By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
EVERETT — When the Edmonton Rush makes its first overall pick in the National Lacrosse League entry draft tonigh, it’s likely to leave some Washington Stealth fans thinking of what might have been.
The Rush acquired the No. 1 pick from the Stealth last season in a deal that sent transition player Paul Rabil and the Stealth’s first round pick in 2012 to Edmonton in exchange for holdout forward Athan Iannucci and Edmonton’s second-round pick in 2012.
Edmonton has already announced its plans for the opening pick and will select left-handed forward Mark Matthews.
At the time of the trade the Stealth were struggling and looking for a spark to get them into the playoffs and the team’s management said if they could just get in, they had the talent to go on a run and potentially appear in a third straight NLL championship game.
Things didn’t go as planned.
Washington continued to struggle, finishing 4-12 for the league’s worst record, and was the only team in the nine-team league that didn’t make the playoffs.
And, oh yeah, that first round draft pick that the Stealth traded to Edmonton? By virtue of finishing in last place, it had become the No. 1 overall draft pick.
Stealth general manager Doug Locker insists he has no regrets.
“I don’t think about it,” Locker said. “I’m happy with the team we have. If we still had that pick we wouldn’t have Iannucci, so we are happy with having Iannucci here. We never would have guessed that it would have ended up being the first pick in the draft, but it is.”
But had Locker had the ability to know it would have been the top pick, would he have still made the deal?
“Probably not,” he said. “I don’t know who would have. Even if you weren’t focused on Mark Matthews as the guy that you wanted, the first pick in any draft has just huge value.”
And following the retirement of left-handed forward Cam Sedgwick at the end of the 2012 season, it just so happens that the Stealth have an opening at that position, Locker doesn’t hesitate in saying Matthews would have been his guy.
“Yeah, absolutely,” Locker said. “I think if anybody had that pick that would be their guy.”
The Stealth won’t make a selection until the first pick in the second round (11th overall) where they have back-to-back selections. Washington also has a second-round selection at No. 19. The team’s remaining selections are at No. 21, 23, 30 and 48 overall.
While the Stealth won’t get Matthews, it is still likely that they will look for a left-handed forward to replace Sedgwick when they pick at No. 11.
“We are obviously looking to replace Cam Sedgwick’s position, a left-handed offensive guy,” Locker said. “We did do a couple of free-agent signings in the offseason by adding Jerome Thompson and Peter Jacobs, so I think it would be natural for us in the draft to look for a lefty forward.”
Thompson and Jacobs are both left-handed forwards, but Locker would like to add another in the draft to create more competition on the team.
“One of the approaches we are going to take going into training camp is to really present a lot of competitive situations kind of at every position,” Locker said. “In the main camp the goal is to really create as much competition throughout the roster as we can, but because we have a natural opening on the left-hand side offensively, it would make some sense for us to look for a lefty (offensive) guy in the draft.”
Locker said that the draft has its most depth with right-handed offensive players, adding that there are some very good left-handers, but just not as many. Left-handed offensive players are expected to go in the first round because they are at a premium, potentially setting up a scenario where some talented right-handers might slip out of the first round.
“Because of the depth on the right side in the draft we are probably going to be presented with some pretty good options at some point with somebody who has slipped into a position where we might not be able to pass on them,” Locker said. “We may not necessarily need that position filled, it just might be the guy is too good to pass up type of thing.”
The Stealth are nearly set at the goalkeeper position with starter Tyler Richards expected to re-sign with the team and backup Kevin Croswell under contract.
Locker said that Washington will look to add depth to its defense with the later selections.
“We would like to start getting some younger guys into the mix on the defensive side,” he said.
Locker said it’s hard to determine just who will be available and what they will do with their first selection because he doesn’t know what the teams in front of them will do with their picks.
“We aren’t driving the bus,” he said. “We have to be prepared for a lot of different scenarios because when it gets to us at 11 we are going to have three minutes to make a decision.”
Aaron Lommers covers the Washington Stealth for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.