This weekend was all about NLL Hall of Fame fathers and their sons who one day hope to join their dads among the all-time greats in box lacrosse.
At the 2023 NLL Entry Draft, Dyson Williams, the son of Las Vegas Desert Dogs’ head coach and newly enshrined NLL Hall of Famer Shawn Williams, was chosen first overall by the Albany FireWolves. Later in the first round, Connor O’Toole, the son of NLL Hall of Famer Pat O’Toole (class of 2013), was selected 18th overall in the first round by the Vancouver Warriors.
This was the first time in NLL draft history that multiple NLL Hall of Famers had their sons selected in the same draft, let alone in the same round. The fact that Shawn was enshrined into the NLL Hall of Fame on Friday and Dyson was selected first overall in the draft on Saturday is something we may never see again in one weekend.
While the sons of Hall of Famers have been drafted before, it is quite rare. We have never seen a wave of Hall of Fame offspring entering the league like this. In 2019, Gale Thorpe, the son of Regy Thorpe (2021), was drafted in the second round (33rd overall) by the New York Riptide.
Gale not only became the first son of a Hall of Famer to be drafted by a pro box team, but he also became the first son of an NLL Hall of Famer to play for his dad at the pro box level – at the time Gale was drafted, Regy was the GM and Head Coach of the Riptide.
The following year, Kris Veltman, son of Jim Veltman (2009), was selected in the fourth round (53rd overall) of the 2020 NLL Entry Draft. Last year, Dylan Watson, the son of Bob Watson (2011), was drafted second overall by the Desert Dogs.
The Williams family celebrate Dyson at the 2023 NLL Entry Draft.
Dyson Williams is returning to Duke University for one final year of school and one final run at an NCAA title. While at Duke, Dyson has shown the world what he’s capable of. His is a name you will hear frequently when he finally suits up for Albany in 2024-25.
Standing at 6’2 and 210 pounds, he’s been a man amongst boys. During his four years of university, Dyson has tallied 151 goals, including 60 goals that he scored during the 2023 season.
As a member of the 2022 Brooklin Lacrosse Club in 2022, Williams led the entire Major Series Lacrosse points (45) and goals (26). To do that at 22 years old while going up against the likes of defensemen such as Robert Hope, Chad Tutton or Tyson Bell is as impressive as it gets.
Williams proved to the world that he was again ready for the biggest stages against the most formidable talent this summer at the World Lacrosse Championship, playing for Team Canada. Williams’ 12 goals scored at the tournament tied Josh Byrne for the team lead – Williams had more goals than Curtis Dickson, Dhane Smith and Ryan Lee.
If these numbers are any indication of what the Dyson could achieve at the highest level of the sport, his career could have a similar trajectory to his father’s. Coach Williams is still only one of 10 players to reach 1,100 regular season NLL points and is only one of 16 players in NLL history to reach 400 goals in regular season play.
Shawn Williams, left, and Pat O’Toole, right both saw their sons drafted into the National Lacrosse League this year.
Connor O’Toole may end up having a slower rise to prominence, but he has the skills and the pedigree to be successful in the NLL. Being drafted by the Vancouver Warriors means that, for now, he’s very likely to play behind Aaron Bold, who signed a one-year extension with the team back in July. There’s also young backup Aden Walsh in the picture, who currently has one more year on his deal.
With all that being said, the fact that the Warriors traded up for O’Toole indicates a strong interest in the 20-year-old who started this summer’s Ontario Junior Lacrosse League (OJLL) season as a 19-year-old.
Playing for the Brampton Jr. A Excelsiors, O’Toole boasted a goals against average (GAA) of 8.82 and a save percentage of 82.3%. To put those numbers into perspective, O’Toole’s GAA was the fifth best in the OJLL among goalies who played at least 15 games this summer. His save percentage was the third best among goalies that played in at least 15 games.
Connor O’Toole poses with NLL Commissioner Brett Frood
The majority of goaltenders who come into the NLL often begin as a backup or even a third-string netminder and patiently wait until their opportunity arises. But, this isn’t just a waiting game; it is their time to be a sponge, to work tirelessly behind the scenes, late after practices or early in the morning so that they are ready to go when the time comes to prove themselves.
If Connor’s career ends up like his fathers, he’s destined for greatness. Pat O’Toole has the second-most wins in NLL regular season history with 107 – only Matt Vinc, who has 147 wins, has more. O’Toole’s 6,464 saves is the fourth-most all-time, and he is one of only four players who have played over 10,000 minutes between the pipes.
It is often said that to be the best, you need to learn from the best. For Dyson Williams and Connor O’Toole, they were raised by two of the best at their respective positions to ever do it in the NLL.
If this is to become a ‘like father, like son’ situation, the rest of the league needs to be ready for the next Shawn Williams and Pat O’Toole. Dyson Williams and Connor O’Toole plan on making that a reality.