CALGARY, AB — The NLL Draft is only a week away, and teams are preparing themselves for what some think may be the best draft class to ever come into the League.
Young athletes have showcased their skills this summer in Major League Lacrosse (MLL), the Western Lacrosse Association (WLA), Major Series Lacrosse (MSL), and more, in a bid to get noticed by NLL clubs.
While no draft ever goes as planned, we take our best shot to predict how the first round of the NLL Draft will unfold.
1. Georgia Swarm – Lyle Thompson, RF
Why Thompson: The Swarm take arguably the best player in the draft and pair him with his older brother Miles to form a formidable duo on offence. Lyle set a single-season NCAA record in 2015 in scoring 128 points. Thompson won the Tewaaraton award in 2015 and was the co-Tewaarton award winner in 2014 with brother Miles. With the Florida Launch of the MLL, Thompson scored 18 goals and 11 assists for 29 points in six games this summer. He is currently playing in the World Indoor Lacrosse Championships with the Iroquois Nationals.
2. Rochester Knighthawks – Randy Staats, RF
Why Staats: Cousin of Knighthawks superstar, Cody Jamieson, Staats himself is a very good lacrosse player. Playing a pivotal role for the Six Nations Chiefs of the MSL in 2015, he registered 43 points (20g, 23a) in 12 games. In the MSL playoffs, Staats added another 15 goals and 13 assists to his resume. With names like Hossack, King, and Berg still on the board, it is possible that Rochester trades away the pick for one later in the first round where they could still take the young First Nations star. He is currently playing in the World Indoor Lacrosse Championships with the Iroquois Nationals.
3. Georgia Swarm – Graeme Hossack, LD
Why Hossack: After nabbing Thompson with their first pick, the Swarm add the draft’s best defenceman. With comparisons to Saskatchewan’s Kyle Rubisch, Hossack has big potential. The Swarm defence was third worst in the NLL in 2015, allowing 223 goals. Adding Hossack should help lower that number. He spent the summer playing for the Brooklin Redmen of the MSL, where he recorded three goals and seven assists. He was only penalized once in the 13 games to showcase his discipline.
4. Calgary Roughnecks – Jesse King, LF
Why King: With a spot available on the left side with the departure of Daryl Veltman, King has the ability to come in immediately and produce for the Roughnecks. Playing with the Victoria Shamrocks, Kings had 33 goals and 31 assists — seventh in overall scoring. In the WLA playoffs, King helped lead the Shamrocks to a four-game sweep of the Maple Ridge Burrards to advance to the Final. He was also a driving force in the Shamrocks’ sweep of the New Westminster Salmonbellies to win the WLA Championship. In the playoffs, he netted five goals and 13 assists in eight games, and was also a key member of the ‘Rocks offence in the 2015 Mann Cup win, adding 14 points (8g, 6a) in the grueling six-game series.
5. Georgia Swarm – Wes Berg, RF
Why Berg: After being traded from the Coquitlam Adanacs to the Oakville Rock, Berg only suited up for seven games, missing time with an injury. In those seven games, he tallied seven goals and five assists. Berg is a Western product that could make the Swarm offence even more dangerous immediately. The 6’2” righty found his stride in the MSL once the playoffs started, where he was second on the Rock with 15 points (8g, 7a), out-producing his regular season numbers in only five games. However, it wasn’t enough to beat the Peterborough Lakers, and they were eliminated from the playoffs.
6. Georgia Swarm – Chad Tutton, LT
Why Tutton: With a couple of forwards and a defenceman in tow, the Swarm add a great defensive transition player to their roster. Pairing Tutton with Jordan MacIntosh would give the Swarm a lot of talent in transition. Tutton has been compared to NLL Champion and Saskatchewan Rush captain, Chris Corbeil. If he can produce at or near that level, the Swarm get a lot better. Tutton is played in the MSL this summer, helping the Peterborough Lakers make it all the way to the Mann Cup. Being asked to play a more defensive role with the Lakers, he has recorded only a single goal this season. However, in the Mann Cup, Tutton tripled his season scoring output, netting one goal and assisting on two others.
7. Calgary Roughnecks – Turner Evans, LF
Why Evans: Cousin of Roughnecks superstar and NLL MVP nominee Shawn Evans, Turner brings a lot of the same skills to the table. He is smaller at 5’8”, but he brings good vision, passing, and a gritty style of play. In 2015 with the Peterborough Lakers of the MSL, Evans registered 41 points (11g, 30a) in 17 games. In the MSL Playoffs, Evans tallied six goals and 13 assists en route to a Mann Cup berth. There, he found twine only twice, but was able to find his teammates for seven goals.
8. New England Black Wolves – Derek Searle, LD
Why Searle: A late addition into the draft, Searle instantly enters the first round picture. He is a step behind Hossack, but he is a very talented defender all the same. Searle brings a tough, stay-at-home style of defence while adding some much needed depth to the Black Wolves young defensive core. As a rookie with the Kitchener/Waterloo Kodiaks of the MSL, Searle had two goals, eight assists, and 25 penalty minutes in 15 games.
9. Saskatchewan Rush – Reilly O’Connor, LF
Why O’Connor: The Rush go ‘best player available’ and take an elite passer in O’Connor. He registered point totals of 79, 78, and 91 in three years of juniors. In the MSL in 2015, O’Connor recorded eight goals and 15 assists in 12 games with the Redmen. O’Connor played for Rush coach Derek Keenan in Whitby, so that familiarity could make for an easy transition to the system and style of play. Tyler Melnyk, the Rush’s third lefty, played in only four games last season, registering 11 points (6g, 5a). O’Connor would provide depth on the left side and should find success passing to elite finishers like Robert Church and Mark Matthews.