Going shopping

TY PILSON -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 6:51 AM ET

Despite enjoying the luxury of having shelves stocked full of talent, Calgary Roughnecks president and GM Brad Banister was still in the mood to shop yesterday.

On the eve of tonight's National Lacrosse League draft at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Banister was busy weighing his many options to wheel and deal.

"I'm looking at a bunch of stuff right now," said Banister. "Everything is on my list -- there's a lot going on right now tonight. There's been 18,000 things on the table over the last little while."

Thanks to a truckload of injuries last season, the Roughnecks were forced to sign replacements throughout the season to plug holes, leaving the team splitting at the seams when it comes to the current roster.

"Right now, we have way too many players," said Banister.

"I have seven I have to get rid of before we even start."

Banister said -- as he has in the past -- no one's job is guaranteed despite the fact his team won the West Division regular-season title last year before losing to Arizona in the playoff semifinals. Many of this year's Rigger draft picks will get a chance to crack the roster, he added.

"You have to also realize we have a pretty high payroll right now," said Banister, who runs one of the smallest operations in the league.

"Maybe some of the younger kids can come in and challenge some of the veterans, even ones who think they're locks. It could be a really interesting camp."

While there's little doubt players such as Tracey Kelusky, Kaleb Toth and Taylor Wray are indeed locks for next season -- to name just a few -- the Roughnecks are in a good position this draft to pick up some young talent for the future.

The Riggers don't have a first-round pick after they traded it to the now-defunct Vancouver Ravens in 2003 for current defender Devan Wray.

However, the team has three second-round picks (13th, 18th and 20th) in what is widely considered the deepest draft in years.

They pick 29th (third round), 40th (fourth round), 51st (fifth round) and 63rd (sixth round).

The expansion Portland Lumberjax have the first-overall pick and are expected to use it to select the consensus top player in the draft, Brodie Merrill. Merrill, whose brother Patrick was taken first overall by the Toronto Rock in 2002, is the most hyped defender to come along since Taylor Wray, whom Calgary took second overall in 2003.

Banister wouldn't tip his hand yesterday by naming the players in whom he's interested but has some definite prospects in mind.

Following the departure of Calgary GM Dave Bremner in the off-season, Banister and assistant coach Jeff Dowling will spearhead this draft for the Riggers while head coach Chris Hall has had input, said Banister.

Despite what Banister has said, any player taken tonight by the Riggers will be in tough to crack the lineup.

On offence, Calgary is stacked with Kelusky, Toth, Jason Wulder, Lewis Ratcliff, Kyle Goundrey and the recent addition of Chris Panos.

The signing of Kyle Neufeld this month -- who missed last season recovering from a knee injury -- has further deepened the Roughnecks defence/transition game, which will welcome back Devan Wray and Ryan McNish this year, who were both lost last year to season-ending knee injuries.

The team's first-round pick in last year's draft -- goalie Matt Morehouse -- will be attending his second camp while other players, like defender Jeff Moleski (taken 34th overall in the fourth round of the 2003 draft), impressed last season after being brought in mid-way to bolster the team's injury-ridden defence.

RAIDERS SKUNKED: The 13-2 score reflected the game. But it didn't reflect the effort. The Six Nations Arrows sent the Calgary Raiders home winless from the Minto Cup junior lacrosse tournament yesterday in Edmonton.

It was a tall order to knock off the quick and aggressive Ontario powerhouse but Raiders coach John Millar only required his team didn't give up. Even after the Ontario team took a 10-1 lead in the first period.

"We didn't jam out as a team, we stuck together and we fought until the bitter end and, yeah, we got beaten by a good team," he said.


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