Seth Van Schepen embodied everything it meant to be a great rookie last season. He listened. He learned. He adapted. He impressed. It’s no surprise that he earned himself a long-term NLL contract.
In 2022, Van Schepen, a Brampton, Ontario native, was selected 10th overall in the 2022 NLL Entry Draft by the Calgary Roughnecks. The 6’6”, 200+ pound lefty was selected as a forward who had excelled offensively at the Jr. B and Jr. A level in Ontario. He completed his first professional season as one of the top defensive rookies in the league.
“It was a surreal experience, for sure,” Van Schepen said. “I had been thinking about that day as a kid (one day being drafted). To go as high as I did goes to show how much work I put into [wanting to get to the NLL]. To see all of my hard work come to fruition and be able to have that opportunity to play in the NLL was a dream come true.”
Coming into his first training camp, Van Schepen wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. Being drafted by the Roughnecks, he was immediately surrounded by some of the league’s most intelligent, respected coaching minds. They were going to figure out where the best fit was for one of the most versatile young players in the league, and they hit the nail on the head.
“My experience going into training camp, I was definitely nervous,” Van Schepen said. “I got drafted as an offensive player, but kind of knew – I had a feeling that nothing was set in stone. If I wanted to be an offensive player, I had to really show out. It turned out that that wasn’t the right fit for the team, so I had to transition to being a more defensive player. Throughout the year, I grew to love playing defense.”
You would expect that Coach Curt Malawsky, Coach Bob McMahon, and Coach Brian Beisel would know what to do with Van Schepen. And they did. Those three men on the bench have decades of playing and coaching experience between them and a handful of championship rings as well.
“I’ve been pretty fortunate in my whole lacrosse career to have a handful of amazing coaches, and that didn’t fall short going to Calgary,” Van Schepen said. “That whole coaching staff with Mouse [Coach Malawsky], and Bob [Coach McMahon], and [Coach] Beisel there, it was definitely a great coaching staff to play for in my first year.”
After his first regular season game, which is always a nerve-wracking feel-it-out experience, in just his second game, Van Schepen showed the professional box world how many ways he beat you. He scored a goal (on one shot), picked up four loose balls, caused a turnover, and blocked a shot.
By the end of his 16 games played during the regular season, he had sprinkled in a few assists, blocked a handful more shots, scooped up a load more of loose balls, and caused a little more than a baker’s dozen of caused turnovers. During the 2022-23 season, he was one of only two rookies with 15+ caused turnovers and was the only rookie with 15+ caused turnovers and 5+ blocked shots. Van Schepen was also very disciplined and was rarely sent to the penalty box.
For a 22-year-old who had not been thrilled about lacrosse’s physicality, Van Schepen grew into his own, both literally and figuratively. No one ever knows what it will feel like to be checked by a lacrosse stick until it happens. It hurts. But that’s part of the game. Van Schepen grew to embrace that aspect of the game and found ways to be a menacing force of his own.
“I was just a little kid that wanted to play lacrosse and not get whacked by a bunch of other kids,” Van Schepen said. “As you grow up, you learn the game more – it’s part of the game, and it’s a part of the game you learn to love, too.”
Van Schepen began the 2023-24 Calgary Roughnecks Season in an unusual yet exciting position. Coach Malawsky and Coach McMahon were hired to be the bench bosses of the Vancouver Warriors, so Alberta’s team needed a replacement.
The organization went with Josh Sanderson, who won an NLL Championship with the Roughnecks in 2009, to be the head coach and Troy Cordingley, who was the head coach of that 2009 Roughnecks team, to fill those roles. They also brought in Phil Sanderson to replace Brian Beisel as the team’s new defensive coordinator.
Interestingly, Van Schepen had rooted for Head Coach Sanderson as a kid when he was a star with the MSL Brampton Excelsiors. Now he’ll get to play for and learn from him.
There is potential for younger players to struggle to learn a new system under new leadership, especially after learning how to do things a certain way for only one year before the changes. Still, Van Schepen is not only excited to learn from these new decorated and thoughtful lacrosse minds, but he thinks it will benefit him and the team to learn new and different ways of playing the game.
“I think it can definitely be beneficial for me, but also for the whole team in general,” Van Schepen said. “We didn’t end last season the way we wanted to last season (I know that’s no surprise) – that had nothing to do with the guys on the team or the coaching staff – or anything like that – it was just kind of the way it went for us. I think having a brand new coaching staff can be exciting. It’s something that we can look forward to and learn something new.”
For Van Schepen, it doesn’t matter who is coaching him; he just wants to play lacrosse at the highest level. Over the offseason, his impressive first year in the NLL earned him a three-year contract to keep him in Calgary with the core group of guys that have grown to become family.
He began his 2023-24 season with an assists, five loose ball recoveries and a blocked shot. If he were to continue to post those kinds of numbers in each game of the regular season, he would reach career highs in each of those three categories.
There have been a lot of changes in Van Schepen’s early lacrosse life, but he wouldn’t change a thing. He is who he is because of his new experiences and is better for them. Now, it’s up to him to continue to grow as a player on and off the floor. Based on his first game of this newest season, he’s on his way to doing just that.
“I learned so many things; I couldn’t count how many new things I learned in just one season. It was probably more than I’ve learned in many years playing the game,” Van Schepen said. “Being drafted to Calgary was one of the best things that could’ve happened to me. Just being around the coaching staff and all the players there. It was definitely good for me.”
By Adam Levi