force his hand. While he has mulled over some right-handed offensive talent for the pick, Keenan may consider a lefty due to the fact that Corey Small may miss a good chunk of the 2014 season because of an ACL injury suffered in summer play. The left-side offence could be covered off by Mark Matthews, Zack Greer, and Alex Turner, but Keenan is keeping all his options in play as he prepares for the draft.
"Where the last couple of drafts have been unbelievable, this one is probably rated as a good draft," said Keenan. "It's not as deep but there are some good two-way players and even some top goalies.
"We're going to continue to build with young players and I think we're going to find some good quality players with our picks."
Projected No. 1 pick Logan Schuss should be long gone by the time the Rush get to the podium. But with three picks in the top 15, Keenan is convinced he's going to get at least one player who can immediately pay some dividends just as previous picks like Curtis Knight and John Lafontaine did in their rookie seasons.
Three names that are already under consideration by the Rush are:
* Cameron Flint - Like Matthews, a high-producing product of Denver University where he ranks 10th on the Pioneers' all-time scoring list and sixth all-time in goals ... Was a 2013 First Team All-American and All-ECAC member, netting 37 goals and 52 points for Denver ... In four seasons notched 138 points including 103 goals for DU ... The five-foot-11, 190-pounder from Georgetown, Ontario, was taken sixth overall in the MLL Draft and registered 17 points in seven games for Boston.
* Robert Church - Considered the No. 3 prospect and best right-handed shooter by www.inlacrossewetrust.com after leading Drexel University in scoring the past two seasons including 57 points for the Dragons in 2013 ... The Coquitlam, B.C., native was the conference's Rookie of the Year with Drexel in 2011 ... In 2009, the five-foot-10 forward was named the B.C. Junior League's Player of the Year and a First Team All-Star with a league-leading 107 points.
* Dillon Ward - A rare goaltender under top consideration as the Orangeville, Ontario, product has stood out for three teams of late ... He wrapped up his collegiate career with 2013 Third Team All-American and ECAC Goalie of the Year honors with Bellarmine University. Ward led all Division I goalies with a stellar .662 save-percentage ... Staying on the field, Ward appeared in four games for the MLL's Hamilton Nationals and notched 38 saves with a 10.98 goals-against average ... In the box, Ward was 4-2 with an 8.44 goals-against average and .810 save-percentage with the MSL's Kitchener-Waterloo Kodiaks ... He is a three-time Minto Cup winner and was the 2012's Minto Cup MVP ... Ward was also named NLL Insider's Canadian Player and Goalie of the Year in 2010.
Once all the game tape is gone over and notes compiled, Keenan will go about determining the right fit for the Rush.
"With a pick as high as fourth, there are a lot of good, young guys and you know you're going to get a quality player who should be able to step in and play," noted Keenan, who strongly doubted entertaining trade talk for any of his top three selections.
"After that with picks like 11 and 13, we'll look for good transition and defensive players. In the later round, we'll look at some Alberta players for the practice roster, and from time to time, you'll find that diamond in the rough. You do find guys, like John Lafontaine (third round, 2010), every once in a while."
DRAFT TIDBITS: The Rush do not have a third- or fourth-round pick as they were previously traded to Minnesota and Philadelphia. Edmonton does pick in the fifth round at No. 42 and the Rush have two picks in the sixth and final round with back-to-back picks at 51 and 52, the latter of which came in a trade with Calgary ... The Rush's 13th overall pick initially belonged to Minnesota before going to Philadelphia and eventually to Edmonton ... Minnesota has a staggering four picks in the first round (1st, 2nd, 5th, and 7th( then no picks in the second round followed two picks in each of the third and fourth rounds.