With the order of selection for the 2016 NLL Draft now set, preview Stephen Stamp’s Mock Draft 1.0 below as he takes a first crack at projecting which players could be selected in the first two rounds while highlighting top prospects such as Ryan Keenan and Challen Rogers on IL Indoor.
“We’re about nine weeks away from the night when the rest of the National Lacrosse League gets to watch the two-time defending champion Saskatchewan Rush get even better,” Stamp writes. “In case you’ve forgotten, or didn’t know, the Rush have managed to hold three of the nine picks in the first round of this fall’s NLL Entry Draft. And they’re not just any picks; Saskatchewan has the first and third overall selections, as well as #9.”
Rochester and Georgia each hold a pair of picks with Toronto and Calgary owning one each. Vancouver and Buffalo join the festivities in the second round while New England and Colorado will be sitting on their hands until the fourth. Of course, the Mammoth got Bryce Sweetingin the fourth and Jordan Gilles in the sixth, so it’s not impossible to get good players late. Just difficult.
The thing is, last year there were a handful of players that you could look at and say, this guy could be a cornerstone for our franchise for years to come. This year, there really aren’t any. That’s not to say there aren’t very good players. There are. Just none that will make GMs weak in the knees at the thought of drafting them.
Following is my first look how the draft could play out. I’m not going to project any trades at this point, but if you’ve been following the way that Derek Keenan runs his outfit the last few years, you have to figure there’s a good chance he’ll deal one or more of Saskatchewan’s picks for the future or for a player he thinks can help fill whatever gaps there may be in what is clearly one of the most complete rosters ever assembled in the NLL.
1) Saskatchewan Rush (from Vancouver): Ryan Keenan, LF, Brooklin Redmen and Quinnipiac
He’s not the flashiest of the group of four highly-ranked lefty forwards, but he has the most complete game. Derek, of course, is familiar with Ryan from coaching him with the Whitby Warriors and the Redmen, not to mention from changing his diapers. I mean, this pairing just makes way too much sense. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this selection would be about nepotism, though—Ryan has serious game and is showing with Brooklin that he’s ready to contribute. Derek Keenan has said that he doesn’t want to put the pressure of being the first overall pick on Ryan. He may not have much choice, however, because there’s too strong a chance of Toronto taking Ryan in the two slot if the Rush don’t nab him.
2) Toronto Rock: Challen Rogers, RT, Oakville Rock
With Keenan gone, Toronto’s selection becomes easier, but not by much. D/tranny is the strength of the top of this draft and is also a major area of need for the Rock. Their choice will almost surely come down to Rogers or Mike Messenger, teammates last year with the Coquitlam Adanacs but now playing at opposite ends of the country.
I haven’t been wowed by Rogers this summer, but I haven’t had a chance to see him as much as I would like to so far. Certainly not as much as Josh Sanderson, the Toronto assistant GM who is Rogers’ GM with Oakville this summer. And even if you consider his summer to have been so-so, the same was the case with Wes Berg last year and Berg is already fulfilling his promise in both the NLL and MSL in 2016. I suspect the same will be the case with Rogers; he just needed some time to adjust to playing against the highest level of competition.
A common perception is that Rogers is more of a transition player while Messenger is more of a stay-at-home D type. That is belied by Messenger actually outscoring his former teammate in their junior careers. Rogers may project to have more upside in that area in the pros and Toronto will be counting on him to help bolster their running game.
3) Saskatchewan Rush (from Rochester): Michael Messenger, RD, New Westminster Salmonbellies
Just what the Rush need, every team in the league must be saying, another big, athletic, talented defender. Saskatchewan is already the stingiest defensive team in the league. But Keenan is acutely aware that even though his roster is still young, it’s never too early to add more youth and speed. Messenger is one of the very few players in this draft who could actually make the Rush and help them get better. Having the chance to play against men this summer in New West will only make him more ready to make the leap to the NLL. He’s a beast with enough of an edge to keep opponents on their toes and a high enough lacrosse IQ to fit into the Saskatchewan system quickly.
4) Georgia Swarm: Matt Hossack, RD, Brooklin Redmen
Georgia scored 238 goals last year. Their offence is dynamic, creative and should only get better with all the kids having a year of experience. Georgia allowed 240 goals last year, a whopping 24 more than any other playoff team. Other than going with Warren Hill here, which could be a possibility, the best thing Georgia can do is add a defender who will make it more difficult for opponents to create scoring chances.
Hossack isn’t his brother Graeme, last year’s second overall pick; he’s several inches shorter and several pounds lighter. He’s also got a different style that befits his size, not as physical as his brother. What Matt does have is a remarkable lacrosse IQ and instincts. He’s one of those players that looks lucky because he always seems to be where loose balls appear. It’s not luck. Hossack also has excellent footwork and positioning. While he may not be a masher, he’s capable of defending even big strong forwards.
5) Calgary Roughnecks: Holden Cattoni, LF, Peterborough Lakers and Johns Hopkins
Calgary needs depth on the left side. Cattoni is from the area and grew up a Roughnecks fan. It’s a perfect match. The question before this summer was how he would be able to handle going from being the central facet of an offence to being a depth player with a different role. He’s done a good job of it with the Lakers, raising his stock for the draft because it appears he’ll be able to make the transition smoothly.
6) Rochester Knighthawks (from New England): Dan Lomas, LF, Oakville Rock and High Point
The same question arises for so many players coming into the NLL. If they aren’t going to step in and immediately be a star, how are they going to fit in on a team’s depth chart. It doesn’t work for everyone, but Lomas showed in his rookie year with the Oakville Rock that he’s comfortable playing a supporting role and taking his touches and shots when they present themselves. He’s been a consistent 2-point per game player for Oakville while working hard without the ball. That’s just the kind of player who could help the Knighthawks’ left side.
7) Rochester Knighthawks (from Colorado): Vaughn Harris, RF/T, Six Nations Chiefs
Rochester took a boatload of defenders last year, so it’s natural to think they’d look up front at this draft. Then again, they still have a ton of depth on the right side and it’s unlikely they’d spend back to back picks on lefty forwards. Harris allows them to hedge their bets a bit. He is a creative and effective scorer who has put up points whenever he’s gotten a chance out the Chiefs’ front door. That doesn’t happen often, though, given that their righties include Dhane Smith, Dan Dawson, Randy Staats, Craig Point and Stephen Keogh.
Harris has shown a commitment to and ability to be an effective defender as well as being a dangerous transition threat. He has a high lacrosse IQ, he’s a team player and he’ll do whatever he’s asked to. He’s also very familiar to Curt Styres and his staff, having come up through the Six Nations system.
8) Georgia Swarm (from Buffalo): Warren Hill, G, Six Nations Chiefs and Syracuse
Seventeen goalies played a substantial number of minutes in the NLL last season. Georgia’s tandem of Brodie MacDonald and Zack Higgins finished 14th and 17th in save percentage, respectively. Both have shown flashes of excellence and either could still develop into a championship backstop. The Swarm need another option, though, because they can’t wait much longer—they have a roster that is close to competing for a title and those windows can close quicker than you think.
If they can acquire a veteran they like via trade—and they have plenty of trade chips with young players and lots of picks in the first two rounds of this draft—then the need to pick Hill would be obviated. If Doug Jamieson comes out for this year’s draft, then you can write him in for the fourth selection and the Swarm can look to the defence here. Otherwise, Hill is a great option. He’s been solid in junior, Sr B and MSL. He plays a simple game, good angles and efficient movement, and he’s about as consistent as a goalie can be.
9) Saskatchewan Rush: Josh Currier, RF, Peterborough Lakers and Virginia Wesleyan
It’s hard to imagine Saskatchewan actually using this pick. Expect Keenan to be actively peddling it for future selections to keep the cupboard well stocked. But if Currier is still available when the ninth pick rolls around, Keenan shouldn’t lack for suitors for the spot. Currier is keeping pace with the likes of Adam Jones and Cory Vitarelli on the Lakers scoring chart with 19 goals and 16 assists. More importantly, he is excellent at playing without the ball and has a non-stop motor.
10) Georgia Swarm (compensatory selection): Connor Sellars, RD, Brampton Excelsiors and Belmont Abbey
Sellars would be a nice complement to Hossack. Where Hossack is more of a finesse player—and that is not meant pejoratively at all—Sellars at 6’3” and 215 pounds is more likely to knock guys on their butts. He’s had two strong seasons with Brampton to show he can perform well against elite opponents. I don’t mean to make it sound like Sellars is just a brute, though. He uses his size and strength effectively because he’s a smart player. He also has the hands and surprising speed to contribute in transition and can even fill in at forward in a pinch.