Find Paul Tutka's rankings on USBOXLA for his list of the top 50 players in the National Lacrosse League. (Photo: Bill Wippert)
With the 2014 National Lacrosse League season now underway, the Top 50 NLL Player rankings from the league's three-time Media Person of the Year Paul Tutka (2008-10) have arrived just in time on USBOXLA. Find some of the world's best lacrosse players below and check out the entire rankings to see how your ranks compare to one of the game's most knowledgeable writers.
"While the US Box Lacrosse Association (USBOXLA) continues to strive at developing the best American-born home grown box lacrosse talent ever produced, what is about to take place on the sport’s grandest stage will feature the absolute best lacrosse players on the planet no matter if their glowing green playing surface is made of real or fabricate blades," Tutka writes. "The 50 names that make up this list are truly today’s best-of-the-best, cream of the crop, and the filthiest talent saturated bunch of ball players presently playing the greatest game going. Lacrosse.
So, who is the greatest player currently playing the sport? Well, you’ll have to keep reading to find out, but here’s a really quick rewind of who you’ll find below…
The defending champion Rochester Knighthawks co-lead the pack with 7 players positioned inside the Top 50, their East Division rival the Toronto Rock also with 7 on the board. The rest: Buffalo (6), Calgary (6), Edmonton (6), Minnesota (6), Vancouver (5), Philadelphia (4) and finally Colorado (3)."
50) Dhane Smith
Team: Buffalo Bandits
"The KW big man was able to sport his silky smooth mobility and equally sleek sniping prowess in his first year in the NLL. A premier pro do-everything type in the making, Smith showed he could perform at either end of the floor in the bigs, following that up with a colossal final summer for the Braves (Junior ‘A’). He should be a star pupil under new Bandito bench boss Troy Cordingley’s anticipated aggressive, one step ahead approach.
Did you know? His 24g last year led the Bandits in goal scoring, one better than 11-year vet Aaron Wilson, a fellow K-W alumn. It is the first time since Buffalo’s expansion season that a rookie led the franchise in goals, current Edmonton Rush coach and GM Derek Keenan doing it in 1992 (26g)."
45) Sid Smith
Team: Rochester Knighthawks
"Take a look at a team profile pic of Sid Smith when he was first drafted into the NLL and then one of him hoisting the Champion’s Cup in 2013. He’s gone from a young, slightly pudgy, promising pup to a physically fitter, rug responsible, dependable defensive leader that is stockpiling rings...Some still criticize Smith for not bringing any of those numerical extras other defenders in this league possess. “I can’t really hear what Jeremy says, because I’ve got my two Stanley Cup rings plugging my ears.” – Patrick Roy responding to Jeremy Roenick, and what Smith should be tweaking and then memorizing. A born leader and a born winner."
40) Josh Sanderson
Team: Toronto Rock
His reputation as one of the NLL’s all-time greatest dishers was long solidified, but last year Sanderson bounced back in the goal column, netting almost 30 for the first time since 2010 when he busted through the 100pt barrier. While his best work is more special teams centric these days, Sanderson was the Rock’s highest goal scoring left hander last year, snapping Stephan Leblanc’s 3-year lefty reign.
Did you know? Sanderson is one of six players on the Rock’s 2014 opening day roster that had previously been dealt or released by Toronto but brought back in recent years. The others include Colin Doyle, Pat Merrill, Sandy Chapman, Nick Rose (cut after being drafted) and Damon Edwards (also cut after being draft)."
35) Jesse Gamble
Team: Toronto Rock
"A decent everyday pro defender, it’s Gamble’s stat sheet extras, relentless work ethic and Usain Bolt blazing boots that made him one of this past year’s top transitional defenders, the first two-way ball player that has come close to mirroring Steve Toll’s net-to-net sprints at the Air Canada Centre.
Did you know? Gamble’s 108lb last year was the first time a Rock player collected 100 or more loosies since Rob Marshall (116) and Chris Driscoll (104) exceeded that mark in 2009 (and that’s including face-off guys). His 9g in 2013 were almost double the amount of Toronto’s best defensive goal scorer a season earlier (Stephan Hoar had 5g in 2012). The Rock, who want more offensive production flying out of their own end this upcoming season, will need more than just Gamble connecting on the scoreboard to check mark that goal."
30) Lewis Ratcliff
Team: Vancouver Stealth
"All he does is score and he does it a [heck]uva lot. Ratcliff shelved yet another 30+ goal campaign during the Stealth’s Everett swan song, still one of the most natural goal scoring talents in lacrosse. The Stealth’s master marksman regularly engages the rest of the Stealth offense and is a better playmaker than he’s usually given credit for. But make no mistake, he’s the most lethal with a ball lodged in his pocket and ripping top cheese all night long.
Did you know? Ratcliff has vastly cleaned up his possession game over the past three seasons. In 2011 he ranked 2nd in the NLL with 59 turnovers, behind only Athan Ianucci’s 60. Last year he cut that number almost in half with just 30 giveaways and a roster’s worth of runners ahead of him in that less than glamorous league-wide countdown. League MVP Shawn Evans set a new single season record last year with 68 turnovers."
25) Chris Corbeil
Team: Edmonton Rush
"Thank the Lord for last year’s NHL strike. Without it, not only would Corbeil not be on this list, he might not even be playing pro lacrosse. Signed by the ECHL’s Stockton Thunder...Corbeil was on the ice full-time before he was dominoed down the depth charts when NHLers started looking for last minute work. Instead, Corbeil came back to the NLL’s green carpets and did a pretty good vintage Billy Dee Smith impersonation, without a doubt one of today’s best pound-for-pound defenders.
Did you know? He’s one of five current Rush players that went pro at the 2009 entry draft in Edmonton today. Zack Greer (drafted by Minnesota, later traded to Edmonton), Corey Small, Dane Stevens and Brett Mydske were also selected that draft year."
20) Adam Jones
Team: Colorado Mammoth
"Many felt he was too undersized, injury prone and damaged (just heard it again the other day believe it or not) to succeed in the NLL, yet Jones has been one of the top performing forwards in the NLL over the past (and his only) two years in the big leagues, missing all of zero games and scoring over 60g. The best part about his approach might be his willingness to roll up his sleeves, get his hands dirty and play more physical and aggressive than virtually any other full-time shooter today. Those Frank Selke worthy LB and FT numbers are valuable extras few forwards are capable of in the sport.
Did you know? The fathers of Jones and Colorado Mammoth teammate John Grant – Brian Jones & John Grant Sr. – both played on the Team Canada side that won gold at the 1978 World Championships in Manchester, England. Canada upset the Americans 17-16 in OT. Philadelphia Wings owner Mike French was named the tournament’s MVP."
15) Brodie Merrill
Team: Philadelphia Wings
"A concussion sidelined Merrill for the first time in many years (he had only missed one regular season game in his 111 starts before 2013), the Wings losing both battles (by a combined 11 goals) when their captain was forced to painfully watch from the press box. Merrill plays an old school brand of lacrosse most players today don’t have the gas tank or in-action IQ to pull off, the only player over the last decade plus to match Jim Veltman’s hall of fame fundamentals. Few non-Cup winners in any sport are held in the same high regard as Merrill, one of the most important and influential players presently playing lacrosse.
Did you know? Over his 8-year career Merril hasn’t found himself suiting up for many successful franchises. Only [three times] was Merrill playing for an above .500 club, his respective sides going just 59-69 in regular season contests. Philadelphia, who have only a single above .500 regular season record over the past 12 years, might not be the best place to reverse his fortunes, especially in the playoffs, where the Wings have had even less luck. Between their last playoff win and their 2014 season opener, 4,628 days will have passed."
10) Colin Doyle
Team: Toronto Rock
"Coincidence that the Rock franchise fell to pieces after Doyle was traded and then immediately back to respectability upon his return? The Toronto captain’s point totals took a nice bump in 2013, although his leadership, inventiveness and ability to function and flourish in any O spot on the rug still make him one of the sport’s most special and sought after commodities.
Did you know? While often names like Tavares, Sanderson and Dawson are immediately mentioned when talking about the league’s all-time assist king, it might actually be Doyle who is the best setup man in NLL history. Need proof? No player has registered more 50+ regular season assist campaigns than Doyle (9), better than Tavares (6), Sanderson (8), Dawson (6), Gait (1), the other Gait (1), Williams (6), Prout (7), Grant (5), Veltman (1) or literally any other legend you think might top him. Quantity and quality."
5) Matt Vinc
Team: Rochester Knighthawks
"He’s the absolute best between the pipes today. It’s really that simple and straightforward. Without him, Rochester is not sitting as repeat Cup winners and they are not heading into 2014 as the most legitimate dynasty in the making since the Toronto Rock of the early 2000’s. While Rochester sports a solid defensive stand, Vinc still sees more than his fair share of heat, easily leading the NLL in both shots against and saves – his 662 stops in 2013 a new single season record (Rob Blasdell held the old mark of 644 since 2002). For much of last season, the barely .500 Knighthawks were not the same cohesive Cup clinching unit we’d witnessed in the playoffs the previous two years. Their in-season record and numbers actually paint them to be a pretty average club. So how does Rochester turn it up in the playoffs? Well, Vinc. The K’Hawks’ savvy starter would give the sorriest sack of a lineup belief that they could rhyme of three straight (well, now 4-5, and not necessarily straight either thanks to the league’s new unique playoff format), the amount of post-season W’s it takes to be crowned NLL kings. Past his at times perfect mechanics, it’s what Vinc allows the rest of the team to do on every shift that makes him better than the rest. Vinc’s presence allows his teammates to go after the improbable, the risky, the stuff only back-to-back Cup winners will push themselves to achieve. Vinc makes them awesome.
Did you know? With maybe almost a decade’s worth of lacrosse potentially left for Vinc, he already ranks fifth in all-time post-season stops (501) behind only NLL Hall of Famers Pat O’Toole (802), Dallas Eliuk (774), Bob Watson (749) and Steve Dietrich (643). Already sixth on that esteemed list and not far from Vinc is Vancouver’s 27-year-old backstop Tyler Richards (439)."
Click here on USBOXLA to find Tutka's complete list of the world's 50 best lacrosse players including the top ranked pro along with more in-depth info and expert analysis.