NLL Face Off Weekend 2016 presented by New Era Cap is just days away and Inside Lacrosse is counting down the Top 50 NLL Players on IL Indoor ahead of the start of the National Lacrosse League’s 30th anniversary year on New Year’s Day. Get ready for the new year by previewing players ranked #6-10 by IL staffers Bob Chavez, Marty O’Neill and Stephen Stamp and stay tuned as the top five pros in the game today are unveiled.
10) Aaron Bold – Saskatchewan Rush
We could take the same bio we wrote for Matt Vinc at No. 11, and apply it to Aaron Bold but that would be lazy.
But it would also be correct. For the most part, anyway. Just change the team names and a few numbers here and there, because between the 2 goalies, the differences are minimal. Both have been wildly successful the past few seasons and both are fitness fanatics. But no matter what you label it, Bold is clearly among the best in the game today.
In the NLL, the goalie out of Victoria, B.C., has quite the luxury. The runners in front of him are perhaps the best defensive unit in the game today, and Bold isn’t just riding the coat tails of this, either. He makes the saves he’s expected to make and in the odd chance that he’s called upon to clean up a defensive breakdown, he’s there.
“It was a Cinderella year for Bold, winning 3 major championships in the box and getting the Rush over the hurdle. So what’s next? Somehow, the “2015 Goalie of the year” award escaped Bold last year in the NLL after what was easily his best pro season so that is left on the to-do list. I thought he was better than Vinc in the 2015 NLL regular season. I thought Vinc was better in the Mann Cup. With Tyler Richards out of the way, Bold and Vinc are the undisputed top two goalies in box lacrosse. Another Championship is predicted in Saskatoon.” – Marty O’Neill
9) Chris Corbeil – Saskatchewan Rush
If it’s straight up defense you want, then Chris Corbeil is what you want.
Then again, if you want defense, transition and a touch of offense, Corbeil fits that bill as well. In other words, there isn’t much Corbeil can’t do on the lacrosse floor and his last few seasons in the National Lacrosse League have gone beyond a shadow of a doubt in proving that. It’s why there is no hesitation in putting Corbeil on the ILIndoor Top 50 list, and it’s why he’s going to be here for a long, long time.
The 6-foot-3, 195-pound defenseman out of Oakville, Ont., first made a name for himself with the Buffalo Bandits before he was traded to Edmonton, and that’s where Corbeil began to flourish. He’s long been a superb shut-down D guy, using his lanky arms and legs to cover forwards like a spider. But in 2014, that long stride was put to use to be even more devastating in the transition game as he scored a career-best 27 points on the strength of 17 goals.
Last year’s totals dipped to 18 points on 7 goals and 11 assists but that doesn’t mean he was off his game. You get the sense that Corbeil can pretty much do what he wants on the floor, so maybe he didn’t want to run as much as he did in 2014. And besides, is a .304 shooting percentage the sign of a guy who doesn’t want to pull the trigger?
“What’s not to love about Corbeil’s game? He’s great on D, lethal in transition and smart up top with the ball. He even drops the mitts every now and then, making him one of the more complete players in the game. If you’re of a defensive mindset, this is a great era to be watching lacrosse with so many elite defenders in the game, and Corbeil is among the best of all of them.” – Bob Chavez
8) Adam Jones – Colorado Mammoth
Adam Jones is 4 seasons into this National Lacrosse League thing, and it just keeps getting better and better. For him, and the Colorado Mammoth.
Though he’s struggled with injuries off and on, there’s no question that this left-hander out of Owen Sound has emerged into the role of the elite playmaker many thought he’d be. This past winter, he put together his most productive offensive season yet, scoring a career-best 51 goals to finish with a team-high 93 points.
The Mammoth didn’t get past the first round of the NLL playoffs, clearing the way for his return to the Peterborough Lakers in Ontario. He finished third in team scoring with 24 goals in 16 games and while that doesn’t look like much, it’s pretty much what the Lakers wanted. With a stacked lineup that included Shawn Evans, Curtis Dickson, Jones, Cory Vitarelli and Mark Steenhuis, Peterborough spread the wealth well and it worked as the team advanced to the Mann Cup finals.
“Not sure about you, but this is the type of offensive game I love to watch. Every step and every move seems to have a purpose for Jones because he just has that sense to take what’s being given by the defense. And that’s not always cut and dried. Every defense is different, of course, with different personnel and talent. So while Jones has great skills with shooting and passing, he makes himself even better by putting himself in the spot he needs to be in, making himself and his teammates that much more effective. It’s cliché, but he really does make everyone else on the floor better when he’s out there.” – Bob Chavez
7) Cody Jamieson – Rochester Knighthawks
We already know that Cody Jamieson scores goals. And by and large, we know how he scores goals. Opponents do, too.
But that doesn’t seem to matter, does it? Because how many times have we seen Jamieson coming around the left side the way he does, take the feed and find his way through heavy traffic to get his shot? Sometimes, he’s picking himself up from the floor. Others, he’s trucking someone else to the ground. But almost always, the goalie is kicking the ball out of the back of the net after yet another Jamieson goal, scored with a combination of power and grace that makes him one of the best in the game today.
At 5-foot-9 and 212 pounds, this left-hander out of Six Nations isn’t the tallest or heaviest forward coming at you. But it’s the power in his legs and balance above those legs that make his work so lethal. Body checks rarely knock him off course and even while he’s being bumped and pushed around, the control he has with his soft hands give him the ability to finish with authority.
“During the quest for their 4th consecuative Champion’s Cup, the Rochester Knighthawks lost their big gun in the playoffs and it proved to be fatal. Jamieson was lost in Game 1 of the Eastern finals and the load was too much for the rest of the Hawks to carry. It appears Cody will be back ready for play at the start of 2016 which is good news for Rochester. Jamieson is the top money player in the game, meaning when it’s all on the line the ball is in his stick. And with three recent NLL championships, who can really question this?” – Marty O’Neill
6) Dhane Smith – Buffalo Bandits
We knew this was coming, didn’t we? Dhane Smith came into the National Lacrosse League with much fanfare and while his talents have been on display in each of his 3 seasons, his 2015 season was something to behold.
This right-hander out of Kitchener, Ontario, has size, speed and skill. And today, he’s got official status as one of the best lacrosse players in the game.
The versatility of Smith is evident in his 6-foot-3, 195-pound frame. He can run the floor like a deer, he’s got quickness from spot to spot and his long reach gives him solid defensive skills as well as plenty of leverage when it comes to finding extra oomph for his shots.
And this past year, Smith took his game to that elite level. He scored 24 and 20 goals in his first 2 NLL seasons, but when the curtain fell on 2015, he presented the Bandits of Buffalo with a career-best 107-point season that included 39 goals and 68 assists. Over the summer, he took his game to Six Nations, where he led the team with 90 points (37-53) over 18 regular-season games before scoring 44 points (21-33) in 11 OLA playoff games.
“After his breakout 2015 season, you have to wonder what’s ahead for Smith. There really doesn’t seem to be a limit to what he might be able to achieve given his size, speed and growing understanding of the nuances of the game now that he’s three years into his pro career. Smith’s 39-goal season last year came on a shooting percentage of just .154. He should improve that in his second season playing full-time offence, especially with the confidence he built in being part of Canada’s gold medal team at the WILC. Smith could well climb even higher on this list in years to come.” – Stephen Stamp
Check back to follow the full Inside Lacrosse countdown of the NLL Top 50 Players on IL Indoor.
NLL Top 50: #11-15
NLL Top 50: #16-20
NLL Top 50: #21-25
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