Shamrocks get bigger and more skilled on an eventful WLA draft day

The Victoria Shamrocks rang Keegan’s bell.

And it’s certainly a big one to ring.

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The Shamrocks made six-foot-five, 235-pound forward Keegan Bell their first pick in the 2019 Western Lacrosse Association draft, sixth overall in the first round, late Thursday night at the Langley Events Centre.

“There’s a lot to like about him. Keegan has size, skill and character,” said Shamrocks GM Chris Welch.

Bell had 36 goals and 67 points in 20 regular-season games last season for the New Westminster Junior Salmonbellies and also plays NCAA field lacrosse for the Tusculum University Pioneers in Tennessee.

“Nobody has a bad word to say about Keegan. He is a gifted scorer with a great shot and a nose for the net. His size makes it difficult for defences to handle him,” said Welch.

Landing Bell overcame the shock of having three targeted Victoria Junior Shamrocks come off the board before the senior Shamrocks drafted at No. 6. Welch said he tried to move up but could not strike a deal.

Graduating Victoria Junior Shamrocks two-way forward Brad McCulley, who also plays for Robert Morris of the NCAA Div. 1, went third overall to the Langley Thunder. Marshal King of the Junior Shamrocks, out of Drexel of the NCAA Div. 1, went fourth overall to the Maple Ridge Burrards. Junior Shamrocks forward Braylon Lumb, the 2018 B.C. Junior A Lacrosse League scoring champion with 57 goals and 103 points in 21 games and who plays in the NCAA for the University of the District of Columbia, was selected fifth overall by the Nanaimo Timbermen.

“We were trying to make a trade to move up. That’s no secret,” said Welch.

“We tried to move up to No. 2 or No. 3. It came down to the wire. We came very close, but in the end, we were too far apart [from what the Shamrocks were willing to give up and what other teams wanted in return]. It’s a testament to the Junior Shamrocks program to have three players selected in the first round. While it was a little bittersweet to see three Victoria guys go right in front of us, we’re proud of them and happy for them. And we’re happy with the guys we got with our picks.”

Goaltender Chris Del Bianco of the Coquitlam Junior Adanacs went first overall to the hometown Coquitlam Adanacs, who are coached by Keegan Bell’s dad Bob Bell.

“Del Bianco is a generational player and a worthy No. 1 pick,” said Welch.

Highly touted two-way forward Ryland Rees of the Port Coquitlam Saints and NCAA Stony Brook went second overall to the Burnaby Lakers.

The New Westminster Salmonbellies traded out of the first round and the Lakers took that seventh pick and selected Graydon Bradley.

The Shamrocks selected Larson Sundown 13th overall in the second round. Welch said Victoria may have the steal of the draft with that pick and that Sundown is set to be a crowd favourite at The Q Centre.

“He has swagger and flair and is a real showman,” said Welch.

“We had Sundown rated a lot higher on our board and are surprised, and thrilled, that he fell to us.”

Sundown is from the Buffalo, New York, area but played on the Coquitlam Junior Adanacs’ Minto Cup Canadian Junior A championship team last year with Del Bianco. Sundown had 41 points in 14 regular-season games last season.

“In Keegan Bell we got a big right-hander who can step right into the lineup, and in Larson Sundown a dynamic left-hander we think will become a fan favourite,” said Shamrocks head coach Bob Heyes, about Victoria’s haul in the first two rounds.

Defensive stalwart Dylan Rehman, out of the Junior Shamrocks, was Victoria’s third-round selection and 20th overall.

“Dylan is a blue-chip back-ender,” said Welch.

The Shamrocks selected Pascal Coombes from the Nanaimo Junior Timbermen in the fourth round, Zack Homer from the Junior Shamrocks in the fifth round, Colton Boomer from the Thompson-Okanagan Junior B team in the sixth round and Guy Cullen and Tyler Mace from the Junior Shamrocks in the seventh and eighth rounds.

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