The Oakville Rock have made their first major statement that they intend to be competitors in Major Series Lacrosse, acquiring talented lefty forward Stephan Leblanc from the Six Nations Chiefs. In return the Chiefs get a pair of first round draft picks and Corey Fowler, who led CLax in scoring in its recently-completed season.
Leblanc had spent the past two seasons with the Chiefs after playing his first two years of major with the Langley Thunder. He scored 20 goals and 34 assists for 54 points in 2011 before having an off year last summer, in which he missed time with an injury and only played 4 regular-season and 9 playoff games.
Oakville GM Terry Sanderson is familiar with Leblanc because the latter has played for the former with the Toronto Rock. “We think we're going in the right direction,” says Sanderson, who has also added Toronto forward Brendan Thenhaus to his MSL team and has Colorado netminder Tye Belanger—who is having a breakout NLL season—between the pipes.
“We're coming in with a youth approach and knowing that it's going to take a couple of years before teams realize that Oakville is going to be a team that you've actually got to show up to play against. It's going to be a little bit of a building process but the fact that we've got a couple of NLL guys playing for us now along with some guys who have had very strong NLL camps is positive,” Sanderson added.
The draft picks that Oakville sent to the Chiefs were not their own; they were acquired in earlier trades. One is the Peterborough Lakers' first pick in 2014 and the other is Six Nations first choice in 2016 that now reverts to the Chiefs.
Sanderson says things are changing since the Rock moved from Ajax to Oakville, emphasizing that they'll have “30-some guys trying out for this team and some of these guys have had previous tryouts with our Toronto Rock club and they showed very well there. It's going to be guys that want to be there and it's going to be a good club to play for. We're also realistic to know that we're not going to go from doormats to the penthouse all in one year, either.”
The GM pointed out that if, as most people expect, the Rock still finish near the bottom of the league this year and next, they still retain their own draft picks which will give them access to very good lacrosse players who will help the team continue to grow more competitive. “We're being realistic. If we finish bottom one or two this year, which is where everybody's going to have us pegged, we're going to have a great pick next year and a really good player,” Sanderson says. “That pick's not going any place. Then in 2015, we have two first-round picks: ours and Kitchener's. I think for the next one or two years, anyway, everyone's going to have Brooklin, Peterborough and Six Nations up there, so we could have two of the first three.”
Six Nations opens their season on Saturday, May 25 at home against the Kitchener-Waterloo Kodiaks. The Chiefs and Rock then face off in Oakville's season opener at their new Toronto Rock Athletic Centre home on Monday, May 27.