Edmonton Rush 2013 NLL Preview: Taking Another Shot at the Champion's Cup

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Edmonton Rush 2013 NLL Preview: Taking Another Shot at the Champion's Cup
(Photo: Michael Martin, nll.com)

After a lacklustre season, the Edmonton Rush had a fairytale playoff run, making their first ever appearance in the Champion's Cup final, losing 9-6 to the Rochester Knighthawks.

Going into 2013, the Rush will be looking to take things to the next level.

Head Coach and General Manager Derek Keenan has made a number of off-season moves to keep things going forward.

Shawn Williams was sent to the Minnesota Swarm in exchange for two 2013 draft picks. Williams was the top point-getter for the Rush in 2012 with 68, but he's no spring chicken—and since he was due to become a free agent over the summer, the time was right to make the move.

The Rush also made a big move by dumping holdout Paul Rabil to the Knighthawks for forward Jarrett Davis.

Davis has averaged 26 points per year in his short NLL career thus far, and will be called upon to step up his game a little more in 2013.

Aaron Wilson was traded this week to the Buffalo Bandits along with a second-round pick in next year's draft for young transition player Jeremy Thompson.

Also this week, the Rush picked up Cory Conway from the Calgary Roughnecks. Conway has provided solid secondary scoring for the Roughnecks over the last two seasons, and adds right-handed depth to the offense.

The new-look offense will also be helped by Edmonton's two first-round draft picks.

If first overall pick Mark Matthews is half the player that his reputation would suggest he is, he'll have an immediate and significant impact. He's a big 6'5" and has speed, quickness, touch and a booming shot in the 95-mph range. He's basically the complete package.

At 5'10", Curtis Knight isn't the physically imposing specimen that Matthews is, but the eighth-overall selection picked up 95 points for the Whitby Warriors in 2012, and seems to be improving every year.

Ryan Ward (57 pts), Corey Small (48 pts), Zack Greer (43 pts) and Scott Evans (47 pts) round out an offensive group that is younger and quicker than last year. All things being equal, last year's league-worst offense should be getting quite a bit better.

But the strength of this team is on the other end of the floor.

Edmonton's defense gave up just 175 goals last year, the second fewest in the NLL and that group remains virtually intact, with one exception. 

As reported by In Lacrosse We Trust, Steve Toll has announced his intention to hold out this year and play for CLAX instead, as it is closer to home and more financially practical for him. Such is the nature of a sport where athletes are getting so little compensation for their efforts.

Even without Toll, the Rush have tons of talent in the back court.

Kyle Rubisch grabbed up 151 loose balls last year and forced a league-leading 43 turnovers to earn the NLL's Defensive Player of the Year. 

NLL Defensive Player of the Year Kyle Rubisch (Photo: facebook.com/TheEdmontonRush)

 

Rubisch is once again joined by an excellent group of defenders in Brett Mydske, Chris Corbeil and Jarrett Toll while the transition game will be run by Jimmy Quinlan and newcomer Thompson.

Between the pipes, the Rush will look to Aaron Bold to repeat his breakthrough performance of 2012. 

In his first stint as a full-time starter, Bold responded well, posting a 10.47 goals against average, good for third best in the league. He also did an excellent job of transitioning the Rush to offense, picking up 14 assists.

With more offensive options and an injection of young, hungry talent, there's no reason not to expect the Rush to improve on last season's regular season performance and be well positioned to take another run at the Champion's Cup.

 

Follow me on Twitter @calgaryjimbo 

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