San Jose Stealth professional lacrosse team is entering the 2007 National Lacrosse League (NLL) season with much anticipation and huge expectations after an off-season of blockbuster moves and a major splash at the 2006 NLL Entry Draft in Madison Square Garden.
One of the objectives that Stealth’s management wanted to achieve was to bring youth to the team and acquire players with the ability to live locally. The Stealth made history by being the first team in the NLL to ever select the first two players in the NLL Entry Draft on September 13.
To accomplish this, the Stealth obtained the first overall pick from the New York Titans by trading 2005 Rookie of the Year forward Ryan Boyle, defenseman Matt Alrich and goaltender Matt Vinc. They used that pick to take blue chip forward Ryan Benesch who played Canadian Junior A lacrosse in 2006, serving as the captain for the Kitchener Waterloo Braves. The native of Bloomingdale, Ontario was sixth in the Ontario Lacrosse Association (OLA) with 81 points (42 goals, 39 assists).
As part of the blockbuster deal with New York, San Jose also received highly regarded goaltender Aaron Bold. Bold saw limited action with the Portland Lumberjax last season but is considered by many in the league as a goalie of the future.
The second pick in the draft was acquired by sending defenseman and last season’s captain Cam Woods to Chicago so he could be closer to his home and family which included a new baby. With that pick, the Stealth selected defenseman Kyle Sorensen.
Sorenson played for the Peterborough Lakers and helped lead them to win the 2006 Minto Cup, awarded annually to the champion junior men's lacrosse team of Canada, scoring five points (1 goal, 4 assists) in the final game. He was also a member of the Peterborough Lakers Senior team which went on to win the 2006 Mann Cup awarded to the champion senior lacrosse team of Canada.
Along with the second pick, the trade brought forward Callum Crawford to San Jose whose youth and quickness will fit right in with the Stealth’s plans.
“Crawford is a great, young up-and-coming player,” added Stealth Managing Director and G.M. Johnny Mouradian. “He is a very versatile right hander who can play defense, excels in the transition game and on offense, he can put the ball in the net as well as set up some plays. We are trying to get younger with more ‘ballers’ living (in California) and Callum fits that bill.”
Not only did the Stealth hold the first and second picks of the entry draft but they also received the seventh pick of the first round by trading forward Derek Malawsky to Arizona. Defenseman Andrew Guindon also came west in the trade and is expected to add an experienced presence on the backline as well as bringing the mayhem that comes with his six-foot-two and 225-pound frame.
In total, the Stealth held seven picks in the draft and smartly choosing Benesch, Sorensen, goaltender Paul Dawson, attacker Wes Green, Brad Trottier, midfielder Joe Vasold, and defenseman Steve Holmes. The entry draft brought in a lot of fresh new faces to a Stealth team that is looking to bring excitement all season long.
With all these new faces, the veteran leadership will be provided by those returning to the Stealth including forwards Jeff Zywicki and Luke Wiles who were both named to the NLL All-Rookie Team last season.
Zywicki led the Stealth in goals (27), power play goals (nine), shots (169) and tied for the team lead in game winning goals (one) in 16 games. Wiles’ season was just as strong finishing second on the team in points (49) and goals (23).
Goaltending remains a strength for the Stealth as goaltender Anthony Cosmo is one of the top goalies in the NLL finishing last season with the third best goals against average (10.38) in the league.
In order to stay on top of their game, many Stealth regulars spent their offseason working on their game in the outdoor variety, playing with the Major League Lacrosse (MLL) and at the World Lacrosse Championship games in London, Ontario.
2003 NLL Defenseman of the Year Jim Moss and Zywicki helped the Canadian team win the gold medal at the World games. It was only the second time in World games history that the Canadian team won the gold.
Zywicki also contributed to Denver Outlaws of the MLL while defenseman Eric Martin played the inaugural season of the San Francisco Dragons franchise.
With the additional experience and the return of key starters, the Stealth enters their fourth season in franchise history energized.
With that said, no off season is without change and two new teams, Chicago and New York, have been added to the NLL expanding the league from 11 teams to 13. The expansion draft stripped the Stealth of two valuable players, veteran goaltender Brandon Miller (chosen first by NY) and forward Jarret Park.
“Obviously when your player is selected first overall (Miller), you know you lost a good player,” said Mouradian.
With a roster of rapidly developing young players mixed with enough veterans providing critical experience, the Stealth look to be a much improved team.
“Our goal is to win a championship by acquiring talented players who we can market around in this area,” added Mouradian. “We want to have some players who can live in this market as well as bring more U.S. born talent to our team and compete at a high level.”
Entering the 2007 campaign, the Stealth appear on their way to that goal.
Check out SJSTEALTH.com for an exciting 2-for-1 ticket offer for opening night on Jan. 5. For more information on the team, the bold new SportsPak (provides Stealth season tickets with seats to the San Jose Sharks, Fight Night at the Tank boxing and SAP Open tennis tournament in a great package) and the exciting new benefits for season ticket holders in 2007, visit www.sjstealth.com
or call (408) 999-5700.