September 17, 2013

NLL GM's Load Up With Immediate Impact Rookies 

by Neil Stevens | LaxMagazine.com

Jason Noble went No. 2 to the Minnesota Swarm, who had four first-round picks in the draft.
©Abel Images 

With active rosters about to be reduced to as low as 20 from the current 23, the NLL entry draft Monday night was all about getting players with extensive indoor experience who can jump right into the big-time fray and have an immediate impact. Many of the nine teams zeroed in on fast defenders who can speed up the defense-to-offense transition flow.

Here's how it went down.

MINNESOTA

Amassing first-round picks by trading veterans keeps the payroll low and makes the Swarm young, fast and exciting, but championships are elusive when there is constant lineup construction. Regardless, this is the path the Swarm have taken and good luck to them.

They had the first and second picks and grabbed high-scoring Logan Schuss (Ohio State) and small but incredibly effective defenseman Jason Noble (Cornell). They went in with the fifth pick and moved up to fourth by changing places with Edmonton to get transition runner Cam Flint (Denver). They had created a lineup spot for Schuss by trading away all-time club goal scoring leader Ryan Benesch on July 15 and there's a spot for Flint via that July deal that also jettisoned vet Andrew Watt. On draft night, they opened up a spot for Noble by trading vet D-man Nic Bilic to Edmonton in the 4-5 flip. Minnesota also had the seventh pick and took six-foot-four forward Scott Jones (UMBC), who if teamed with big 2012 first-rounder Kiel Matisz would create a huge wall on the attack's right side.

''It was a big day for our organization,'' said associate GM-head coach Joe Sullivan. ''Last year worked out great for us. The (four) guys we took fit in real well and were part of our team right off the hop. I think the guys we got this year will do the same thing and push the other guys to be even better.''

How good is Schuss? In just 12 summer indoor league games in his native British Columbia, he scored 29 goals for the New Westminster Salmonbellies.

''In watching him play at Ohio State this year, we came to understand that Logan was not only a great scorer but was also a great leader on their team,'' said Swarm owner John Arlotta. ''We're hoping that both his scoring and leadership abilities will help us get to the next level as a team.''

COLORADO

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The Mammoth picked third and snatched the best goalie available, Dillon Ward (Bellarmine). Brilliant move by GM Steve Govett. Ward, all six-foot-five of him, is a big-game stopper. He was tournament MVP when he helped the Orangeville Northmen win the 2012 Canadian junior title and, playing summer ball in Kitchener, Ontario, he had better stats than teammate Mike Poulin, who is the No. 1 starter for Calgary's NLL club.

''Dillon Ward is our future in goaltending along with Tye Belanger,'' said head coach Bob Hamley. ''We're pretty excited to get a guy like that with the resume he has _ Minto Cups and all-America at Bellarmine. So we're excited to have him.''

No goalie since former Mammoth stopper Gee Nash, the No. 2 pick in 1999, had been selected as high as Ward.

The Mammoth weren't up again until the fourth round.

''We traded out of the second round previously to get Drew Westervelt (from Philadelphia),'' said Hamley. ''We're pretty excited to have Drew.''

He's a key addition for the Mammoth, an accomplished 30-goal scorer, thus well worth relinquishing two second-round picks.

EDMONTON

Rush GM-coach Derek Keenan got both Bilic and high-scoring Robert Church (Drexel) at No. 5.

''Robert Church is a very crafty offensive player,'' said Keenan. ''He'll come in and play right away for us, I believe.''

With Mark Matthews firing from the left side, Church now gives the Rush an accomplished scorer on the right side. The fireworks should be awesome.

Edmonton was up again at No. 11 and took left forward Riley Loewen (Limestone) to fill a need on the left side created when vet Corey Small tore his ACL playing summer ball in Victoria last month. With pick No. 13, Keenan got transition runner Adrian Sorchetti (Hofstra), who like returnees Matthews, John LaFontaine and Curtis Knight played for Keenan on the Canadian-champion junior teams he coaches during his summers.

''With fewer players dressed this year, it's good to have versatile guys and he's a guy who can play both ends. He's a very athletic guy I had in Whitby.''

CALGARY

Calgary picked sixth and selected transition player Tor Reinholdt (Limestone), whose athletic-IQ combination is eye popping. The Roughnecks then acquired Buffalo's No. 10 slot in a trade that included second-year forward Joe Resetarits going to the Bandits. Karsen Leung (Bellarmine), a playmaker with wheels, was selected. Roster room was made for both with the Resetarits trade and a morning trade that sent Jackson Decker to Colorado for a second-round 2014 pick.

''The two guys we targeted earlier this summer, we ended up getting,'' said GM Mike Board. ''Both of them are really speedy. We want to get faster out of our back end. They can play both ends of the floor so we can swing them up onto the offense and they both bring some grittiness to the table.''

VANCOUVER

The Stealth had the No. 8 slot and selected West Coast product Cody Bremner (Cornell), who has lacrosse genes coming out his ears. He's the son of former Victoria Shamrocks star Dave Bremner.

''Right from the beginning, we knew we needed, depth-wise, a left-handed scorer,'' head coach Chris Hall explained. ''To get Cody Bremner was a huge opportunity for us. So we were really thrilled with that pick. He's had a couple of years of WLA experience already so we know we're getting a proven commodity.''

Vancouver's next pick was No. 17 and it yielded Nick Weiss, who was the first non-NCAA prospect selected. Weiss is among the latest batch of gritty diggers out of the deep Peterborough, Ont., ranks.

''We were pretty thrilled to get Nick Weiss,'' said Hall. ''He was a defender who was high on our list right from the beginning. We were a little surprised he lasted that long. It was a no-brainer for us. He'll fit in right away.''

At No. 20, Vancouver made one of the most intriguing picks of the night in taking Tyler Digby (Robert Morris), a six-foot-four hulk who was selected in the 2013 Canadian Football League college draft.

''We think Tyler is a guy who can play both ends of the floor in this league,'' said Hall. ''We know he can play pure offense, or we can stick him on the back end to transition the ball up. He's a big body with some good feet and good hands.''

TORONTO

Colorado native Eric Law was one of three Team USA hopefuls selected in the draft, going to Toronto late in the third round.
©John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com 

The Rock closed out the first round at No. 9 and took Ethan O'Connor (Hobart), who models his game after that of the retired Steve (Speedy) Toll, and that can't be bad. (Toll has just joined Buffalo's coaching staff). O'Connor was rookie of the year in Ontario's summer league this year playing in Brampton, Ontario.

''Ethan O'Connor was the guy we were looking at from the get-go when we were trying to figure out what was going to happen in the draft,'' said GM Terry Sanderson. ''So we're very pleased he was still around. He should bolster our transition game, which we feel we have to add to if we want to keep up with the Joneses in this league.''

At No. 16, Toronto took Mike Woods (Albany), who wasn't on many top-prospects lists but who finished first in most tests during the weekend prospects combine.

''He's an extremely strong individual,'' said Sanderson. ''Whether he can come right in and crack the lineup now we don't know. He might start on the practice squad but he'll be given every opportunity to be on the roster. He's just so strong we couldn't pass on him. Going down to 20, we're losing three roster spots so competition for jobs is going to be extremely tough.''

BUFFALO

After trading for Resetarits, Bandits GM Steve Dietrich was up for the first time at No. 14 and selected transition runner Nick Diachenko (Delaware).

''Nick is a tremendous athlete,'' said Dietrich. ''We have a lot of size on our back end but we were trying to get more athletic with guys who can pick the ball up and race it down the floor. The game is changing that way.''

At No. 15, Mitch Wilde (Robert Morris) became a Bandit. He's yet another transition specialist and he's out of the successful Whitby junior program.

''I was lucky enough to have him on my (Kitchener) team this summer,'' said Dietrich. ''He's a great athlete. He did tremendous in the fitness testing here. He's got a nice stick with good finish. Both of them are big guys who will fit into (head coach) Troy Cordingley's style.''

The back end additions will provide depth if recently-acquired Rory Smith does not play lacrosse this winter. Smith is being wooed by an AHL team to provide muscle on ice instead of on a green carpet.

Dietrich on Resetarits, who is from the Buffalo region: ''Joe is a guy we really looked hard at last year when we took Dhane Smith. To be able to acquire him and not have to expend a first-round pick to do it and bring him in to our right side, that is huge. We're trying to get younger and Joe is going to be a big addition to our team.''

PHILADELPHIA

The Wings were busy last week, acquiring Luke Wiles to, hopefully, offset the departure of Westervelt and strengthening the goaltending by acquiring Evan Kirk from Minnesota.

In the No. 12 slot to start their draft, GM Johnny Mouradian got a gem in tenacious Orangeville-trained A.J. Masson (Vermont). At No. 18, they got smallish (five foot eight) James Delaney (Seton Hall). Both are forwards. At No. 19, they got big America defenseman Tucker Durkin (Johns Hopkins), they took Six Nations goalie Don Alton at No. 33 and, with the No. 50 pick, selected Rob Pannell (Cornell), the New Yorker who is the all-time leading NCAA scorer and who won the Tewaaraton Trophy as the most outstanding U.S. college player in 2013.

The Wings' strategy of building a roster heavy on U.S. players who live on the East Coast has meant scant reliance on the entry draft since taking Kevin Crowley No. 1 overall two years ago. The 2011 trade with Edmonton to get captain Brodie Merrill cost them 2013 and 2014 first-round picks and the recent Kirk deal sent the 2015 and 2017 first-rounders to Minny. And two 2014 second-round picks just went to Buffalo for Wiles. Nonetheless, the Wings have a plan, and the talent to surprise a lot of people next season.

ROCHESTER

The Knighthawks won the 2012 and 2013 championships so there is little room for newcomers. But head coach Mike Hasen is willing to give hopefuls a shot at cracking what appears to be a set lineup. They didn't have a pick until No. 27 and selected Mark White (Southern Maine), whose mother was thrilled. She manages the Toronto Rock practice facility at which the draft was held and was on hand for the draft. White plays the transition role most of the teams were so focused on.

''We're pretty lucky to get Mark White,'' said Hasen. ''We didn't expect him to still be available. We're looking forward to seeing what he can do for us. He's going to find a spot on our roster. He'll push guys to be better, which is what we need. He's full of character and he's not going to take a back seat to anybody. It's going to be tough, but it's going to be tough for a lot of guys.''

Rochester had the 55th and last pick and took Brandon Styres, the son of owner-GM Curt Styres.<

''I am very fortunate,'' said Curt Styres. ''I don't know how many owners or GMs get to draft their sons. It is a huge honor to be in that position.''


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