Will draft be a breeze for Rush?

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:33 AM ET

Offence, defence or goaltending.

Established talent or youthful potential.

There are a few different directions that the Edmonton Rush can travel when it comes to picking through the players available in the National Lacrosse League expansion draft slated for July 13. The list of unprotected players was released yesterday and some notable names are up for grabs to help Portland and the Rush begin to stock their rosters.

"There are a lot of interesting players, but we don't want to let Portland know who we are interested in," offered a tight-lipped A.J. Jomha, the Rush's director of lacrosse operations.

NINE PLAYERS

The Rush can chose up to nine players in the expansion draft with each of the nine existing teams able to protect either 13 runners and one goalie or 10 runners and two goalies. Teams can only lose two players in the draft.

Of most interest to the Rush might be Edmonton native Kevin Howard, who scored 55 points in 16 games with Ottawa in 2003 but became a seldom-utilized forward for a talent-laden Calgary club last season, appearing in only two games.

"Kevin has absolutely proven himself in this league but he hasn't always got the opportunity to show himself," said Jomha.

If the Rush lean towards taking an established, veteran player with their first pick, Colorado's Pat Coyle could be the choice, according to Brian Shanahan, the lacrosse analyst for Sportsnet and the Score. Shanahan also pinpointed other possible selections, like a pair of goaltenders in San Jose's Rob Blasdell and Pat Campbell, who played for Rush coach/GM Paul Day in Rochester.

"Coyle is one of the toughest, best defensive players in the game," said Shanahan, the brother of Detroit Red Wings forward Brendan Shanahan.

"Some say he is past his prime but even if he's not as good as he once was he can still be a dominating player and a leader. Campbell is a very athletic goalie and a great passer and a great team guy."

For certain, Day and Jomha will go after only those players who have a desire to play in Edmonton. While Pat Ladouceur would be a definite force at the back end, the Toronto Rock veteran and police officer isn't likely to make himself available.

"I believe Paul will focus on getting players from the west for the shorter commute and young players from the east who'd be willing to pick up and move to Edmonton for the season," said Shanahan.

TRADE BAIT

While Howard was the only local player left unprotected, others might be trade bait for the Rush to latch onto. Colorado's Ben Prepchuk and Buffalo's Jon Harasym are both coveted by the Rush, and league sources indicated the Rock may seek out a deal with Edmonton during the amateur entry draft later this summer.

The Rock would love to get two-time NCAA player of the year nominee Brodie Merrill to join his brother Patrick in their lineup. He won't be around by the time the Rock pick in the first round, but the Rush could select Merrill at No. 2 and deal him to Toronto for a package that would include Sherwood Park product Jimmy Quinlan.

Other notables who were left unprotected by Calgary were goalie Andrew Leyshon (3-0, 9.89 GAA) and Ted Dowling, the sixth-leading scorer in NLL history. The Arizona Sting left power-play quarterback Cory Bomberry unprotected after he notched 47 points in 15 games last season.


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