Who Replaces Nolan Heavenor on the Calgary Roughnecks?

Eight-year NLL veteran Nolan Heavenor announced his retirement last week to spend more time with his family, leaving a hole on the Calgary Roughnecks roster.

In his seven seasons with the Roughnecks, Heavenor showed himself to be versatile as well as a tireless worker who inspired his teammates to bring their best effort game-after-game. Said General Manager Mike Board on calgaryroughnecks.com, “He’s what a Roughneck is. He had passion for the game, he was an awesome teammate, he was always that guy that would go through a wall for you.”

Heavenor averaged just a hair shy of a point per game on his career—99 points in 104 games—with his best season being his first year in Calgary, 2007, when he picked up 33 points. He was used primarily in a defensive role, however, and averaged 4.8 loose balls per game on his career.

The other aspect of the game in which he excelled was taking faceoffs. He won 55.9 percent of all the draws he took. That made him a critical asset earlier in his career as the faceoff specialist and kept him in a key role with the Roughnecks over the last few years as the backup for Geoff Snider, who found himself occasionally in a penalty box or injured and unable to take on that responsibility.

With Heavenor now out of the mix, a spot opens up on transition.

Fortunately, Calgary’s first two picks in this year’s draft were transition players. Karsen Leung, the Roughnecks’ second round pick, is a righty, like Heavenor, but projects to be more of an offensive-minded player than Heavenor. First round pick Tor Reinholdt is likewise offensive-minded, but plays a tougher, grittier style of defense than Leung and light better fit Heavenor’s role. unfortunately, he’s a lefty, so that puts him on the other side of the floor.

That could push veterans Curtis Manning and Peter McFetridge to step into Heavenor’s spot. Both Manning and McFetridge are big, fast righties who can scoop loosies and push the ball up the floor on transition, so either could easily slide up the depth chart to that spot.

Unfortunately, there really isn’t an obvious choice to take over as the No. 2 faceoff guy on the team. Matthew Dinsdale was the only other Roughneck to step into the faceoff circle last year. He took four faceoffs and only won one of them.

It is possible that, under the tutelage of master faceoff man Snider, Dinsdale could improve that aspect of his game and make him able to fill in when needed. It’s also possible that someone else would step up and take the responsibility of learning that role. But for now, it looks as though that’s something that will remain a question mark for the time being.