There are no lacrosse games to be played anytime soon, but you wouldn’t know it from watching Laine Hruska work.
The former Saskatchewan Jr. A SWAT goaltender is spending countless hours training off the floor but not just with an eye to the next season.
The National Lacrosse League entry draft is set for Sept. 17 and Hruska is expecting to hear his name called.
“I’m pumped for the draft. I mean, it’s something I’ve been looking forward to ever since I started lacrosse and picked up a stick,” he said.
With that in mind, Hruska is doing all that he can to ensure he’s ready to make the jump to the professional ranks.
The 19-year-old is being touted as the top goalie in the 2020 NLL draft class, with most projections placing him as a second-round pick.
That’s high praise for any player, let alone one who still has two more years of junior eligibility.
“(The draft talk) probably started my rookie year (of junior). I started to see my name pop up at a lot of different places and I was like, ‘oh hey, I could actually do something with this,'” Hruska said.
As a rookie, Hruska stepped between the pipes as the SWAT’s starting goaltender, a role typically held by older players.
He backstopped the SWAT to a franchise-best 13-3 record during the 2018 season and went on to claim rookie of the year honours in the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League.
“The one word that I would always use to describe Laine is ‘solid.’ It’s always just solid. The angles are solid, the stick is exceptional, the mindset is solid,” SWAT head coach Kyle Wongstedt said.
Hruska’s resume also includes the 2019 RMLL goaltender of the year award and after each of his first two seasons, once the SWAT were eliminated from the playoffs, he was picked up by other teams looking for crease insurance in the Minto Cup.
Last winter Hruska played for the Whitby Steelhawks in Ontario’s Arena Lacrosse League, where he led all goaltenders in wins and save percentage.
“He went out there against the top-tier talent and he was pretty humble about what he said he did but he was exceptional, absolutely exceptional,” Wongstedt said.
Hruska was set to play the 2020 junior season with the St. Catharines Athletics of the Ontario Junior A Lacrosse League before the coronavirus pandemic scuttled those plans. But after his performance in the ALL, which is known for developing future pros, Hruska felt he was ready to enter the draft.
“I personally thought I had a really good and really strong year with the Steelhawks and just thought it was the right time for me to enter in,” he said.
He’s now poised to become the highest NLL draft pick and the first goaltender to ever come out of Saskatchewan.
“Compared to B.C. and Ontario it’s still in the developmental stages but that still doesn’t hold me back from anything. I believe I can perform just as well as any other goaltender from B.C., Ontario, you name it,” Hruska said.
Family support has also been critical to the netminder’s success. When he first cracked the SWAT roster at the bantam level, Hruska and his family lived in Regina and his parents would ferry him to Saskatoon and back for practices and games.
The Hruskas have since moved to nearby Warman, where they will be hosting a few friends and family members on draft night in anticipation of Laine’s selection.
“My family and I have made some sacrifices so far to get to where I am today so not only for me, for my family as well, it would be a really special moment for us all.”