Senior Bellies emerge from 2023 draft with three junior Salmonbellie graduates.
The 2023 Western Lacrosse Association Junior Draft featured more territorial protection picks but few other surprises, with the Senior A Salmonbellies active only in rounds three through five as a result of trades in the previous two seasons. At the end of the evening, the Senior Bellies had 5 new additions, including three former Junior Bellies and a goalie.
The most significant news in the 2023 WLA Draft was a significant change to the Territorial Protection rules. In the first few years of the Territorial Protection program, WLA teams could protect just one player, and that pick was based on the address of the player. In 2023, the league changed the provision, allowing every team to protect two players, based on their primary affiliation over their junior career. This year all 7 teams protected 2 players each.
The Bellies protected Noah Armitage and Ben Stewart to the Senior club, after their distinguished careers with the Junior Bellies. Both players finished their 2022 season with the Junior Thunder after a late season trade, but they were eligible for Territorial Protection because they played the majority of their junior careers in the Royal City.
Armitage is a 6'4" 210-pound leftie who notched 3.6 regular season points per game last season. After being added to a stacked Thunder offence, he raised that average to 3.8 ppg during the playoffs. In both the regular season and playoffs, Armitage's goal-scoring and assist numbers were identical, demonstrating his prowess as both a shooter and a playmaker. He is also a skilled NCAA attack player for the Stonybrook Seawolves, where he managed 35 points over 12 games as a junior in 2022.
At 6'2", Stewart is also a big leftie with a scoring touch. In 13 regular season BCJALL games, he managed 29 goals, making him 6th in the league for the season. Like Armitage, he can also distribute the ball, earning 23 helpers last year, for a 4.0 regular season ppg average. His NCAA credentials are also strong. He is a senior for the Wagner Seawolves, where he holds a regular spot as a midfielder and is known for his speed and smarts in transition on the field, and his academic ability in the classroom.
Bellies GM Ray Porcellato has high praise for both players. "Noah Armitage and Ben Stewart are absolutely blue-chip prospects that I think have extremely high ceilings. They both have the size, athleticism, and the lacrosse IQ to play at the highest level, so we are excited to have them join the Sr Bellies and reach their full potential at Queens Park in the years to come.”
After announcing their Territorial Picks, each team was able to draft over five more rounds, but the Bellies had just three picks, with the first coming in the third round. The Bellies used that pick to select Stryker Roloff from the Langley Junior Thunder. Roloff is a 6’2” left-handed defender who was recently selected by the NLL Las Vegas Desert Dogs in the 2022 draft.
In the 4th round, the Bellies selected Kip Guthrie from the Junior Bellies. Guthrie, an SFU Business student, played just 7 games for the Junior Fish last year, but he notched 3 goals and 6 assists in those games.
The Bellies completed their selections by adding goaltender Troy Cuzzetto from the Junior Thunder. Cuzzetto played 14 games in Langley last season and earned an 80.5 save percentage.
“We’re gearing up for a Mann Cup-worthy season this year,” said Senior Salmonbellies President, Paul Horn. “These 5 young men have a great deal to offer, and we welcome them with open arms to the Bellies family. It is especially gratifying to see three Junior Bellies making the step to the Senior club, but we also want to acknowledge all the other New West Junior players who were drafted to other clubs. New Westminster’s junior team provided many players on Tuesday and that should be a source of pride for everyone in the Royal City.”
The Western Lacrosse Association expects to announce its schedule in the coming weeks, but local fans can expect to see the Salmonbellies, powered by Stonehaus Realty, hit the floor in late May.
Season tickets are on-sale now at Salmonbellies.com