The Vancouver Warriors’ next roster is taking shape.
The National Lacrosse League will hold an expansion draft June 29 for the Panther City Lacrosse Club, the Fort Worth, Tex., team that will become the circuit’s 14th franchise when play resumes Dec. 3-4.
Vancouver and the other existing teams will all lose one player to Panther City.
The Warriors’ 11-man protected list for the draft features five forwards (Keegan Bal, Mitch Jones, Kyle Killen, Riley Loewen and Logan Schuss); five defenders (Matt Beers, Reid Bowering, Derek Lloyd, Garrett McIntosh and Brett Mydske); and a goaltender (Eric Penney).
That leaves forward Jordan McBride and defender Nik Bilic as the most notable Vancouver players up-for-grabs for Panther City.
Both are older (McBride’s 34, Bilic’s 31) and both are in career day jobs in the Lower Mainland (McBride’s a Burnaby firefighter, Bilic’s a longshoreman) that would make it difficult to commute to Fort Worth for weekend home games. Bilic is also coming off a knee injury suffered on opening night of the 2019-20 season that kept him out the rest of that campaign.
That all played into general manager Dan Richardson’s thinking with leaving the pair unprotected.
“It’s a huge jigsaw puzzle,” Richardson said. “You have to look at all the pieces.”
McBride was Vancouver’s second-leading goal-scorer (22) when COVID-19 shut down the Warriors’ 2019-20 season with five games left on the 18-game slate.
Bilic was picked up by Richardson before the campaign in a trade with the Saskatchewan Rush and, assuming the Warriors don’t lose him to Fort Worth, he’ll get a chance to be part of a further revamped Vancouver defence. Bowering, McIntosh and Mydske are all yet to see game action in Warrior colours. Bowering was Vancouver’s first pick, No. 2 overall, in last year’s entry draft, while McIntosh and Mydske are free-agent signings.
There’s bound to be more additions too. This latest branch of NLL free-agency opens Aug. 1, and the Warriors have the No. 4 selection in this year’s entry draft, which will in September on a yet-to-be determined date.
The Warriors finished 2019-20 with a 4-9 mark. The franchise has made the playoffs just once in the last seven seasons.
The NLL talked about playing an abbreviated season in a bubble last spring but that idea never materialized. The league has yet to announce a finalized 2021-22 schedule.