Coin toss cost Rush potential NLL Rookie of the Year

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 12:09 PM ET

PORTLAND -- Had it not been for some bad luck in a coin toss, the Edmonton Rush might have had the shoo-in selection for NLL Rookie of the Year in their lineup.

But when Rush boss Bruce Urban lost the flip that determined the No. 1 pick in the entry draft between the two expansion teams to Portland LumberJax owner Angela Batinovich, the Rush missed the chance to land superstar-in-the-making Brodie Merrill.

Oh, what could have been. Not only did the Rush get beaten out for the chance to select Merrill as the top choice during the draft held in their own home arena, it is also very unlikely the Rush will get a carbon copy of him when they have an elite pick in this summer's draft.

"I don't think you're going to see a player like him come along again for a number of years," said Rush GM/head coach Paul Day. "I've watched Brodie since he was 17 and I knew he'd have an impact and be a very good player, but he's even exceeded all those expectations."

All the 24-year-old defender from Orangeville, Ont., has done in his first season is lead the Jax in scoring with 44 points and collect a whopping 196 loose balls. In a year of great rookies in the NHL (Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Dion Phaneuf, etc.), Merrill is the NLL's answer.

"It's been better than I thought it would be," said Merrill, a former All-American at Georgetown University.

"I really haven't felt any pressure.It's been more support than anything, but I've put some pressure on myself. I wanted to contribute and help the team have a good season."

Merrill's efforts have certainly been a key part of the Jax's quick ascent to the top of the West Division standings. Without his production, the Jax wouldn't have such a quality scoring option up front and his absence would leave a six-foot-four, 205-pound hole in Portland's defence.

"I'm not surprised at how good he is now and I think the bar is unlimited on how good he's going to be," said Portland GM/head coach Derek Keenan. "It's just his first season and he's one of the best players in the league already and he's still got room to get even better.

"That was a strong draft but the best player, the guy who was going to have the most impact, was Brodie. He was the guy and he's been great for us."

So where does that leave the Rush? They'll head to the 2006 draft, which will be held during the Minto Cup junior national championship tournament in Six Nations, Ont., trying to find a reasonable facsimile of Merrill.

The Rush will be hard-pressed to find someone of Merrill's magnitude, but at least he's willing to offer them a tip on who would be a worthy candidate.

"The guy to get is definitely Geoff Snider," said Merrill. "I played with him on Team Canada (field lacrosse world championship) and he's a very tough player, good on faceoffs and good in transition."

A guy who's rugged, solid on the draw and he can score, too? The 25-year-old University of Denver product and Calgary native sounds exactly like the kind of guy the Rush require.

"He's the prototypical guy who grew up in Canada playing box (lacrosse) and hockey and then developed playing four years of college," said Day.

"Plus he's a guy who likes to get under the opponent's skin."


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