The Langley Thunder are hoping for an infusion of youth and athleticism can help the team return to their glory days sooner rather than later.
The senior A lacrosse team took the first step towards that plan on Thursday night, selecting 13 players in the Western Lacrosse Association junior draft. That included holding four of the top six selections after trading away some veteran players in exchange for stockpiling picks both this year and next (they already have three first round picks and a pair of second rounders for the 2018 draft).
“We got exactly what we wanted. We got the guys that we wanted because we knew they would be there,” said Thunder general manager Rob Buchan. “We had certain roles we had to fill.”
Buchan said the draft played out like his team’s scouting staff expected, figuring they had the first 10 or 12 picks slotted correctly.
Langley chose Tyler Pace first overall.
Pace, a six-foot, right-handed forward, played for the Coquitlam Junior Adanacs and helped them win the Minto Cup in 2016.
“Tyler Pace is a born leader, and we are excited to have him as part of our team,” said Darcy Rhodes, the head coach of the senior A Thunder squad.
A dynamic scorer, Pace had 21 goals and 41 points in eight games in the BC Junior A Lacrosse League in 2016 and then added 14 goals and 25 points in the playoffs.
The Nanaimo Timbermen had the next two picks and they chose Aldergrove’s Chase Fraser third overall.
With the next three picks, Langley chose Reece Callies (Delta Islanders), Jordan Magnuson (Coquitlam) and Johnny Pearson (New Westminster).
Both Callies and Pearson are from Langley and played intermediate with the Thunder program before they were traded away.
“I wanted to bring a lot of those Langley kids home,” Buchan said.
Callies is a six-foot-seven right-handed runner and Pearson is a six-foot-four left-handed forward.
Magnuson is a six-foot-one right-handed defender.
“We did exactly what we wanted to do and that was turn the team around, add depth and bring in winners,” Buchan said.
“When it comes to chemistry and character, I think we won the 2017 draft.”
Langley used their three second round picks on Keegan Rittinger (Coquitlam), Cody Teichroeb and Aiden Milburn.
The team’s other picks were Tanner Rennich (third round), Brodie Porter (fourth), Conner Stroup (fifth), Tyler McLeod (sixth), Dereck Downs (seventh) and Dylan Lacroix (eight).
Teichroeb and Lacroix both played their junior A with the Langley Thunder.
Buchan said he could see eight to 10, maybe even 11, of those players making the senior A squad when they begin the WLA season in May.
“We have a lot of work to do in terms of rebuilding this roster,” he said.
“Very exciting. We needed it. We made those moves with the draft because we knew it was a deep draft and we figured we could do it quickly.”
“We will obviously be very young but at the same time, very athletic and I think we will be able to compete. Our goal is to get into the playoffs and get the young guys some valuable experience and see what happens.”
The Thunder season begins on the road on May 19 in Victoria against the Shamrocks.
The team’s home opener at the Langley Events Centre is set for May 31 against the Maple Ridge Burrards.