University of Denver standout Mark Matthews will be drafted first overall by the Edmonton Rush. Photo Credit: John Babb
Mark Matthews may want to start getting familiar with how to get to Rexall Place. Mark the Rush words, they are highly interested in getting him to Rexall Place.
One thing is an absolute certainty. Matthews will be the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NLL Entry Draft and suit up for the Edmonton Rush.
There won’t be any speculating, and certainly no second-guessing when Rush GM/Head Coach Derek Keenan gets the signal to make his selection when the draft goes down on Oct. 1 in Toronto.
Matthews is the consensus best pick, and by all accounts, one of the best prospects to come along in some time.
“He loves the game and he wants to play for us. He’s a good kid and I think the fans in Edmonton are really going to like him,” offered Keenan, who knows what he’s getting in Matthews.
The star forward had a great success playing box lacrosse in Canada's junior loop before moving to Denver and putting up back-to-back All-American seasons with the Denver University Pioneers. He played some of those summer seasons under the coaching of Keenan.
“I think knowing each other helps. There’s a trust factor,” said Keenan. “He knows what my expectations are as a player and as a person. The systems that we used in the summer are almost exactly the same as we use in Edmonton. He’s well aware and well versed in them.”
It’s a great fit with Matthews knowing full well how he’ll be put into use with the Rush. And when it comes to execution, there’s little that the Oshawa, Ontario native can’t do. Matthews projects as a complete package offensive threat – a potential scoring dynamo that the Rush have never had in the lineup before.
Matthews became one of the all-time greats in NCAA field lacrosse, setting Denver University school records with 216 points and 155 goals, and ending his collegiate tenure on a 45-game point scoring streak that helped him reach status as the second-leading active goal scorer and fourth active leader in career points. His scoring proficiency was highlighted by 30 hat tricks and 21 power-play goals. On top of All-American status, Matthews’ NCAA accolades featured ECAC First Team All-Conference honors and being named 2011’s ECAC Offensive Player of the Year award.
“He’s got all the tools,” said Keenan. “He’s six-foot-four, 210 pounds, and shoots the ball a hundred miles an hour. He passes well, sees the floor, good on the power play. He can shoot accurately from outside and he can finish on the inside.
“He’s a playmaker … he can flat-out make plays. He’s got all the attributes that will make him a very good player.”
Throw Matthews into a Rush lineup that went to the NLL Champion’s Cup final a year ago, and there’s instant excitement flashing before the coach’s eyes.
“Our left side will have Zack Greer, Corey Small and Mark Matthews. They all bring different elements but they’re all highly skilled. They’re athletic, they’re quick, they can shoot, they can pass, and they’re good one-on-one. With the guys we have on the right side, I think we’ve got the makings of a very good, dynamic offense.”
While Matthews is a lock at No. 1, the other two highly ranked picks that belong to the Rush - No. 8 and No. 15 - are more open for discussion. The Rush are bound to stick with offensive help with their second first-round selection, considering the wealth of right-handed talent available. Of course, who goes between No. 2 and No. 7 will determine Edmonton’s next move, but the group that is attracting interest includes:
*Shayne Jackson – scored 32 goals and added school record 50 assists for 82 points in 17 games for Division II champion Limestone College (NCAA); played 14 games with Langley (WLA) and notched 38 points; played 2011 Minto Cup with Whitby (Ontario Jr.)
*Matthew Dinsdale – racked up 38 goals and 59 assists for 95 points with Coquitlam (British Columbia Jr.), coming off last season’s 108-point campaign
*Colton Clark – led Bellarmine University (NCAA) with 12 goals and 13 assists for 25 points; was fourth in scoring with Burnaby (WLA) with 36 points in 12 games
*Dhane Smith – topped Ontario Jr. League this season with 107 points (38 goals, 69 assists) playing for Kitchener-Waterloo; moved up to K-W’s MSL squad and added 15 points in seven games along with going 5-for-8 in faceoffs
Two others who will garner at least some thought will be Limestone College product Jackson Decker, provided the Burnaby junior star enters this year’s draft and opts not to wait until 2013, along with lefty forward Carter Bender, who had 52 points for the University of Hartford last season.
Keenan surmised that defense could be the Rush’s order at No. 15, but with whatever direction he goes, overall athleticism will be a key element with each pick to keep with Edmonton’s up-tempo game plan.
The 2012 Draft takes place on October 1, 7pm Eastern in Toronto at the Westin Harbour Castle. The draft will be broadcast live on The NLL Network at NLL.com. Click here to see the current order of selection.