December 18, 2013

NLL West Division Preview: Vancouver Stealth

by Neil Stevens | | NLL 2014 Preview

Rhys Duch can't do it all on his own, which is why Vancouver spent much of its offseason bolstering the offense. (Photo courtesy of Vancouver Stealth)

2013 record: 9-7

Playoffs: Playing their last season in Washington, the Stealth edged Edmonton 12-11 and upset Calgary 14-13 to get to the NLL final, where it lost 11-10 to Rochester. The Stealth won the Champion's Cup in 2010 and also lost in the 2011 final by one goal.

Outlook: Coach Chris Hall has a solid returning core that includes Rhys Duch, who led the league with 45 goals last season.

Hall is happy with the goaltending of Tyler Richards, who had the second-best save percentage among regular starters, and looks forward to another strong season from the defense as a whole. The Stealth were ranked fourth in the NLL in goals allowed last season. The main area in need of improvement is the offense.

"We struggled at times to score goals," Hall said. "Goals are tough to come by 5-on-5 in this league and great goal scorers are tough to come by. That's the area we really need to bolster."

That's why the Stealth selected lefty forward Cody Bremner with its first pick, eighth overall, at the entry draft.

"We were hoping he would be available when our turn came around and he was," Hall said. "He's a good 1-on-1 player who'll go to the crease in traffic. He can fill a pretty big hole for us."

Vancouver traded forward Mitch Jones to Buffalo for the 20th draft spot and snagged big forward Tyler Digby.

Neil Stevens' NLL 2014 Season Preview (in projected order of finish)

NLL East Preview

1. Rochester Knighthawks
2. Minnesota Swarm
3. Toronto Rock
4. Buffalo Bandits
5. Philadelphia Wings 

NLL West Division

1. Edmonton Rush
2. Calgary Roughnecks
3. Vancouver Stealth
4. Colorado Mammoth
» The Cost of Doing Business 

On the back end, Hall lost punishing defenseman Tim Henderson, the former Army All-American who was called to military duty in Afghanistan.

"We're going to miss Tim," Hall said. "He was an impactful player on our defense."

Draftees Nick Weiss, who is a real scrapper, and muscle-bound 240-pounder Kevin Neufeld hope to be in the lineup on opening night.

The move to Langley, British Columbia, should translate into bigger crowds.

"Sales were brisk at the start and now the push starts again," Hall said. "We're looking good. There's lots of enthusiasm in the lower mainland for the team. The Langley Events Centre and the township have been fantastic supporters so far in welcoming us. The facility is second to none."

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