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Bandits’ Tavares Will Return In 2015

Buffalo’s veteran enters 24th season plus coverage from 2014 NLL Draft

He’s back. The Buffalo Bandits have announced legendary forward John Tavares, the National Lacrosse League’s all-time leading scorer, will return to the team for a league-record 24th season after reaching a contract agreement earlier this month.

“John wanted to make sure we wanted to have him back,” said Bandits director of lacrosse operations Scott Loffler. “Of course, we couldn’t say no.”

The 46-year-old helped the Bandits return to the playoffs last year by posting 51 points (24+27) in 16 games in a bounceback effort following his 2013 campaign that saw him play only 12 games due to injury.

“We’re excited,” said Bandits general manager Steve Dietrich. “JT seems to be getting older, but his production doesn’t seem to decline, and he’s a tremendous leader in the locker room. It’s fantastic to have the greatest player back.”

Tavares, a four-time NLL champion who won the league’s MVP award three times (1994, 2000 & 2001), holds the league record in pretty much every statistical category including points (1,717), goals (803), assists (914) and games played (296).

“The guy’s a phenom,” added Bandits assistant coach Dan Teat.

This season, Tavares will have a few left-handed prospects to mentor as the team was busy during the 2014 NLL Draft at Toronto Rock Athletic Centre on Monday, Sept. 22.

Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley said beforehand that the team had to “fill some areas where we can get better.” In order to help the team do just that, the Bandits traded back into the first round to select Brandon Goodwin.

“He’s a big kid who our western scouts really like,” said Bandits general manager Steve Dietrich. “We felt like we needed to get ahead of a few teams to get him.”

Goodwin is a left-handed forward who had lots of success at Adelphi University with a big body and good hands. He’s been scouted as a strong complementary offensive player. Goodwin’s sophomore year saw 89 points from his midfield spot.

Buffalo traded Rory Smith, Eric Penney and the 12th overall pick in 2014 to Vancouver for Nick Weiss, the 9th overall pick (’14), the Stealth’s 2015 second round pick and their first round pick in 2018.

Nick Weiss was acquired by Vancouver in the second round of the 2013 draft, 17th overall. The gritty enforcer played 16 games last year and recorded 86 loose balls and 13 points. Weiss is expected to help fill the hole left by trading away Smith.

With their first pick in the second round, the Bandits selected Matthew Bennett (LT) from the Brampton Excelsiors, a physical player who racked up 193 penalty minutes last season. Bennett said being drafted by the Bandits was a “dream come true” while noting that he can “add some edge and grit out the back door…I see myself fitting in on transition.”

Bennett also has attended Bandits games before and said he was star struck when he shook Tavares’ hand.

At 24th overall, the Bandits selected Jordan Dance from Orangeville. Dance’s father played in the league in the early 1990’s. 

“My dad had a lot of friends who played for Buffalo,” Dance said. “I was always keeping my eye on playing for them.”

Dance is described as a pesky lefty who won a Minto Cup with the Orangeville Northmen in 2012.

Buffalo also selected versatile transition player Tyler Ferreira in the second round. He’s excited to join the Bandits organization and said he’s ready to bring his game to Buffalo.

“Coming in as a young guy, I bring a lot of speed and can find the middle of the floor,” said Ferreira after being drafted.

The Bandits moved back into the sixth round of the draft to select Mike Melnychenko. Steve Dietrich traded for Melnychenko halfway through the summer indoor season and must have liked what he saw as he made the trade with New England to acquire him.

“I’m excited to be drafted by the home team, the closest team to me,” said Melnychenko. “I want to bang some bodies and get people open.” 

Mike also spent some time playing with Ryan Benesch and Shawn Williams in his summer league.

The Bandits brass seemed to focus on left-handed offensive talent with the 2014 draft. There will be stiff competition in camp for the few left side spots in transition and forward positions.

Dietrich talked about their selections and how they’d fit in with Williams, Benesch and Tavares. The Bandits are hoping to find some support for an aging left side, especially off-ball to get Benesch and Tavares open.

“If these draft picks come to camp with an open mind, they can learn a lot from them,” he said.

Buffalo’s GM also talked about the Weiss for Smith trade.

“Nick Weiss is a kid we targeted last year,” Dietrich said. “He’s hard-nosed and gritty like Rory in a lot of ways.”

With the trade, the Bandits stockpiled some future draft picks including a second-round selection in what is considered to be a deep 2015 draft. Buffalo will help open the 2015 NLL season by visiting the New England Black Wolves at Mohegan Sun Arena on Friday, Jan. 2.