Facing an uncertain timetable for the 2021 season and a draft class full of players who may return to college after having their final year of eligibility deferred — all because of the coronavirus pandemic — the Rush struck a balance between adding for the present and planning for the future.
Saskatchewan’s first selection came seventh overall and they used it on a player who is ready to play professionally right away.
Marshall Powless played his junior lacrosse with the Six Nations Rebels and despite being just 20 years old, the left-handed forward has a legitimate chance to make the Rush roster for the upcoming season.
“Really happy to get him. I think he fits in well. He’s a team-oriented offensive player and he’s smart, too,” Rush general manager Derek Keenan said.
Powless, whose older brother Johnny plays for the Toronto Rock, is eager to join the three-time NLL champions.
“They’re always one of the top dogs in the league and they’re always a hard team to play against. Their offence is so awesome,” he said.
Most of the other players taken by the Rush in the 2020 draft — including defender Connor McClelland, whom they selected 12th overall — are expected to return to school and thus won’t be moving to the pro ranks until 2022. But that suits Keenan just fine.
“Even with our top two picks in the first round we thought, ‘okay if we get two guys that can play, great. If we get two guys that are still fifth-year guys and they’re going to play NCAA, that’s okay too.’ Now we’ve kind of split,” he said.
“We really like our team as it is. If we play in 2021 we’ve got a really good team and adding Powless I think makes us better, and then the young kid McClelland and the guys we got after that, they’re potentially guys for 2022.”
Other players selected by Saskatchewan include transition Bobby Kidd (26th overall) and forwards Clark Walter (43rd), Kelson Borisenko (64th) and Erik Maas (79th).
The Rush stuck with tradition and used their final pick, at 92nd overall, to select a player from their own backyard.
Estevan native Wyatt Haux is a product of the Saskatchewan SWAT junior program and hopes to become the first SWAT alum to play a regular season game with the Rush.
“That’s a big motivator for me, being the first SWAT guy to play, along with going so low in the draft when I kind of had expectations to go a little bit higher. That motivates me to kind of prove (the scouts) wrong,” he said.
At six-foot-four and 220 pounds, the transition player has the size to play professional lacrosse but acknowledges that he has to improve his skills in order to earn a spot on Saskatchewan’s active roster.
“Being able to get every loose ball and that and play in the corners and push the ball faster that way and since I do like to push the ball, make sure that my hands are good and I can maybe even get a few goals on the odd-man rushes,” he said.
Saskatchewan also made a trade on draft night, dealing the 46th overall pick to the Toronto Rock in exchange for a third-round selection in 2021.
Combined with the three first-round picks they already have in next year’s draft, the Rush are well-positioned to replace some of the 12 players on their current roster who are set to become unrestricted free agents next summer.