An unprecedented seven players, the most of any association in the province, were picked up from the Cowichan Valley Thunder as B.C.’s junior A lacrosse teams held their midget draft last Sunday.
"It’s definitely an indication of the quality of lacrosse players growing through the Valley," said Lorne Winship, who coached the Thunder to third in the province at the midget A1 level last summer. "It’s very rewarding on a coaching level and a personal level."
Taylor Martin was the first Cowichan player drafted, going fifth overall to the Victoria Shamrocks. Goaltender Apollo Claxton went sixth to the Langley Thunder, and Tyson Black was selected eighth by the Nanaimo Timbermen.
Martin has great hands, Winship noted, but his blazing speed might be what rocketed him to the top five.
"On a breakaway, he’s the player who’s most likely that no one’s going to catch," the coach said.
Winship evaluated Claxton as the top goalie on the Island, and the junior A scouts apparently agreed as he was the first player picked at that position.
"He’s not the biggest kid, but he’s very strong, mobile and agile," Winship said.
Chris Branting went in the second round, 10th overall to Nanaimo. The fifth round saw Brandon Corby go 34th to Nanaimo and Colin Winship taken at 40th by the Coquitlam Adanacs. Finally, Connor Sutton went 48th to Coquitlam in the sixth round.
The number of Cowichan players picked was a record for the association, and easily surpassed the two from last year, Adam Golia and Luke Frost.
Only players outside of junior teams’ catchment areas are eligible for the draft. Yet another Cowichan player, Braylon Lumb, would have been picked – Winship guessed in the top three – had he not secured residency in the Shamrocks’ area prior to the draft.
Several factors have combined to get the Cowichan players to this level, according to Winship.
"It’s a result of development, good coaching, and their success at provincials as they’ve grown from the pee wee to the midget level," he said.
Most of the players will likely play intermediate A for their new associations next year. If there is a negative to lacrosse in the Cowichan Valley, Winship pointed out, it’s that the Thunder’s own intermediate and junior B teams will miss out on the top graduating midget players. The positives, however, outnumber the negatives significantly.
"We’ll be watching Cowichan players play top-notch senior lacrosse for a few years," Winship said.