Donahue Pick Swung Complexion of MLL Draft
The beginning of the 2016 Major League Lacrosse Collegiate Draft went exactly as planned: the expansion Atlanta Blaze kept the first overall pick and used it to select Duke midfielder Myles Jones.
The Charlotte Hounds, owners of two of the next three picks, then threw everyone a curve ball.
Notre Dame attackman Matt Kavanagh was believed to be the consensus number two pick. Charlotte general manager Mike Cerino liked Kavanagh. He just also really liked Syracuse attackman Dylan Donahue, too taking him with the second pick.
Donahue led Syracuse with 50 goals last year and figures to take on an even more prominent role in the Orange offense this season after the gradutions of Kevin Rice, Randy Staats and the Syracuse first midfield line.
Then, after Florida also passed on Kavanagh in order to improve one of the weaker defenses in the league by selecting Kavanagh's Notre Dame teammate Matt Landis, Charlotte -- just like the first time around -- opted for someone else. The Hounds selected Johns Hopkins attackman Ryan Brown with the fourth overall pick.
"Having the two and four, the idea was we wanted to add scoring punch to the attack and get (Mike) Sawyer coming out of the box," Cerino said. "There were three guys we liked: Kavanagh, Donahue and Brown. We had to have two of the top three attackmen. Donahue and Brown fit best for us, having [Joey] Sankey."
Sankey, the reigning MLL rookie of the year, like Kavanagh and Donahue, is a lefty that does damage around the cage and slashing on the low wings. So does Kavanagh. Donahue can perhaps be more versatile and be a complementary part setting up shop at X.
The selections set off a chain of unexpected events. Denver, believed to need a defender, did not let Kavanagh continue to slide.
"Matt was a Tewaaraton finalist and we believe he is the best clutch collegiate player in the 2016 draft," Outlaws head coach B.J. O'Hara said in a press release.
Boston was in need of a defender as well, but had some flexibility also owning the ninth pick. With three of the four top poles still on the board, the Cannons selected Virginia midfielder Greg Coholan, stealing the Rochester-native away from the Rattlers.
[RELATED: Full MLL Draft Results]
A run on defenders ended the first round. Rochester selected Maryland defender Matt Dunn. Ohio – needing a defender after trading Dana Wilber earlier in the day to the Chesapeake Bayhawks – took Yale's Michael Quinn. Then, to end the first round, Boston got the pole it may have secretly wanted most of all, Syracuse's Brandon Mullins.
Charlotte would go on to select midfielders Pat Young (Maryland) and Colin Woolford (Denver), attackman Nick Doktor (Penn), and goalie Tyler White (Towson).
"I think that push down of the defensemen allowed guys to enter different places," Cerino said. "I wanted in the first round to get two of the best attackman I could find that fit us. We wanted to get deeper and stronger in the midfield and then get a goaltender we can develop. That was the goal. There were good defensemen, they just didn't fall to us the way it broke."
Atlanta Blaze Steal the Show
It was a foregone conclusion that the Blaze would take Duke midfielder Myles Jones with the first pick. That doesn't mean, however, they couldn't still make headlines.
Prior to selecting Jones, MLL commissioner David Gross announced Atlanta agreed to a trade with the Boston Cannons, acquiring defender Scott Ratliff (a native of Marietta, Georgia), the 15th overall pick and a 2017 supplemental draft choice in exchange for Brodie Merrill, Mike Pellegrino, Justin Turri and their first round pick in the 2017 MLL collegiate draft.
"Scott is a great addition to the Blaze and is one of the most outstanding defensemen in the MLL" said Atlanta Blaze head coach John Tucker, who coached the long-stick midfielder with Boston last season. "Scott was a captain on our Cannons team in 2015 and is a proven leader. I look to him to provide similar leadership as part of the Blaze."
In the second round, Atlanta selected Jones' Duke midfield teammate, Deemer Class. The concern about Class heading into the draft was that his production was the result of opposing defenses focusing their efforts on Jones. Atlanta will not have to worry if Class can succeed without him, keeping the two paired up. Atlanta selected another Blue Devil – attackman Case Matheis – in the seventh round.
The real winner of the 2016 MLL collegiate draft was the Marquette Golden Eagles. The fourth-year program, which had never produced an MLL draftee, had three players selected throughout the day: long-stick midfielder Liam Byrnes (No. 21 to Florida), midfielder Jacob Richard (No. 35 to New York) and defender B.J. Grill (No. 40 to Denver).
"It is a testament to the guys who came before them and those three themselves that they understood what hard work was and did everything right to this point," Marquette head coach Joe Amplo said in a release on the school's website. "They did everything that they were asked and that's what we tell our team all the time. If you do the right thing, good things will come."
It makes sense that coaches want guys they know well. It also makes sense that, for a growing league like the MLL, front offices want local guys that don't cost a lot to fly in and can make it to practice.
The Cannons took that concept to another level at the draft.
In the final round, new Cannons head coach Sean Quirk went back to the school he previously coached – Division III powerhouse Endicott – to select goalie Cameron Bell, who hails from Falmouth, Maine. Bell is now coached by Eric Hagarty, who played for Quirk at Endicott and has been a goalie for the Cannons since 2012.
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