The 2015 NLL Draft was considered to be the deepest in the National Lacrosse League’s 30-year history and it was easy to see why when several rookies including the first overall pick Lyle Thompson made an impact right away in their debuts during NLL Face Off Weekend 2016 presented by New Era Cap. Preview the Rookie Report for Week 1 by Mike Mackley via IL Indoor and track the progress of first-year pros all year long on Inside Lacrosse.
“What an opening week it was for rookies across the National Lacrosse League,” Mackley writes. “In Colorado, we saw the Georgia Swarm and their quartet of high-end freshmen make an immediate impact combining for eight of their team’s fifteen goals. Meanwhile, the Mammoth’s lone rookie to dress for the season opener, Jordan Gilles, put forth an eye-opening performance for those who had little idea just who this rookie from Richmond, BC was.
“The following evening in Calgary, when the defending champs took to the floor at the Saddledome sporting new jerseys and representing a new city their lone rookie (Dan Taylor) did not see action. The Roughnecks, on the other hand, dressed three of their five rookies. Wesley Berg was every bit as dominating as he was expected to be, while the little-known Tyson Bell excelled at the defensive end of the floor.”
1. Randy Staats (RF) – Georgia Swarm
3-4-7 – 4 LB – 5 TO – 0 PIM – 0 CTO – 10 SH
Of all the highly-touted rookies to debut, Staats was the most impressive. He looked like a seasoned vet for the Swarm, showing confidence in possession, a willingness to get his nose dirty in traffic and of course his outstanding vision and scoring ability. The former Six Nations Arrows star meshed well with fellow right-hand shots Kiel Matisz and the Thompson brothers. It will be no surprise to see Staats, along with Lyle Thompson and Jesse King, atop the Swarm scoring leaders throughout the 2016 season.
2. Wesley Berg (RF) – Calgary Roughnecks
1-2-3 – 6 LB – 1 TO – 0 PIM – 2 CTO – 9 SH
While Berg’s offensive output wasn’t near what Staats put up in his NLL debut, the Roughneck did have the unfortunate task of opening his career against the league’s top defence. Still the Coquitlam, BC native had an impact in his NLL debut, racking up a goal and two assists along with six loose balls. Berg also was able to create two turnovers in the process and showed little hesitance to fire the ball from all over the floor, tallying nine shots. The athleticism and skill that Berg possesses was on full display Saturday night as his foot speed allowed him to create space and beat defenders to the net. He also showed off his powerful and accurate outside shot but got unlucky with a few posts. With three points in his debut, the right-shooting offensive gun looked nothing like a rookie in game one. Expect Berg to continue on with his dominance in week two when Calgary takes on the Buffalo Bandits.
3. Lyle Thompson (RF) – Georgia Swarm
3-1-4 – 4 LB – 2 TO – 0 PIM – 0 CTO – 10 S
Saturday night was not only opening night in the NLL, but it was also the highly intriguing debut of 2015 first overall pick Lyle Thompson. After dominating the NCAA with the University of Albany and shredding goaltenders in the Can-AM Senior B league with the Onondaga Redhawks the past few summers, Thompson finally got his shot on the sport’s biggest stage Saturday night. Thompson did not disappoint. His exuberance matched his copious confidence and skill; Thompson demanded the ball at times and made things happen every time he had possession. A walking highlight reel, Thompson worked well with fellow rookie Staats and brother Miles to combine for six of the team’s fifteen goals.
7. Tyson Bell (D) – Calgary Roughnecks
0-0-0 – 5 LB – 0 TO – 0 PIM – 0 CTO – 3 SH
Another rookie who came out the back door for his club on opening night, Bell played surprisingly well, limiting some of Saskatchewan’s lethal offensive threats. While it wasn’t all that surprising to see Bell play well, it was just that he surpassed many people’s expectations on opening night. A tenacious on ball defender, Bell scooped five loose balls and transitioned up the floor. Bell thinks the game well and shows strong anticipation along with effective positional play. Bell earned his minutes Saturday night and should find himself in the Roughnecks lineup again this weekend when they travel to Buffalo.