Salmonbellies Make A Splash at 2022 WLA Draft

by Paul Horn

Just as they did in 2021, the Salmonbellies made some big splashes on Western Lacrosse Association Draft day, and in the weeks before as well.

The Bellies started the draft by choosing not to use their Territorial Protection, and that allowed them to select Haiden Dickson, a widely touted right-hander who is already in his second year of National Lacrosse League play. The offensive six-footer has 8 pts (5G, 3A) with the Calgary Roughnecks this season and was considered the consensus number one pick in the 2022 draft. Like current Bellies’ standouts Mitch Jones and Logan Schuss, Dickson is a Delta Islander product and could not be protected by any WLA team.

Last year, the Bellies added left-hander Wil Malcom, another dynamic forward with NLL experience, so GM Ray Porcellato is excited to see how the combination of youth and experience adds to the team’s offense. Porcellato commented, “As expected the abundance of picks we had in this year‘s draft gave us a lot of options and versatility, especially with teams like Nanaimo and Burnaby who are building for the future. We are very excited for the players we have added to our already strong lineup, and feel we are only a couple more pieces away from being in any Mann cup conversation.”

The Salmonbellies went into draft night in the best possible position, partly because of strategy and partly thanks to good luck. Normally, the WLA relies on their season standings to determine draft order, but with 2021 cancelled, it came down to a draw. Like the Junior Bellies a few weeks before, the Senior team drew the first overall pick. But Porcellato wasn't satisfied with that. Thanks to a prior trade with the Burnaby Lakers, he had already acquired pick number 12. He added to the cupboard by trading goalie prospect Kyle Mooney to the Langley Thunder for their 1st rounder (5th overall). He then traded Lucas Shein back to his hometown of Coquitlam, earning their 8th overall pick. That left the Bellies with a total of 5 selections in the first two rounds.

But that was just the start to a draft evening that featured five trades, including two more for the Bellies. New West traded their 1st round picks in 2022 and 2025 for the talents of Eli Gobrecht, a professional defender in both the Premier Lacrosse and National Lacrosse Leagues. Then Nanaimo and New West made a deal that saw Adam Fulton, plus picks in the first and second round go to the Harbour City, while Jordan Gilles and Liam McDonald will come to the Royal City. Gilles is a right-handed defender from Richmond, BC and he plays for the NLL Colorado Mammoth. Liam McDonald is a left-hander attackman for McGill University who played his U-18 field lacrosse in New West.

Even with those trades, the Bellies still had selections at the 12th, 14th, 15th, and 17th spots. Porcellato and Assistant GM John Richardson put those picks to good use. They selected Jacob Dowell, another left-handed defender from the Junior Lakers, then Finn Stark and Cam Husband from the Junior Bellies. Evan Wray, a capable right-hander from PoCo was chosen at 17.

That still left three choices for New Westminster. They selected Brett Ginac (28th, PoCo) and Jared Moloci (29th, Delta) and wrapped up with Parker Corbett (42nd, Burnaby).

When asked to sum up the draft, Assistant GM John Richardson put it well. “There lots of moving parts in this year’s draft. Ray converted our pics into NLL calibre defenders that will add even more depth to our backend.”

After a two-year COVID hiatus, the WLA season is slated to return to a full 18-game season, starting in the last week of May. The Senior Salmonbellies will begin on the road, facing both Vancouver Island teams on the same weekend. They’ll take on the Shamrocks at the Q Centre at 8 pm Friday, May 27th. They’re in Nanaimo the next night, beginning at 7 pm. Local fans will get to see the team’s home opener at 7:30 pm, Thursday, June 2nd versus the Burnaby Lakers. For Porcellato, those dates have been a long time coming.