The 2022/23 edition of the Calgary Roughnecks will have a familiar look to it save for the biggest off-season move in the entire National Lacrosse League. Trades, signings, rookies and more – let’s dive into the players taking to the floor on Saturday night.
For the first time in 11 years, there’ll be no Curtis “Superman” Dickson on the right side of the Roughnecks’ offense. Dickson and his 960 career points went south to division rival San Diego, signing a one-year agreement in August. That void was filled when the club signed nine-year veteran Brett Hickey, who is part of an exclusive club having notched 50 goals in a single season.
Along with Hickey, Tyler Pace will be counted on heavily to anchor the right side. One player to keep an eye on is third-year man Haiden Dickson. Dickson’s ability to finish in tight (usually in spectacular fashion), combined with increased touches, could see him easily double last year’s point total of 24. Dickson was also named the WLA’s Rookie of the Year for scoring 40 goals and 29 assists. Rounding out the righties is Orangeville product and Minto Cup champ Kyle Waters.
For the second year in a row, the offence will run through Jesse King. After Dane Dobbie’s departure, King moved into the driver’s seat and showed he’s one of the league’s premier wheel-men, scoring 95 points. Joining King on the left side are veterans Dan Taylor and Zach Herreweyers who combined for 39 goals last season. Along with Dickson, big things are also expected from second-year forward Tanner Cook. Cook is a big strong body that causes problems for defenders. If he uses that strength to get across the crease, he could easily be a 20-goal scorer.
Seth Van Schepen was the only player from the 2022 draft class to crack the starting lineup. A product of the Brampton Excelsiors system, Van Schepen put up 230 points in his Junior A career. During the summer of 2022, he totaled 12 goals in 8 games with the senior Oakville Rock.
In the span of a few years, Calgary’s identity has undergone a one-eighty. It used to be Dane Dobbie and Curtis Dickson dominating the headlines. Now, it all starts in the back end with the defense, and specifically, Christian Del Bianco. Perhaps no goaltender in the league will be relied upon more to win games than Del Bianco. The good news is that he’s a proven winner and fresh off an MVP season with the Coquitlam Adanacs. Backing up CDB will be the 53rd overall pick from the 2021 draft, Adam Bland.
It cannot be understated the season that Zach Currier put together in 2021/22. The All-World Currier rocketed into the stratosphere with an MVP-calibre campaign including 237 loose balls, 62 caused turnovers and 10 goals (most of them at critical times). Currier was awarded the Transition Player of the Year and is amongst the smartest and most athletically gifted players in the league.
The entire Roughnecks’ defense has a reputation for being fast and athletic. For the most part, the defense remains largely intact from last season. Returning players include: Mitch Wilde, Reece Callies, Eli Salama, Shane Simpson, Liam LeClair, Harrison Matsuoka, Ethan Ticehurst and the oldest serving Roughneck, Curtis Manning. During the off season, the Roughnecks added Jeff Cornwall to the roster in a trade with Las Vegas for Marshal King. Cornwall raises the level of compete of those around him and adds a veteran presence with a championship pedigree.
Calgary finished second in the west with a 10-8 record last season, losing to the eventual champion Colorado Mammoth in the playoffs. It’s fair to say that Rigger fans can expect a similar record in 2023. A lot will hinge on the play of the offense and if they can score enough to win games. As coach Malawsky mentioned in training camp this is a “scoring by committee” group. A healthy Mitch Wilde and newly acquired Jeff Cornwall will add to the already potent transition game that the Roughnecks will rely on to generate additional scoring chances.
Another area that’ll be interesting to watch is at the faceoff dot. Veteran Tyler Burton quietly departed Calgary for Panther City. Burton had been the main draw taker since 2016, winning 1095 of 2089 regular season face offs, good for 52%. In his place, the Roughnecks drafted faceoff whiz Justin Inacio out of Ohio State. Inacio will start the season on the physically unable to perform list, so fans will have to wait to see him in action. Expect to see Eli Salama and Zach Currier taking draws in the meantime.