The National Lacrosse League welcomed 55 prospects selected at the 2015 NLL Draft as the rookies now look to crack a lineup this preseason and make an impact when the ’16 season kicks in after the new year. But which young stars might hear their names called early at next year’s draft? IL Indoor’s Stephen Stamp looks ahead to some of the best talent available for the 2016 NLL Draft with his preview on Inside Lacrosse.
“In the days since the 2015 National Lacrosse League Entry Draft, I’ve taken a look at how each team did at the draft and how it could impact them going forward,” Stamp writes. “With the 2015 draft in the rear-view mirror, we start to look ahead to 2016 with the new NLL season kicking off when the new year does: the Georgia Swarm visit the Colorado Mammoth on January 1.”
IL Indoor will have plenty of coverage of what to expect as the new season draws nearer and nearer. In the meantime, why don’t we go ahead and skip forward to next fall for a first look at the 2016 NLL Entry Draft and who the top candidates are.
Below are my best guesses at this point of who will be the early selections. Rankings will change, of course, based on what happens between now and then, but generally the top guys have already drawn the attention of coaches and GMs around the league. These are some of the players to keep an eye on.
The early leaders
Ryan Keenan, LF, Whitby Warriors (OLA Jr A) and Quinnipiac
How interesting will it be to see what Saskatchewan Rush GM Derek Keenan does leading up to the draft with his first son to reach draft eligibility in the mix for a top pick? Ryan has put up 90 or more points each of the last two junior seasons including a 47-goal, 51-assist effort in 2014. He’s certain to be protected by the Brooklin Redmen from the MSL draft and a season of senior ball will provide insight into how ready he is for the pros and where he’s likely to fall in the draft.
By the way, Saskatchewan does have three first-round picks next year (their own plus picks acquired in trades with Rochester and Vancouver). So the chances of Ryan winding up there are pretty good, if you’re keeping score at home.
Holden Cattoni, LF, Peterborough Lakers (OLA Jr A) and Johns Hopkins
Keenan’s main competition for the first pick among lefty forwards comes from Cattoni, who also has a connection with an NLL coach, although it isn’t paternity. Cattoni was a ball boy for the Calgary Roughnecks back in Tracey Kelusky’s heyday with the team. That played a major role in him winding up in Peterborough when the Calgary native was looking to head to Ontario for some higher-calibre competition in his final couple years of junior.
Cattoni lived with the Kelusky family the last two years and grew increasingly comfortable in Peterborough, where the senior Lakers are almost certain to protect him from the 2016 MSL draft. He got into a couple of games at this year’s Mann Cup, where he showed off his shooting prowess with a couple of laser goals from the outside.
Challen Rogers, RT, Coquitlam Adanacs (BCJALL) and Stony Brook
Defence will be a strong suit for this draft, which isn’t as deep as the 2015 edition but is comparable in strength out the back door. Rogers may well be the first of those defenders to go. He’s the reigning BCJALL defender of the year. He’s got good size, good instincts and good stick skills. Rogers plays a physical game without taking a ton of penalties and he can pitch in on the offensive end.
Matt Hossack, RD, Whitby Warriors (OLA Jr A) and RIT
Another familiar name, as Hossack’s brother Graeme was the second overall pick in the 2015 draft by Rochester. Could the Hossacks become the second brother act in recent years to each go second in consecutive drafts (Jason and Jeremy Noble in 2013 and 2014)? It’s a real possibility. While Hossack is smaller than his brother and the Coquitlam duo, he plays the game with a similar panache as Jason Noble. His solid and consistent defensive play earned him a first-team all-star nod in the OLA.
There are observers who say that Matt’s better than his big brother, although I’m not in that camp at this point. He did, however, look right at home in a couple of games with the Redmen this summer and a full summer with the team in 2016 could raise his stock considerably.
Warren Hill, G, Six Nations Rivermen (OLA Sr B) and Syracuse
Hill was a top prospect when it looked for a while like he might be coming out for the 2014 draft. He’d been the top goalie in Jr A or close to it for two years. Then he went to Syracuse and delayed his entry into the pro loop but continued his strong play indoors, being named the first-team all-star goalie at the Presidents Cup Canadian Sr B championship tournament in 2014. Hill didn’t play much this year because Angus Goodleaf was with the Rivermen and led them to their first Presidents Cup title. That shouldn’t have too much impact on Hills’ status for the 2016 draft, as long as he gets some time between the pipes next summer. He was an elite prospect and remains one.
James Rahe, RF, Langley Thunder (BCJALL) and Robert Morris
Rahe’s prospects for the draft will depend largely on what he does next summer, but he set the foundation for a high pick in his junior career. A first-team all-star in the BCJALL in 2014, Rahe was traded to the Six Nations Arrows this summer and played a solid but unspectacular complementary role as they won the Minto Cup. At 6’4”, 225 pounds and with good speed, it’s easy to expect more from him than the 34/38/72 line he put up in BC in 2014 or the 15/38/53 line in 19 games from his run with the Arrows. He occasionally makes plays that will drop your jaw. If he can them more consistently, his stock could climb from low first-round to near the top of the draft.
Others to keep an eye on
Josh Currier, RF, Peterborough Lakers (MSL) and Virginia Wesleyan
As with many young players breaking into a team like the Lakers, he didn’t get the floor time to really showcase himself this summer, but Currier did show off his quickness and sometimes breathtaking creativity when he had a chance. A three-time 30-goal scorer in junior, he projects as a good depth scorer at the next level, although with the depth most NLL teams already have it’s going to be a challenge for him to break through.
Dan Lomas, LF, Oakville Rock (MSL) and High Point
Back to back 80+ point seasons in junior led to a strong rookie year with the Rock in which he put up 15 goals and 23 assists in 17 games. He had the chance to play with a roster full of NLL forwards and looked comfortable playing a complementary role but was ready, willing and able to step up when they needed more from him.
Leo Stouros, LD, Six Nations Arrows (OLA Jr A) and Colgate
Stouros has been named the OLA’s top junior defender each of the last two years. He doesn’t stand out much on the floor, in the good way that reliable defenders are often not noticed much. With the depth on the Arrows, it’s not clear whether he’ll be protected by the Six Nations Chiefs at the MSL draft. Given how strong the Chiefs’ D is, it might be the best thing for his development if he actually wasn’t protected and wound up being drafted by a team where he’d get more floor time. That’s what happened with Derek Searle last year and his game evolved substantially in his rookie season with the Kitchener-Waterloo Kodiaks.