Week 16 of the National Lacrosse League season saw the rookie race heat up as dominating performances from Randy Staats and Jesse King all but cemented the dynamic duo as the most likely players to hear their name called when the league announces the 2016 Rookie of the Year winner. Meanwhile, teammate and 2016 first overall pick Lyle Thompson provided back to back strong performances, racking up a 6- and 5-point performances in Georgia’s back to back wins over East Division rivals New England and Rochester.

We also saw a Rookie debut during Week 16 of action, as Adam Will suited up for the Bandits. Will appeared in both of Buffalo’s games against the Toronto Rock, recording a goal in his NLL debut on Friday night at the Air Canada Centre.

Strong performances from the likes of Staats, King, Thompson and Wesley Berg allowed each player to move into noteworthy positions among the NLL’s scoring leaders. Staats’ 16-point weekend allowed the former Six Nations Arrows star to slide into the league’s top ten scorers. Jesse King now sits just outside the top 20, in 21st spot, while Thompson sits 30th. Wesley Berg’s 3-point performance against Vancouver moved him into the league’s top 25. On the defensive side of the ball, Mitch de Snoo, Graeme Hossack and Chad Tutton have all made their impacts felt as well, with each player ranking rather high in a number of defensive categories. de Snoo not only sits 16th in caused turnovers, but 20th overall in loose balls. Tutton is 12th in caused turnovers and 29th in loose balls. Lastly Hossack, who is arguably the top rookie defender, is 29th in loose balls and 25th in caused turnovers.

1. (2) Randy Staats (RF) – Georgia Swarm
32-51-83 – 22 PIM – 207 S – 74 LB – 26 TO – 5 CTO

As much as I love everything King brings to the table, Staats has been right there with King all season as far as the #1 spot in the Rookie Rankings goes. After two dominating performances this past weekend, Staats deserves the bump up to number one. The 23-year-old led the Swarm past New England with 9 points and followed that up with a 7 points in Georgia’s crucial win over the Knighthawks. With 83 points in 16 games, Staats is now tied for ninth overall in NLL scoring with former league MVP Cody Jamieson.

2. (1) Jesse King (LF) – Georgia Swarm
18-50-68 – 11 PIM – 126 S – 75 LB – 26 TO – 7 CTO

King was a big part of Georgia’s win over the Knighthawks on Saturday night, racking up 8 points on 3 goals and 5 assists. While the Victoria, BC native has been excellent for the Swarm, his slight drop to number two in the Rookie Rankings has more to do with how good Randy Staats was and nothing to do with a decline in King’s play. In back to back Swarm victories, King made his presence felt tallying 12 points, seven loose balls and two caused turnovers. Georgia is firing on all cylinders right now and King is a big reason why.

3. (4) Chad Tutton (D) – Georgia Swarm
14-7-21 – 30 PIM – 59 S – 83 LB – 21 TO – 22 CTO

Tutton didn’t find the score sheet last weekend but he made his presence felt at the defensive end of the floor and in transition. Just has he’s done all season, Tutton’s ferocious defensive play helped limit two potent offences in New England and Rochester. The 23-year-old Courtice native has really broken out this season as a legitimate contender for the league’s Rookie of the Year award. With his impact at both ends of the floor, along with in transition, there certainly isn’t a more versatile rookie donning an NLL jersey each week.

4. (3) Wesley Berg (RF) – Calgary Roughnecks
21-39-60 – 16 PIM – 181 S – 79 LB – 29 TO – 5 CTO

Despite his Roughnecks falling 13-12 to the Vancouver Stealth, Wesley Berg was yet again a noteworthy presence at the offensive end of the floor. While it wasn’t his most overwhelming performance, the righty out of Coquitlam, BC picked up a goal and 2 assists, along with 7 loose balls. However, it was the confidence Berg shows in possession that impresses me the most. Berg shows little hesitation to shoot when he has a lane, but also can anticipate a play and knows when to dish the ball, showing excellent floor vision. Berg has been an excellent fit with the Roughnecks offence and should contend for Rookie of the Year honours.

5. (5) Graeme Hossack (D) – Rochester Knighthawks
2-3-5 – 9 PIM – 11 S – 83 LB – 9 TO – 18 CTO

This past week the Rochester Knighthawks took one on the chin at the hands of the Georgia Swarm, allowing 17 goals. While the Knighthawks team defence wasn’t particularly good, Hossack as an individual was yet again stout defensively. The hulking defender created 3 turnovers and scooped 7 loose balls in the loss, allowing him to creep into the top 25 in caused turnovers and top 30 in loose balls. Hossack has been very good for a struggling Rochester team this season, and often doesn’t get the credit he deserves. While he may sit fifth in the Rookie Rankings, Hossack will certainly challenge for Rookie of the Year honours.

6. (6) Lyle Thompson (RF) – Georgia Swarm
24-30-54 – 10 PIM – 129 S – 70 LB – 33 TO – 10 CTO

Thompson has really turned it on over the course of his last four games, showing everyone why he was selected with the first overall selection in the 2015 NLL draft. With 7 goals and 4 assists this weekend, Thompson was an integral part of both Swarm wins, which pushed Georgia into a playoff position. The former U of Albany star now has racked up 19 points in his last four games.

7. (8) Jordan Durston (LF) – Vancouver Stealth
16-20-36 – 25 PIM – 59 S – 44 LB – 27 TO – 2 CTO

With 4 points on 3 goals and 1 assist, Durston was a huge part of Vancouver’s win over the Calgary Roughnecks, keeping their playoff hopes alive. Durston has consistently played his role effectively, stepping up when the time calls for it as he did this past weekend. While Logan Schuss and Rhys Duch were the stars of the show, if not for Durston’s secondary scoring the Stealth would have dropped another game. The 21-year-old Wallaceburg native now sits sixth in team scoring with 36 points in 14 games.

8. (10) Mitch de Snoo (D) – Buffalo Bandits
1-6-7 – 8 PIM – 14 S – 91 LB – 10 TO 21 CTO

de Snoo is easily the most underrated rookie in this year’s crop. The Oshawa, Ontario native has been excellent at the defensive end of the floor for the Bandits, creating 21 turnovers this season, which places him sixteenth overall in that category. de Snoo has been equally as good in transition, pushing the ball up the floor with excellent speed and security. de Snoo has consistently shown strong decision making, evidence of his high lacrosse IQ. Last weekend the 6’2”, 220-pound defender racked up 2 assists, 12 loose balls and 1 caused turnover.

9. (7) Anthony Malcom (RF) – Buffalo Bandits
15-19-34 – 2 PIM – 77 S – 43 LB – 18 TO – 1 CTO

Malcom had a quiet week with four assists over the course of two games against the Toronto Rock. But for Malcom that’s exactly what he’s expected to do. Playing behind Dhane Smith and Mark Steenhuis, Malcom isn’t expected to put up Randy Staats or Jesse King type numbers. He’s expected to open up the floor for his skilled teammates, make good decisions with the ball and produce when the opportunity presents itself. And that’s what he’s done all season. Malcom’s 34 points allow him to fly under the radar, but don’t be fooled: his impact has helped the Bandits to be as successful as they have been this season.

10. (9) Turner Evans (LF) – Toronto Rock
7-10-17 – 0 PIM – 58 S – 27 LB – 17 TO – 1 CTO

With Colin Doyle out for the season, Evans has taken full advantage of the consistent floor time he’s being provided with. While the point production isn’t earth shattering, it is certainly there. The Peterborough native picked up 3 goals and 1 assist in two games this past weekend, which runs his total to seventeen points in 10 games. Evans has been playing with much more confidence as of late, as he likely knows his spot in the active lineup is secure. His 14 shots on goal over this weeks two games shows he’s been more aggressive, taking advantage of opportunities rather than playing tentatively as was the case early on this season.

Honourable Mentions

Thomas Hoggarth (D) – Vancouver Stealth

Dan Lintner (RF) – Toronto Rock

Jordan Gilles (D) – Colorado Mammoth

Mike Mallory (RF) – Colorado Mammoth

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