After 23 rookies saw action during Week 13 of National Lacrosse League play, Week 14 was expected to be a quieter one with just four games taking place. However, with a number of injuries and roster moves across the league, that simply was not the case as a total of 22 first-year players would see action.
With such a high number of rookies playing this week there were bound to be some firsts. Peterborough native Mark Farthing made his NLL debut with the Toronto Rock while goaltender Christian Del Bianco got his first taste of action, appearing for just under ten minutes for the Calgary Roughnecks in their loss to Saskatchewan. Meanwhile, Maple Ridge Burrards sniper Mike Mallory picked up his first NLL goal, beating Evan Kirk at the 9:45 mark of the second quarter in Colorado’s 12-10 triumph over the New England Black Wolves. Lastly in Georgia, one of the clubs unheralded rookies, Reid Acton, picked up his first NLL point on a Shayne Jackson second-quarter marker, along with his first NLL fight, as he squared off against David Brock of the Buffalo Bandits.
While there were a number of rookies competing for their respective clubs this week, standout performances were some what limited. Randy Staatsput forth the most noteworthy effort on Saturday night, as the former Six Nations Arrow star added to his rookie-leading point total, finding twine on two occasions while assisting on five others for seven points. In Vancouver, Peterborough native Turner Evans produced his best statistical performance as an NLL player, recording four points on a goal and three assists.
With five games on the schedule for Week 15, it should be another busy week for rookies league wide.
1. (1) Jesse King (LF) – Georgia Swarm
14-37-51 – 4 PIM – 102 S – 61 LB – 18 TO – 3 CTO
King had yet another strong performance despite his Swarm falling for the fifth straight game. While fellow rookies Staats and Lyle Thompson may be the more flashy of the trio of offensive rookies, King is truly the most dominant. With the ability to dictate the way the Swarm’s offence operates and his ability to dominate in various ways, King continues to impress. This past week the 6’3” lefty tallied a goal and two assists and created two turnovers. All over the box score and dominant on the floor, its know wonder King remains atop the Rookie Rankings.
2. (3) Randy Staats (RF) – Georgia Swarm
25-34-59 – 18 PIM – 164 S – 53 LB – 20 TO – 5 CTO
Staats gets a bump up the Rookie Rankings this week after a dominating seven-point performance in Georgia’s 18-14 home loss to the Buffalo Bandits. Recording a point on half of his team’s offensive production this week, Staats continues to impress. The seven points not only gave the Swarm a chance against the East-leading Bandits, but it pushed Staats into the team lead in scoring along with into a tie for 16th overall in league scoring. As confident as they come, Staats demands his touches and makes something happen on nearly every offensive set. In such a deep Rookie pool, Staats very well could emerge as the 2016 Rookie of the Year.
3. (4) Chad Tutton (D) – Georgia Swarm
12-6-18 – 26 PIM – 47 S – 66 LB – 20 TO – 20 CTO
A player who continues to rise in the weekly Rookie Rankings, how can I not give Tutton a bump after his performance this week. While it does become tough at times to bump defensive players when their team allows 18 goals against, Tutton himself continues to excel at both ends of the floor. With one goal and three created turnovers this past weekend, Tutton was excellent yet again. While former junior teammate Graeme Hossack is the better stay at home defender with some deceptively good transition skills, Tutton’s ability to defend at a high level, transition even better and find the back of the net is, for me, enough to warrant the bump.
4. (5) Graeme Hossack (D) – Rochester Knighthawks
2-3-5 – 9 PIM – 11 S – 70 LB – 6 TO – 13 CTO
Hossack wasn’t in action this past week as the Knighthawks were on their bye week. And yet I’ve given him a bump up the rankings. The past few weeks I’ve seemingly forgotten just how good this kid is. After a detailed glance at his stat line, I was extremely impressed that a defender with his size and physicality was able to defend at such an effective level while limiting himself to just nine penalty minutes. Hossack’s stat line is extremely impressive for a rookie defender. He’s chipped in five points, gotten up the floor well, created 13 turnover, scooped 70 loose balls and limited his own turnovers to just six. I overlooked Hossack for a couple weeks; maybe it was because I see him a lot and just expect great things. None the less he’s back in the top four this week and remains a legitimate threat for Rookie of the Year honours.
5. (2) Wesley Berg (RF) – Calgary Roughnecks
19-34-53 – 12 PIM – 154 S – 68 LB – 27 TO – 5 CTO
Berg has been excellent for Calgary this season. He stepped up in the absence of Dane Dobbie and provided the offence the Roughnecks needed to stay competitive without their star lefty in the lineup. While Berg has truly been the model of consistency at the offensive end for the Roughnecks this season, the Coquitlam native did have a down week in Week 14. The league’s second-highest scoring rookie tallied just one assist in Calgary’s narrow loss to Saskatchewan, despite seven shots on goal. Berg has earned his touches and they come frequently now as his teammates trust him to produce. This week was just a hiccup for the gifted youngster, however he does drop one spot in the Rookie Rankings.
6. (7) Lyle Thompson (RF) – Georgia Swarm
14-24-38 – 8 PIM – 97 S – 52 LB – 24 TO – 9 CTO
Thompson put forth one of his better performances this season for Georgia in their home loss to the Buffalo Bandits. The 2015 first overall pick tallied two goals and one assist and added four penalty minutes. While this season hasn’t exactly gone the way many expected it to for the highly-touted youngster, Thompson finds a way to produce on a weekly basis; it’s just not the astronomical numbers many assumed he’d produce. Thompson may be in tough to claim the league’s Rookie of the Year award but his game-breaking abilities and desire to compete and continuously get better bodes well for both himself and the Swarm.
7. (10) Anthony Malcom (RF) – Buffalo Bandits
13-14-27 – 2 PIM – 62 S – 34 LB – 15 TO – 1 CTO
Malcom is a player I paid added attention this past week. Throughout the season the New Westminster, BC native has always seemed to catch my eye but just doesn’t dominate the way some of his fellow rookies have been able to this season. But that’s okay, Malcom has found his niche with the Bandits playing behind Dhane Smith and Mark Steenhuis. While it took the 23-year-old some time to adjust to a new role that comes with limited touches, since he made the adjustment he’s really become more noticeable on a nightly basis, providing consistent depth production. With two goals, one loose ball and one created turnover this past week, Malcom now sits with 27 points on the season, good for seventh in Bandits team scoring.
8. (9) Jordan Gilles (D) – Colorado Mammoth
6-0-6 – 2 PIM – 15 S – 52 LB – 8 TO – 13 CTO
Gilles was fairly quiet for the Mammoth in their narrow 12-10 victory over the New England Black Wolves, however that’s perfectly fine. Gilles isn’t going to wow you with an overly physical defensive game or an eye-opening offensive game. He is, however, going to impress you with his tenacious on ball defence, elite foot speed and strong anticipation abilities. This past week the Delta, BC native picked up two loose balls and forced one turnover, helping his Mammoth maintain their spot atop the West Division standings.
9. (6) Jordan Durston (LF) – Vancouver Stealth
12-18-30 – 25 PIM – 55 S – 35 LB – 24 TO – 2 CTO
Durston’s Stealth are struggling and this past week, so did Durston. With just one assist to go along with four turnovers and just one shot on goal, the Wallaceburg native certainly didn’t have an ideal performance. Still, it’s hard to ignore what the two-time Minto Cup Champion has done this season in such a limited role for the Stealth. With 30 points in just 12 games the 2015 2nd round pick has produced similar numbers to that of Joel McCready who sees a lot more of the ball and has nearly double the amount of shots on goal. While I’m not comparing the two players stylistically, it does speak to Durston’s abilities as McCready is a very solid NLL player.
10. (NR) Turner Evans (LF) – Toronto Rock
3-6-9 – 0 PIM – 30 S – 19 LB- 10 TO – 1 CTO
Now that Evans is playing more regularly with the Rock he seems to have his confidence growing as well. This past week the Peterborough native produced a season-best four-point performance on a goal and three assists in the Rocks first road win of the season. With a veteran left side in Toronto, Evans has not only found touches, but playing time hard to come by. While it may be a small sample size, Evans has been excellent for the Rock the past three games and surely will be looking for an even bigger breakout performance when he squares off with his cousin Shawn and the New England Black Wolves this coming Saturday at the Air Canada Centre.
Thomas Hoggarth (D) – Vancouver Stealth
Hoggarth is a player who has impressed me every time I’ve seen him. From his Junior Peterborough Lakers days to his time with the Durham Turfdogs, I’ve always enjoyed his compete level and desire to do what it takes for his club to win games. It’s great to see the youngster get a fair look with the Vancouver Stealth this season. With two goals this past week and four goals in just three games, I think it’s safe to say will be seeing Hoggarth a fair bit as the 2016 regular season comes to a close.
Mike Mallory (RF) – Colorado Mammoth
A player who has flown under the radar for quite some time. Mallory had a cup of coffee with the Washington Stealth back in 2012 but hadn’t really got much of a shot since then despite a number of solid offensive campaigns in the WLA. A player who combines a nose for the net with grit and determination, it’s refreshing to see Mallory finally get a shot at the NLL level. Credit goes to Mallory as he’s taken full advantage of it with six points in four games for the Mammoth, including his first NLL goal this past weekend.
Mark Farthing (D) – Toronto Rock
I don’t think there is a lacrosse player more deserving of the shot Farthing got this past weekend with the Toronto Rock. A player who has grinded it out with the Durham Turfdogs of the Canadian Lacrosse League, most recently leading them to a Creators Cup championship, Farthing has been a key but under the radar player for an extremely talented Peterborough Lakers club the past few seasons. With his tireless work ethic, excellent foot speed and strong defensive skill set, it’s truly a shame the Peterborough native suffered a knee injury in the final minutes of his debut.
Reid Acton (D) – Georgia Swarm
Maybe Acton isn’t in consideration for Rookie of the Year honours, but the former NCAA champion has provided some excellent defence for the Georgia Swarm this season despite having a tough time cracking the lineup. When he’s been in, the 6’3” defender has been physical and showed a willingness to do what it takes for his team to win. While considered somewhat raw as he transitions back to the box game after dominating the field game as a long-pole defender, if Acton is given some rope with his development the Swarm may have found a true and talented stay at home defender.