Roughnecks' King ready to reign supreme

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Injuries have plagued one of the National Lacrosse League’s most promising left-handers since he was drafted third overall in the 2015 NLL Draft. Now that he’s back and healthy (again), Jesse King has the potential to help transform the Roughnecks into an NLL Cup contender.

Following a stellar 77-point rookie campaign with the Georgia Swarm in 2016, King’s career took an agonizing turn when he tore his ACL in the summer of 2016. Just a few months earlier, King and his Swarm teammates faced a different type of pain. After sneaking into the 2016 NLL Playoffs with an 8-10 record that season, the Swarm lost a thrilling 14-13 overtime battle to the New England Black Wolves in the NLL East Division Semi-Finals.

The injury would sideline him until the 2018 NLL campaign. When he returned, he proved to the league that he was still a capable goalscorer, even netting six more goals than he did in his rookie campaign to set a new career-high of 28 scores.

Later that year, King’s career would face more unexpected change when he was traded to the Calgary Roughnecks in exchange for Holden Cattoni on the night of the 2018 NLL Draft, but that wasn’t everything. During training camp with the Roughnecks, a lower-body injury would take King off the floor for another prolonged period.

Roughnecks general manager Mike Board knew the type of talent King was when he traded for him last September and is pleased to have him finally showcasing his skill in the lineup, especially returning to the floor earlier than Board was expecting him.

“When the injury happened in training camp, we didn’t think he’d be back at all during the regular season,” said Board. “He got back earlier than we thought and it was great having him back. 

“It’ll probably take him a little time to get back to full steam and get into that complete 60-minute game speed condition, but his first game was really good."  

Even if it does take King some time to be in peak playing condition, his one goal and two assists in his debut game with the Roughnecks shows the potential of his potency in this rotation. 

“It’s always great having a guy like [King],” Roughnecks head coach Curt Malawsky said. “Anytime someone wants to slide off [Dane] Dobbie or cheat off of [Curtis] Dickson, you’ve got to be accountable for other guys on the floor and Jesse is a great finisher.” 

“Jesse makes us a lot better, a lot deeper.”

Adding depth to a growingly potent offence should pay significant dividends for the Roughnecks come playoff time. Personal records are being smashed by players all of the floor offensively. On the left side, both Dan Taylor and Riley Loewen have set career-highs in goals, while Dane Dobbie is looking to finish his MVP-caliber 115-point season on a high note and Curtis Dickson will finish his shortened season with near career-high points per game on the right side.

King’s ability to distribute and score will make life complicated for defences that already have their hands full with the Roughnecks when they’re clicking on all cylinders. Coach Malawsky understands how adding that extra man to the offence should only lead to making the rest of the team better.

“The biggest thing about [King’s] addition is that he is that an on-ball player and an off-ball player,” said Malawsky. “He can get himself open, but more importantly, he knows how to get his teammates open. He fits in well with Dan Taylor and Riley Loewen on the left side and will help to take attention off Dobbie and Dickson.” 

It’s universally believed in the Roughnecks organization that King is a vital piece to this Roughnecks squad that has struggled to find consistency in 2019. Board hopes that King’s versatility could be the missing link to the offence.

“He can play a big role,” said Board. He’s a dynamic kind of player. He’s always on the move, he sets great picks, he creates room for his teammates, and he can finish too. He’s that type of guy that can do all kinds of things.”

As the playoffs creep closer, King will get his chance to further prove himself to his new team. With two injuries behind him and an opportunity to create a new future for himself in Calgary, the sky’s the limit for King to reign supreme as part of the Roughnecks.