Riggers look to bulk up

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:50 AM ET

The Calgary Roughnecks have hit the jackpot in a dispersal draft before.

When the Montreal Express closed shop eight years ago, the Riggers — after finishing dead last in the league the season before — scored the rights to superstar Tracey Kelusky, who has since captained the squad to a pair of Champion’s Cup crowns.

“That was probably the most important pickup we’ve ever made,” said Riggers GM Brad Banister. “We’ve always managed to get quality guys out of the dispersal, for sure, but that one kind of topped it.

“We got extremely lucky back then.”

Question is, can Banister score big again?

With the Orlando Titans sitting out a season as they “restructure” their ownership, the National Lacrosse League will conduct yet another dispersal draft Friday.

The Colorado Mammoth are expected to nab netminder Matt Vinc with the first-overall selection, leaving snipers Casey Powell, Jordan Hall and Ryan Boyle and defender Jarrett Park on the draft board.

The Roughnecks are slated to select eighth, but Banister will be working the phone lines in an attempt to trade up.

“This is a pretty good team. They been, obviously, a playoff team for a few years, so they have some great players,” Banister said. “We’d like to move up, if at all possible, but the guys that are holding onto those picks want those guys like Casey Powell and Jordan Hall, so it’s a little difficult, but we’re going to see if we can crack open somebody’s vault.

“Obviously, with guys that talented, if you can get them, you’ve gotta try for it.”

The Titans, then of New York, faced the Riggers in the championship game two seasons ago. After moving south to sunny Florida, they finished atop the Eastern Division with an 11-5 record last winter before being eliminated in the league semifinals.

They’re looking for local investors to save the franchise, but Banister doesn’t sound optimistic.

“It does strengthen our league, in a weird way,” Banister said. “These teams are so good now. You’ve got 10 teams of the best players in the world, you’re not splitting them up between hundreds of hockey teams or anything like that, so the league does get more competitive.

“But we want to be in markets like Orlando. It’s important for television. It’s important for lots of things, so it’s too bad we lost them. Unfortunately, some owners just play with this league and when they get tired of it, they give it up. It hurts everybody.”

Friday’s dispersal draft will be the eighth in league history, including the fourth in the past three years.

Whether it’s through the dispersal draft, free agency or the entry draft — in which the Roughnecks own three first-round picks — Banister isn’t finished tinkering with his team.

“We’re always looking to get better. We didn’t win it last year, so we’ve gotta get better, right?” Banister said. “We’re looking at everything. If the right deal comes along with the right guy, then we’re gonna do it. We’re hoping to get a little younger, as well, and a little tougher and a little meaner.

“We’re definitely going to have a more physical team than we did last year and we’re going our protect our players, such as Tracey, from concussions any way we can. Maybe you’ll see a little more action out there this year.”

wes.gilbertson@sunmedia.ca


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