September 22, 2011

Neil Stevens' NLL Draft Recap and Feedback

by Neil Stevens | LaxMagazine.com


Philadelphia Wings general manager and coach Johnny Mouradian (right) says No. 1 draft pick Kevin Crowley will fit nicely on the right side with Drew Westervelt and dispersal draft pickup Dan Dawson.

TORONTO -- All of Jeremy Thompson's wishes came true in the National Lacrosse League entry draft Wednesday.

The First Nations standout from the Onandaga community outside Syracuse, N.Y., where he played NCAA field lacrosse, was the first U.S. resident to hear his name called. He crossed his fingers that an East Division team would take him, and the Buffalo Bandits obliged when he was still available at No. 9.

"I wanted to stay in the East because I've got a little one on the way," he said of the impending birth of his first child. "Now I'll be in Buffalo with all their great players, including my cousin, Brett Bucktooth.
"I'll bring my 'A' game, go hard and have fun."

Bandits assistant coach Rich Kilgour explained why his team picked the 24-year-old Thompson the first time they got to the mic.

"I really think it was because of his all-around play," Kilgour said. "He took faceoffs and played a midfield position at Syracuse, and he also has an extensive box lacrosse background."

Thompson, who has starred with eastern Ontario Senior "A" teams during his summers, will boost the Bandits' athleticism.

"We're really excited to get him," Kilgour said. "He's very mature for his age, and he really takes his lacrosse seriously. That was one of the things we liked about him."

Thompson hoped Orange teammate Joel White would go high in the draft and he got that wish, too, as White's named was called by the Rochester Knighthawks at No. 10, while Thompson was still doing interviews. White, 22, from Cortland, N.Y., was the first long stick to be named top midfielder in U.S. college field play, and the 6-foot-1 bruiser has some indoor experience, having played at Six Nations in southern Ontario.

"We're expecting big things from him," said Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen. "We know he's a hard worker, and that's the kind of guys we're looking for. We're hoping he can play in the NLL next season and push guys around."

There was always an outside chance that Jerome Thompson would be drafted by Buffalo, too, and it happened when the Bandits selected Jeremy's younger brother 25th overall.

The No. 1 pick in the entry draft by the Philadelphia Wings was 6-foot-4 forward Kevin Crowley of New Westminster, B.C. The captain of the Stony Brook University squad on Long Island was on Canada's silver medal team at the 2010 world field championship in Manchester, England. He's just as good indoors. Crowley, 23, played box lacrosse for his hometown Salmonbellies this summer and led his senior league with 39 playoff points in 10 games.

"He's a perfect fit for us," said Wings GM-coach Johnny Mouradian. "He's going to be up on that right side with Drew Westervelt and Dan Dawson, and they're going to be tough to defend. They're all 6-foot-3 or 6-foot-4 and they all can play with and off the ball. They'll be dangerous."

Another Syracuse star, Stephen Keough, 24, of Toronto, was the No. 2 pick by the Rochester Knighthawks. He potted a team-best 33 goals in NCAA play in 2011. The 5-foot-10 forward played indoors for the Six Nations senior club this summer after a junior career in Orangeville, Ont., that included Canadian championship MVP honors in 2008.

Rochester owner-GM Curt Styres is from Six Nations and watched Keogh excel playing alongside several Knighthawks.

About the Author

Neil Stevens has covered pro and Canadian lacrosse since 1971. He and the late Tom Borrelli -- a longtime LM contributor -- are the only media members recognized by the NLL Hall of Fame.

"He's very tough and he scores a lot," Styres said. "To top it off, he played with Cody Jamieson all summer. Both of them went to Syracuse too, so it's a home run all the way around for us."

The Colorado Mammoth made Adam Jones of Owen Sound, Ont., the No. 3 pick. The 5-foot-9 forward played on Canadian championship Orangeville junior teams, as did Keogh. Jones, 23, earned All-American status at Buffalo's Canisius College. A knee injury kept him out of summer ball, but the Mammoth had him checked out and are convinced he's 100 percent and can step right in at the pro level.

The Minnesota Swarm took RIT grad and faceoff flash Jordan MacIntosh of Oakville, Ont., before the night's big trade was announced: Calgary transferred the No. 5 slot to Rochester for spunky veteran forward Shawn Evans and a first-round 2012 pick. The Knighthawks selected 18-year-old scoring sensation Johnny Powless, who scored 111 goals in 43 regular season junior games for his Six Nations team the last two years.

Just as Styres had helped develop last year's No. 1 pick Jamieson through Six Nations minor lacrosse, he'd also done all he could to bring Powless to the pros, and he pushed the right buttons to get him for the his Knighthawks on draft night. Evans had spent six seasons in Rochester, scoring 143 goals and assisting on 220 in 93 regula -season games, but Styres is so confident that Powless is destined for stardom that he made the deal.

Minnesota took Hobart grad Evan Kirk of Orangeville, Ont., the best goalie available.

Calgary assistant coach Curt Malawsky then was glad to see the Roughnecks pick Travis Cornwall, who'd been one of the best players on the Coquitlam, B.C., junior team he coached to the Canadian title in 2010.

Colorado made Jones happy when, at the No. 8 spot to end the first round, Govett called the name of Jones' Canisius teammate Dan Coates, a powerful defenseman from St. Catharines, Ont.

"Dan bolsters an already impressive back end for us and adds great leadership qualities and speed," Govett said.

Five of the first 16 picks were made by the Mammoth.

Taken 27th by Minnesota was David Earl of Notre Dame, which just happens to be the school Swarm owner John Arlotta attended. But that isn't why they took Earl.

"Americans have a tough time making the change-over to box lacrosse," said Swarm assistant GM Joe Sullivan. "But he's a midfielder, an incredible athlete, captain of his club, All-America, and he's got a hockey background.

"You've got to have some grit -- that edge a lot of the Canadian players come with -- so we're hoping that'll translate into an outstanding season for him. I'll tell you what, this is a kid who is going to play for us this year."

Minnesota with the 29th pick took another NCAA player with no box experience in Villanova's Brian Karalunas.

Buffalo used the 33rd pick to get North Carolina's two-time All-American star Billy Bitter, who played field lacrosse for the MLL's Denver Outlaws this year. His volunteer work includes working at a New York soup kitchen.

Other U.S. players selected included 6-foot-4 University of Delaware standout Matt Stefurak (Philadelphia), Army star Jeremy Boltus (Minnesota), who was named MLL rookie of the year for his outstanding summer with the Hamilton Nationals, Akwesasne Nation product and Dartmouth defenseman Dwight Bero (Buffalo), Syracuse midfielder Jovan Miller (Colorado), Denver's Todd Baxter (Minnesota) and Maryland's Grant Catalino (Rochester).

The reigning-champion Toronto Rock had to wait till the No. 17 slot to pick and selected Cornell midfielder Jesse Gamble, who played senior box lacrosse in Kitchener, Ont., this year.

The 2010 champs and 2011 finalists, the Washington Stealth, got into the action at the 21st and 22nd spots and took Canadian junior players Mike Mallory of Delta, B.C., and defenseman Adam McGourty of Brampton, Ont., respectively.

"We traded Luke Wiles this summer so we had a spot to fill on the right spot. Mallory was a young kid who might be a bit of a project for us but who is big and tall and good shooter who got a lot of points for his Delta junior team this year, so we think he has a good-looking future in the league," said head coach Chris Hall.


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