Heading into a busy Week 3 featuring six games from Thursday to Sunday, check out which National Lacrosse League up-and-comers are making an early impact in the 2016 NLL season. Preview the NLL Rookie Report for Week 2 by Mike Mackley on Inside Lacrosse via IL Indoor below and check back as the league’s ultra-talented rookie class develops throughout the season.
1) Randy Staats (RF) – Georgia Swarm
3-4-7 – 4 LB – 1 TO – 0 PIM – 0 CTO – 12 SOG
Someone tell Staats he’s a rookie! The Six Nations native replicated his National Lacrosse League debut with yet another seven-point performance on Saturday night against the Toronto Rock. Staats was a threat every time he touched the ball, dominating at times really. Looking like a seasoned veteran, Staats showed his elite vision and playmaking skills along with a scorer’s touch in tight. A sign of an elite athlete is often when he can make the players around him better; that’s what Staats did Saturday night. Distributing the ball effectively, drawing double teams, getting to the gritty areas, Staats led by example. Even when Rock players looked to get him off his game by taking liberties with him, nothing rattled the 23 year old. If the first two games of his NLL career are any indication of what we can expect from Staats, the Georgia Swarm look to have a franchise player on their hands.
2) Jesse King (LF) – Georgia Swarm
1-2-3 – 4 LB – 3 TO – 0 PIM – 0 CTO – 7 SOG
King may not have put up gaudy numbers like his teammate on the opposite side of the floor in Week 2 of the NLL season, but make no mistake, Jesse King was quite impactful himself. Potting a goal and two assists against the Rock, King matched his week one output, giving him six points in two games. More importantly, the Swarm offence ran through King on the left side of the floor. An excellent distributor with elite floor vision, King’s combination of skills make him highly versatile and tough to defend. With deceptively quick feet and a strong outside game, the Victoria, BC native was a dominating force off the pick and roll. King showed excellent patience, didn’t force plays but rather created for his teammates. While the former Ohio State Buckeye played the role of playmaker for most of the night, he showed his ability to finish when the opportunity presented itself. With an elite lacrosse IQ, intriguing size and immense skill Jesse King looks poised for an impressive rookie season.
3) Wesley Berg (RF) – Calgary Roughnecks
1-2-3 – 9 LB – 1 TO – 0 PIM – 0 CTO – 8 SOG
What can you say about Berg? Another rookie who simply does not play like one. Berg was excellent yet again in Week 2 despite his Roughnecks falling 10-9 to the Buffalo Bandits. The Coquitlam, BC native showed excellent poise, was a threat every time he touched the ball and worked extremely efficiently with Curtis Dickson on the right side of the Roughnecks offence. Berg’s athleticism and speed made him tough to contain on Saturday night, drawing double teams at times, although the rookie handled the pressure well. His athleticism and speed also allowed him to scoop nine loose balls in the loss, consistently giving the Roughnecks second chance opportunities. With a lethal outside shot that boasts a ton of velocity and pin point accuracy, Berg puts defenders in a tough position. Do they respect his speed, or do they get up tight on him and stay on his hands. When you throw in his floor vision and passing skills you quickly understand why Berg is so talented and tough to defend.
4) Chad Tutton (T) – Georgia Swarm
-0-0 – 4 LB – 2 TO – 0 PIM – 4 CTO – 1 SOG
At first glance you may simply see Tutton did not record a point in the Swarm’s 12-7 win over Toronto and think well, he couldn’t have been that good. But he was. Tutton was an absolute force to be reckoned with at the defensive end of the floor for the Swarm, playing with copious poise and aggression and getting under the skin of many of the Rock’s elite offensive guns. A strong one on one defender, Tutton took away time and space effectively, used his strength and athleticism to his advantage and forced four turnovers in the win. The two time Minto Cup Champion was also strong in transition once again, combining his deceptively strong ball skills, with sound decision making and high end foot speed. Pushing the pace in transition, Tutton also made himself a threat in the offensive zone. The Courtice, Ontario native’s versatility is really something to marvel at. Not many players, let alone rookies, can emerge as their team’s top defender, threats in transition and provide adequate offence when the opportunity presents itself. Many thought Tutton may have been a stretch going to Georgia with the #5 selection in the most recent draft, myself included. However, he is quickly proving that going fifth might have in reality been a steal for the Swarm.
5) Graeme Hossack (D) – Rochester Knighthawks
-0-2 – 8 LB – 3 TO – 0 PIM – 1 CTO – 2 SOG
The second overall pick in 2015 made his NLL debut on Saturday night in Rochester, where he certainly lived up to the hype. It was no surprise that Hossack excelled in his own zone, excelling as a one-on-one defender, providing quality help defence, while showing his tremendous floor awareness and anticipation. Given Hossack’s size, some may think he could lack foot speed, but that’s not the case. The Port Perry, Ontario native possesses deceptive athleticism that shines bright in transition. He pushes the ball up the floor effectively and makes himself a threat when entering the offensive zone, as evidenced by his two goals on Saturday night. Hossack saw quality minutes out the backdoor for the Knighthawks, playing on the penalty kill and in crucial scenarios, including the final minutes of play. While it’s hard for defensive players to have an obvious impact to the untrained lacrosse fan’s eye, Hossack certainly stood out in his debut.