With the start of the 2016 National Lacrosse League season on New Year’s Day on the horizon, Inside Lacrosse has begun its annual countdown of the Top 50 NLL Players on IL Indoor ahead of the league’s 30th anniversary year. Check out previews below and click the link for the full breakdown of each player appearing on the exclusive list of the world’s best lacrosse players comprised by IL staff members Stephen Stamp, Bob Chavez and Marty O’Neill.
We knew it was coming, and it still might be. But really, Frankie Scigliano is no one’s surprise anymore.
The goalie out of Coquitlam, B.C., is one of the game’s best, whether he’s winning 2014 Rookie of the Year honors for Maple Ridge in the Western Lacrosse Association, or winning the starting National Lacrosse League job with the Calgary Roughnecks.
Part of what makes Scigliano such a solid keeper is his size. At 6-foot-4 and 290 pounds, he takes up space. But the bigger part of what makes Scigs such a great keeper is his athleticism and mental approach. The big man is quick on his feet, allowing him to switch back to cover angles. That’s given the kid more than a few highlight-reel saves and if you’ve played the game, you know how much a big save can fire you up as a runner. Even more, Scigliano’s lacrosse IQ keeps him in touch with what’s going on in front of him, helping him read situations as they unfold so he can keep himself in the right position…
“He doesn’t turn 24 until January and coming into this season had played only five and a half games worth of lacrosse in his three seasons in the league. The big man started slowly when he got a shot in 2015 but took advantage of the opportunity when given a second chance and was one of the best goalies in the league in the second half. He posted the highest save percentage among the goalies who played regularly in the playoffs, suggesting the moment wasn’t too big for him. Scigliano has a bright future.” – Stephen Stamp
Cam Holding is one of those players who doesn’t care: Anytime, anywhere. Indoors or outdoors. Playing or coaching. If it’s got anything to do with lacrosse, it’s game on for Holding.
Indoors, he’s a vastly underrated defenseman for the National Lacrosse League’s Colorado Mammoth. Outdoors, he’s a dangerous weapon for the Denver Outlaws of Major League Lacrosse. And on the sideline, the left-handed Whitby native is coaching at Michigan State University.
So you get the idea. Holding is all about lacrosse, and it shows. Last year in Colorado, he played all 18 games and posted the numbers you’d expect a defenseman to post with 3 goals. But he did have 19 assists, a reflection of his ability to spark the transition game and get the ball up the floor and find a shooter who finishes the run.
But he also had 110 loose balls to rank third on the team and his 27 forced turnovers also ranked third. It’s the kind of work that rarely gets the appreciation it deserves, but is vital to the success of any team. And when coaches need an example to hold up for teammates when it comes time to explain heart, hustle and determination, Holding’s the guy coaches are turning to…
“He finished in the top 10 in the NLL in caused turnovers and was the top-scoring defender in the NLL in 2015, although he really should be listed as a transition player, which opens up the field substantially. Holding is a speedster who has evolved into a solid defensive player capable of pushing the pace like few in the game. He makes smart decisions with the ball and has taken on a leadership role with the Mammoth. He is one of the most underrated players in the game who should be a much larger part of the conversation when the best transition guys in lacrosse are discussed.” – Stephen Stamp
There’s nothing fancy about Greg Harnett and that’s pretty much just the way he wants it. In Harnett’s eyes, fancy doesn’t cut it. He just wants to win lacrosse games, no matter where he’s playing, and the easiest way to do that is by working hard.
So yes, it’s a bit ironic in that working hard is the easiest way to get there, but if you’ve seen this left-handed defenseman play in Calgary with the NLL or Victoria with the WLA, you understand quite well what Harnett is all about. You also understand why he’s on our Top 50 list for the first time.
Before Calgary and before Victoria, there was Orangeville. One of the game’s hotbeds, for sure, and Harnett was a big part of Minto Cup winning teams in 2008 and 2009. Hard-nosed and gritty, Harnett also brings a versatile game. He’ll mix it up, he’ll get the transition game going, he’ll lead by example or he’ll jaw back and forth with any forward who feels like running his mouth.
With 4 full National Lacrosse League seasons under his belt, all with the Calgary Roughnecks, along with 4 full Western Lacrosse Association seasons with the Victoria Shamrocks, Harnett’s more than shown he can hold his own with whatever the game brings…
“How can you not like the passion and energy Harnett brings? If you’re not on his team, that’s how. But for as much as he stirs it up, you can’t help but respect the way he plays the game. He leaves it all on the floor as an aggressive defender who has evolved his game into the type that can’t be ignored because if you think he’s not important enough to pay attention to, he’ll quickly change your mind. There aren’t a lot of defenders you can say that about, but Harnett is one of them.” – Bob Chavez
So how does a guy who scored 12 goals in 17 games last season find himself on the Top 50 list? For one, it’s Johnny Powless. And really, that’s about all we need to know.
Last winter was the first for the left-hander from Six Nations to be away from Rochester, where he scored 144 points in his first 3 National Lacrosse League seasons and 78 of those points were goals. Point is, Powless knows how to score and last season’s NLL struggles are more than likely related to his search for a new comfort zone.
Powless went from a support role in Rochester to being part of the focal point in Vancouver and when that plan didn’t work, he was traded to Minnesota, where he’s ready to start the 2016 NLL season. Maybe the pressure won’t be a much with the Swarm and their new home in Georgia, because as he showed over the summer with Six Nations of Major Series, Powless hasn’t lost his touch.
He carded 41 points (12-29) in 15 regular-season games, then added 22 points (7-15) in 11 playoff games before the Chiefs made their exit short of a third straight Mann Cup. And in September, he was with the Iroquois Nationals that won silver at the WILC at Onondaga Nation.
So as the 2016 season dawns, the big question for Powless centers on his production…
“While he hasn’t lived up to the hype that surrounded him when he entered the league, it’s important to remember that Powless is still only 22 years old. In his four seasons so far, Powless has put up 50, 41, 53 and 52 points. That’s a 196-point head start on a lot of players who are already older than he is now when they’re entering the NLL. He also has the experience of winning three Champions Cups with the Rochester Knighthawks. Now, playing with Iroquois Nationals’ teammates Lyle and Miles Thompson and Randy Staats on the right side along with rookie stud Jesse King and solid Shayne Jackson on the left, the best should be yet to come for Powless.” – Stephen Stamp
As the expectations have grown for Shayne Jackson, so too has his production through his first 3 National Lacrose League seasons.
Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.
But the fact remains that as the role for this left-hander out of Bowmanville, Ontario, has elevated into a more visible platform, he responded in 2015 with a career-best 30 goals. That’s good news for a Swarm team that has a new home in Georgia and is coming into the 2016 season looking to make a good first impression.
Jackson doesn’t do a lot of fancy things, but that doesn’t mean he can’t. He’s as skilled as any forward in the NLL but what’s separating him from the pack is his all-around game. He’s quiet and determined, but he’s also in the right place at the right time and that doesn’t happen by accident.
“Shayne Jackson had a really good year in 2015. You can look to his points total and cite that as your reason but it runs deeper. Jackson’s points and shooting percentage were in a marquee role as the team’s top lefty and No. 1 offensive option for a chunk of the year. When Callum Crawford was sidelined, not only did Jackson produce, he did so under his toughest opposition to date. It’s now apparent that Jackson will become more of a leader down south in Georgia and his past season indicates Shayne is more than ready to step into that role.” – Marty O’Neill