Moves in January will pay dividends come August, New Westminster junior A Salmonbellies’ general manager Warren Goss hopes.
The past few weeks have been all about making plans for the 2019 B.C. Junior A Lacrosse League season. And for New West, that includes mapping out a route to the Minto Cup championships.
“We’ve had a good couple of weeks,” said Goss, referring to the weekend’s entry draft and a swap that saw New West re-acquire defenders Mack Burns and Patrick Shoemay from Burnaby.
The duo, who were originally added to the ’Bellies lineup in late June last season, fit in well with the squad, noted Goss.
And while the original deal, which cost New West a pair of prospects and draft picks, saw Burns and Shoemay returned to Burnaby upon the end of the season, Goss put in motion a move to keep the pair.
He shipped the rights to Dylan McCormick, the No. 1 entry pick in 2017, and Kinsale Philip to the Lakers, plus a draft pick.
“(Burns and Shoemay) filled two holes for us, one on the right side, the other on the left,” noted Goss. “It’s a considerable addition to our back gate, and both of them fit in very well last year.”
He noted neither McCormick, a Ridge Meadows product, nor Philip, who as New West Hyacks quarterback and linebacker led the high school team to the 2017 B.C. title, were guaranteed to make the 'Bellies lineup in 2019.
"They are two really good young players," said Goss. "(Philip) is a phenomenal athlete and he's looking to furthering his football career in university."
Burns racked up 13 goals and five assists, plus a league-leading 63 penalty minutes, between the two teams, while Shoemay was quieter on the stats front, with a single goal and eight helpers. But the six-foot-four defender was voted the league’s top defenceman.
Without a pick in either of the first two rounds, New West snapped up Semiahmoo’s Dylan Baker with the 18th overall pick. Baker is considered an offensive righthander who will add depth to the club’s talent pool. Among their other picks were Ridge Meadows’ Will Carriere, at 31st overall, and Cam Newson, who was Baker’s teammate in Semiahmoo.
"They're all part of the future."
New West, which finished second last year at 15-6, still has a few more holes to fill, the GM noted. The graduation of all-star netminder Erik Kratz creates a need for a veteran to help the younger goalies, while acquiring more depth to fit in with coach Rich Catton’s transition-style game is also on the to-do list. They'll also be without grads Keegan Bell and Carter Dickson.
Helping with the goal of getting back to the Minto Cup as one of two B.C. entries, is the fact the team has a strong core of returnees for 2019, including team scoring leader Tre Leclair and the league’s top rookie Will Malcom.
Leclair counted 52 goals and 35 assists in his 18-game debut with the ’Bellies, while Malcom tallied 26 goals and 57 assists over 21 games. Cam Garlin and Ryan Jones are also expected to be big pieces to this year’s run.
Training camp will begin in late March, with a focus on building momentum towards the playoffs in July.
The team briefly held a 2-1 lead in last year’s B.C. jr. A final, before perennial powerhouse Coquitlam ran the table, all the way to their second Minto Cup title in three years.
This year’s national championship won’t be played at Queen’s Park even if New West wins the league title. Langley was voted as Minto host for 2019, with the two B.C. finalists advancing to the four-team tournament.