You heard it here first: The Saskatchewan Rush will Three-Peat in 2017.
After sweeping the Buffalo Bandits in the 2016 Champion’s Cup, the Rush went ahead and made themselves even better in the offseason.
In the days leading up to the draft, the team made a big move, trading their top goal scorer from last season, Zack Greer, for Colorado Mammoth sniper Adam Jones. Although they gave away one of their best offensive players, they still managed to upgrade on the left side by bringing in a guy who started his career by scoring in 56-straight games. Jones has spent his career to date playing alongside future Hall-of-Famer John Grant Jr.—hooking up with Mark Matthews (two straight 100-point seasons) as the key lefties in Edmonton might actually be a more dynamic combination.
Through some smart transactions, general manager/head coach Derek Keenan set the Rush up to get two of the first three selections in the draft, even after having the best record in the NLL over the last four seasons. They added Keenan’s son Ryan with the first overall pick, adding more lefty depth up front and then selected highly touted defenseman Mike Messenger with the third overall selection to make their league-best defense even better.
Did I mention they also added defenseman Matthew Hossack—a player considered to be a top-10 selection in the NLL’s mock draft—in the second round?
The Rush now have three of the last five Rookie of the Year winners on the roster—Ben McIntosh (2015), Matthews (2013), and Jones (2012) and their defense features four-time Defensive Player of the Year Kyle Rubisch and defending DPoY Ryan Dilks. They gave up almost a goal per game less than the next best defense in the league in 2016 and had the third-most potent offense in the league.
Unbelievably, this is such a young team that they probably still aren’t playing up to their potential. Their starting five forwards are all 27 years old or younger and their defensive starting five are all 28 years old or younger—at 35, transition John Lafontaine is the only regular starter over the age of 30. Starting goaltender Aaron Bold is also over 30, but he also keeps himself in fantastic condition if his Instagram account is any indication, so there’s no reason to believe he can’t continue to be one of the elite netminders in the league for a few more seasons.
Entering the 2017 campaign, the Rush look more like an all-star team than just a contender for the Champion’s Cup. There isn’t a team in the West Division who can boast the level of talent that the Rush can and the defending East Division champs, the Buffalo Bandits, arguably went backwards during the offseason by losing a couple important contributors. The new England Black Wolves are certainly better, but good enough to take out the Rush in a three-game championship series? I don’t see it.