Today marks the National Lacrosse League’s roster deadline, and the Washington Stealth has announced the 23 players that will be on the active roster when the 2012 season begins on January 14. The roster features many of the names that led the Stealth to back-to-back Western Division titles, with three offseason acquisitions added to the mix.
“The decisions this season were very difficult as we had a tremendously talented group in camp battling for limited number of roster spots,” said Stealth General Manager Doug Locker about dwindling the 37-player training camp roster down to 23. “Our staff made some tough decisions, but ultimately this roster is deep, very talented and one that we feel gives us the opportunity to compete at the top echelon of the league this season.”
On the offensive end, the majority of the group that has led the NLL in scoring the past two seasons remains in tact. The right side continues to be led by two-time NLL All-Pro Rhys Duch and Jeff Zywicki, one of the Stealth’s all-time scoring leaders. Rookie Brett Hickey, who was drafted by the Stealth in the fifth round (43rd overall) of the 2011 NLL Entry Draft, earned his spot as a right-handed forward after an impressive training camp that included a hat trick in a scrimmage against the Colorado Mammoth.
The left side of the offense has four veteran forwards, including All-Pro Lewis Ratcliff, who has more points than any other player in the NLL over the last two seasons. He’s joined by ten-year NLL vet Cam Sedgwick and Cliff Smith, who the Stealth acquired via trade last season. Rounding out the lefties is offseason free agent signing Dean Hill, who spent the last two seasons with the Edmonton Rush.
“The incumbents on this roster are pretty darn good,” said Stealth Head Coach Chris Hall. “We lost a few guys, but you need to make changes to continue to improve. We have a very unselfish group on offense with a lot of weapons. They will certainly force opposing defenses to make some tough decisions as every guy up front can put the ball in the net.”
Entering his fourth NLL season, Paul Rabil leads the Stealth’s transition game a year after asserting himself as one of the league’s best two-way players with career-highs in points (44), assists (30) and loose balls (153). Stealth captain Jason Bloom and Kyle Hartzell also return, along with Bob Snider, who led the league a year ago at the face-off circle winning over 70% of his draws. The Stealth also added Nenad Gajic, who will start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
A point of emphasis for the Stealth this offseason was to add depth to the defensive end. They did just that, as well as returning a strong core of some of the league’s top defensemen. Assistant captain Kyle Sorensen, who missed 12 games last season due to injury, is set to start this season healthy. Joining Sorensen as right-handed defensemen are Matt Beers, Curtis Hodgson, Chris O’Dougherty and offseason acquisition Kyle Ross.
Led by 2011 All-Star Mike Grimes, who finished the regular season tops among defensemen with 11 goals and 21 points, the left side of the defense is arguably the best in the NLL. It also includes Jeff Moleski, Eric Martin and Chris McElroy.
“I love the personnel we have on defense,” said Hall. “It’s a group of big, strong, athletic guys that can do a little bit of everything. All of these guys can play shut down defense with an edge, force a turnover, pick up the loose ball, take it down the floor to lead a fast break and create a scoring chance.”
“We had a number of injuries to key players last season,” Hall added. “We never seemed to have the same group on the floor consistently, so we wanted to add more depth on the defensive end and I think we did that.”
At goaltender, the Stealth has named fourth-year netminder Tyler Richards the starter for the 2012 season. Richards has proven to be a big game goaltender for the Stealth, leading the team to the NLL Championship Game in each of the last two seasons. He posted a 7.71 goals against average and .854 save percentage in three playoff games last season. His backup will be rookie Chris Seidel, who earned the backup job during training camp, including a 26-save performance in just over 30 minutes of a preseason exhibition game against the Toronto Rock.
The complete 2012 Washington Stealth roster is listed here. The three-man practice roster will be announced later this week.
The Stealth opens the 2012 season on January 14, when the team plays host to the Calgary Roughnecks at the Comcast Arena at Everett. Tickets for the entire 2012 season are on sale now and available by calling 877-MY-75-TIX or at www.stealthlax.com.