It’s never too early to look at the NLL draft. Last year’s draft welcomed dozens of excellent junior and college players who didn’t get an opportunity to compete in the league as it continued its pause due to Covid, so there will be two rookie batches competing for roster spots this season.
That’s a unique challenge for general managers and coaches preparing for the start of the season in early December, even with an expansion team in Panther City taking on some of the load.
It will wind up one of the most competitive training camps ever in the league, with plenty of top talent eligible for the 2021 draft. There are lots of considerations the Competition Committee has to determine in terms of roster sizes, protected lists and contract statuses ahead of the 2021 Entry Draft expected in September
Here’s a look at how we might see the first round shake out. We don’t know the order, but we do know who controls what draft picks, listed below:
Georgia (from New York)
Georgia (from Toronto)
Philadelphia (from Buffalo)*
Philadelphia (from Albany via Buffalo)*
Saskatchewan (from Philadelphia)
Saskatchewan (from Colorado)
*Philadelphia receives the best pick of Buffalo’s own pick or acquired pick from Albany. Other pick reverts back to Buffalo.
**Buffalo will receive the best selection between Rochester and Vancouver. Vancouver will receive the remaining pick. (Rochester traded their own pick in 2020 Entry Draft)
The order will be decided at a later date which will likely affect the value of some of these picks for teams with multiple first round picks (GA, PHI, and SSK) or teams looking to trade into the first round. Here’s 14 players whose names should be coming off the board in the first round, though.
Tehoka Nanticoke, Right-handed F, Six Nations Arrows Jr A / Albany Great Danes
Easily the most captivating player of the draft. Nanticoke, who recently left Albany’s team, has starred on the international stage for some time. He tallied five goals for the Iroquois Nationals at the WILC in 2019; he also had 57 points in his first season of junior. He’s as electric, marketable, and fun as anyone in lacrosse today.
Adam Charalambides, Left-handed F, Orangeville Northmen Jr A / Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Charalambides seems like he has been with Rutgers for a decade but it’s only been five years. He’s had the worst luck with injuries, hurting his knee twice and missing entire seasons. He’s turning 25 this year and hasn’t played consistent box since he was 20. Those are some red flags for certain, but the talent is unquestionable. Playing any sort of MSL, if it happens this summer, would be huge, but he’s talented enough to be a top 10 pick regardless.
Jonathan Donville, Right-handed F, Orangeville Northmen Jr A / Cornell Big Red
He scored 92 points in 20 playoff games. That’s not a typo. He had 48 goals in that run that led Orangeville to the Minto Cup in 2019. He was the top MSL draft pick to Brooklin in January, and any time there would obviously help, but he’s likely the prospect most equipped to step in and succeed right off the bat in the NLL.
Ryan Lanchbury, Right-handed F, Burlington Chiefs Jr A / Richmond Spiders
Lanchbury missed time in 2019 but before that had posted a career high 88 points. He’s seen his scoring totals jump every year he’s played. One of the most pure skill guys in the draft who also battles throughout possessions. He’s been scoring since he was 17 years old, and scouts say it seems like he improves every time he’s on the floor.
Jake Boudreau, Left-handed T, Brampton Excelsiors Jr A / Robert Morris Colonials
With 105 points over three seasons, Boudreau has proven time and time again he has the ability to produce offense, even when coming out the back door. He was the OLA Jr A’s transition player of the year in 2019, the last time he saw consistent action.
Patrick Shoemay, Right-handed D, New Westminster Salmonbellies Jr A / RIT Tigers
Shoemay is probably the strongest defender in the draft. He red-shirted a year at RIT or else he would have been a top prospect a year ago, too. Shoemay, the 2018 BCJALL defender of the year, has a big frame at 6-foot-4 and isn’t afraid to throw his body around. His knee injury that caused his shirt season though means he hasn’t played established box since 2018; with his skill, it may not matter.
Chris Fake, Right-handed D, Yale
Especially with the expansion teams in the states, and growing pool of players in the league, it feels like teams will continue to take more “risks” with American players who have a field lacrosse background. Fake was dominant with Yale, leading them defensively to a national title as a freshman. We saw New England (now Albany) convert a lot of field players into box, and Philadelphia has a history there as well.
Jack Hannah, Right-handed F, OCBLL Rivermen / Denver Pioneers
The Ohio native could be another part of the American box trend, especially with the OCBLL really getting their legs under them in recent years. One of the biggest progresses of box lacrosse will be the American box game taking off at a developmental level, and teams want to put that to the test as soon as they can. Hannah scored 39 goals in seven games — not a typo — in 2019. Seems like someone who could make that next push.
Jack Kelly, Right-handed F, Toronto Beaches Jr A / Penn State Nittany Lions
Kelly was the seventh overall pick in the 2020 MSL draft, but he’s another guy who’s been plagued by injuries. Kelly scored a career-high 55 points in 2017, though he also played some transition in Toronto. Working full time at forward at a higher level could boost his production.
Jake Foster, Right-handed F, Calgary Mountaineers Sr B / Maryville Red Rebels
2016 was a long time ago, but he posted 105 points in the RMLL back then. He also has senior experience, something lacking in this draft from last year’s seasons being canceled. Foster is 6-foot-2, and while his production dipped a bit since that 2016 season, his size and scoring ability makes him interesting.
Jerry Staats, Left-handed D, Six Nations Arrows / Syracuse Orange
A bronze medal winner with the Iroquois Nationals in the 2018 senior field lacrosse title, Staats plays a mature, tough defensive game. He’s been the Arrows leader for four seasons, and he earned a junior bronze in 2016 as well. He’s been successful everywhere he’s been and is rock solid.
Kealan Pilon, Left-handed F, St. Catharines Athletics Jr A / Queen’s Royals
Pilon led St. Catherine’s with 81 points in 2019, the last time he saw major action. He helped Canada to the gold medal in the 2019 World Juniors, too, totaling an astonishing 16 points over the first two games of the tournament. He has the potential to have huge offensive outbursts.
Nathan Grenon, Left-handed F, Brampton Excelsiors Jr A / Mercyhurst Lakers
Grenon was just getting real consistent before no one could play last year. He was third on the Excelsiors junior squad in points a year ago and found a solid role there coming from Toronto.
Keagan White, Left-handed D, Saskatchewan SWAT Jr A
Saskatchewan has started to produce some talent and White might be the first left-handed defender off the board this year. He’s a consistent defender that, if he played in a different province, would likely be getting more hype. With the Rush right there they are an obvious fit, but White’s game is worth a look early no matter who the team.