With the 2016 NLL season now just one month away, Inside Lacrosse is ramping up its countdown of the Top 50 Players in the National Lacrosse League ahead of its 30th anniversary year starting on New Year’s Day. Preview players ranked #21-25 below and find the full story on IL Indoor by clicking the link for each player. Stay tuned as the best players in the game are unveiled in the coming weeks using the ranks of IL staffers Bob Chavez, Marty O’Neill and Stephen Stamp.
25) Steve Priolo (Buffalo Bandits)
If you want defense, Steve Priolo will give you defense.
The bonus is the offense. At 6-foot-5, 234 pounds, Priolo can cover a lot of ground and his work on the back end is a reflection of such. His footwork keeps him positioned correctly during 1-on-1 situations, but that footwork turns into a long and lethal stride of transition in a heartbeat, adding an element of offensive threat that has helped transform is game into one of the Top 50 in lacrosse today.
The right-hander out of St. Catharines is as mean and aggressive as a defenseman needs to be. Outside of faceoff man Jay Thorimbert, Priolo led the Buffalo Bandits, his National Lacrosse League team, with 104 loose balls and was second on the team with 18 caused turnovers.
But he also added 20 points, putting him at that plateau for the second straight season. With 5 goals and 15 assists in 2015 giving him 46 points in the last 2 seasons after he scored 25 in his first 4 seasons combined, it’s clear he got the green light to push the ball and he’s making the most of it.
“Priolo has established himself as one of the most consistently difficult to play against defenders in the NLL. He uses his size, strength and athleticism to harass offensive players. The evolution of his game took a huge step in 2014 when Priolo showed off a more offensive dimension, scoring 8 goals and 26 points. He kept things rolling last year with 5 goals and 15 assists, making him the only member of the league’s top nine in penalty minutes to have scored in double digits. His biggest moment of the year was scoring a critical breakaway goal for Canada in the fourth quarter of the WILC gold medal game which he followed up with a truly impressive board climb celebration: Priolo just keeps breaking out new elements to his game.” – Stephen Stamp
24) Zack Greer (Saskatchewan Rush)
The progression of Zack Greer has been an interesting, and exciting, one. Coming into the National Lacrosse League after a celebrated NCAA field career, the big question for Greer was whether he could recapture the box form that saw him be named the OLA Junior A Rookie of the Year in 2011.
His start in the NLL wasn’t overly impressive, but once he arrived for his first full season in Edmonton, the offense took off and shows no signs of slowing down.
The 6-foot-1, 187-pound left-hander out of Whitby, Ont., just capped a career season with the Rush, scoring 44 goals as part of his 80-point season. It was his third season in the last 4 where he’s scored at least 30 goals and it’s clear by now that Greer’s touch in the offensive end is a force with which to be reckoned.
Of course, it helps having the supporting cast he does with the Rush. But don’t start thinking he’s just riding the coattails. He’s not just a product of the system, he’s a big part of it. He provides balance from the valued left side and his shooting percentage (21%) shows just how consistent and valuable he’s become.
“The development of Zack Greer to becoming the player he is today is a big credit to his re-dedication to indoor lacrosse after his accolades in the NCAA for the Duke field lacrosse program. Greer had his best season to date in 2015 with a .215 shooting percentage to get him his best goal total by far at 44. Zack posted 80 points, which was better than 2014 by 27 points. Obviously, Greer had something to do with Edmonton’s overall success. Since being traded to Edmonton, Greer had matured to a level worthy of his overall No. 3 selection at the 2009 Entry Draft.” – Marty O’Neill
23) Brett Mydske (Saskatchewan Rush)
Brett Mydske isn’t tops on the team in loose balls, caused turnovers or short-handed goals. What he is, however, is one more option.
And it’s an option that’s lethal in providing stops on the back end and the scoots to get up the floor with the ball to lead the transition break. Yes, Mydske is yet one more in the long line of options for the Saskatoon Rush, providing a legit and versatile threat out of the back end to make himself one of the Top 50 players in the game today.
At 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, the right-handed defender out of New Westminster certainly has the size. But he’s not just a big body out there, whether he’s working for the Rush, the Langley Thunder of the Western Lacrosse Association or Team Canada at the WILC at Onondaga Nation.
So maybe his offensive numbers aren’t much to write home about. And maybe his defensive numbers aren’t either. But when it comes to value transcending statistics, Mydske and the work he does is a textbook example of that.
“Mydske is the epitome of the defender who would be easy to overlook because he doesn’t do anything flashy but just doesn’t make many mistakes. He will never be the guy with the Rush getting lots of attention because that just isn’t his game, but talk to his teammates and opponents and you know the respect the big man commands around the league. His finest stretch of play this year came at the WILC, where he was named to IL Indoor’s first all-star team as the top defender in the tournament. ” – Stephen Stamp
22) Brandon Miller (Toronto Rock)
For playing a position that comes with the most heat, Brandon Miller’s got a pretty good handle on things.
Maybe it’s because he’s good, very good, at making saves as a goalie. Maybe it’s because he’s 36 and the veteran experience has taught him which stuff to sweat, and which stuff not to sweat. No matter how you dice it up, there’s no question Miller is one of the top keepers in the game today, which makes him an easy choice to include among the Top 50.
Whether he’s in cage for the National Lacrosse League’s Toronto Rock, the Six Nations Chiefs of Major Series or Team Canada at the WILC, Miller’s got a role and it can vary from day to day, game to game. He’s shared time in Toronto and Six Nations, meaning one day he’s expected to be a leader by walking the walk. And with save percentages of .792 (regular season) and .787 (playoffs) with the Rock, he’s doing just that. He was even better in summer lacrosse with a .830 and .811 for the Chiefs, helping anchor deep playoff runs for both squads.
But on the days he’s not named the starter, he’s got enough maturity to set aside the ego and become mentor to the young teammate in the cage for that day. That’s an invaluable asset because not only does it help set up the future, it keeps the peace in the room and anyone who has played the game can tell you how important that is.
“What Brandon Miller is doing as he moves into the latter stages of his career is truly remarkable. Goalies have traditionally taken a while to mature to their best on-floor selves and Miller has followed that model to a T. At 36, he has played the best lacrosse of his life the last few years. He has gone 11-3 with outstanding GAA and save percentages for the Toronto Rock since joining the team in 2014 and Miller has been even better in the summer. His performance in winning the 2014 Mann Cup MVP must have been about as well as a goalie can play. The key to his success is probably Miller’s evolving ability to put the game in perspective, forget about the last play and get ready for the next one. He’s competitive and passionate about the game but recognizes that it’s a game.” – Stephen Stamp
21) Ben McIntosh (Saskatchewan Rush)
When the Edmonton Rush said they needed a more physical presence on the right side of the offense, it came from a team that had just wrapped up a 2014 National Lacrosse League season with a 16-2 record.
But that record didn’t mean much when the Rush made an early playoff exit after dominating the regular season. And so, the question was asked about what the Rush needed to help them get over the hump and with the No. 1 pick in the 2015 entry draft, the Rush called on Ben McIntosh.
And wow, did McIntosh deliver. The forward out of Coquitlam came into camp and impressed, then found himself thrust into more of an active role than perhaps planned when Curtis Knight went down with a season-ending injury.
No matter. McIntosh responded with the physical presence coach and GM Derek Keenan wanted, then added an 86-point season with 37 goals and 49 assists. Thirteen of those goals came on the extra man, so this gives you an idea of the kind of stick and poise McIntosh brought to the Rush, and there’s no question the league’s Rookie of the Year played a big role in helping the Rush win their first NLL title.
“Such poise is rare from a first-year player, but McIntosh proved every bit worth of his No. 1 draft pick status, and then some. He gave the Rush exactly what they were looking for and Keenan even admitted during the season that the Rush were getting more than they expected from the rookie. He’s got soft hands to go with the aggressive style needed to establish his position. Combine that with the instinct needed to finish in tight spaces and you’ve got one solid lacrosse player in Ben McIntosh.” – Bob Chavez
Check back to follow the full Inside Lacrosse countdown of the NLL Top 50 Players on IL Indoor.
NLL Top 50: #26-30
NLL Top 50: #31-35
NLL Top 50: #36-40
NLL Top 50: #41-45
NLL Top 50: #46-50