1 New York Riptide
Andrew Kew, LF, Oakville Rock & University of Tampa
Kew is a prototypical big lefty forward. He is coming off a second strong Major Series Lacrosse season with Oakville, once again being the leading scorer for a team loaded with NLL players. He showed he’s tough in addition to being talented when he was raring to go the game after a ball to the helmet had opened a nasty gash above his eyebrow (the team held him out to properly heal before returning to action). If there is a concern, it would be that Kew for the second season saw his production drop substantially in the playoffs. In 2018 he scored 28 goals and 27 assists for 55 points in 15 regular season games then posted an 11/12/23 line in 11 playoffs games. This year, his numbers were 29/28/57 in 14 games in the regular season then just 3/5/8 as the Rock were knocked out of the playoffs in five games. That’s a drop from 4.1 to 1.6 points per game. Still, even though New York took four lefty forwards in the expansion draft, Kew would likely step in as their #1 right off the bat.
2 Rochester Knighthawks
Ryland Rees, RT, Burnaby Lakers & Stony Brook University
The Knighthawks loaded up on forwards in the expansion draft and subsequent trades, setting them up already with a possibly above-average NLL offence. While they added some solid defenders in the draft and free agency, it’s on that side of the ball where could really use a boost. They would get one from Rees. I’ve heard him compared to Graeme Hossack as a prospect. I’m not sure I’m prepared to go that far, but Rees has shown elite talent both in the box game and as an All-World selection at the 2018 world field lacrosse championships in Israel. While field lacrosse performance doesn’t accurately predict box success, being selected as one of the very best in the world the summer after you finished your junior box career is a good sign that you have some serious athleticism.
3 New England Black Wolves [from Philadelphia, Kevin Crowley trade]
Tyson Gibson, RF, Victoria Shamrocks & Robert Morris University
This pick isn’t about nepotism. The Black Wolves would be interested in Gibson even if his father Darryl weren’t their offensive coach. The younger Gibson put up huge numbers playing with Jeff Teat and Clarke Petterson for the Jr A Brampton Excelsiors then showed he could do the same elsewhere with is 26 goals and 21 assists for 47 points as a WLA rookie with Victoria in 2018. He wasn’t as productive this summer in just half a dozen games with the Shamrocks, scoring 4/8/12. Gibson is sturdy with excellent hands and a high lacrosse IQ, as is so often the case with the offspring of pro players/coaches. He should step fairly seamlessly into the role of Tyler Digby, gone to the Riptide in the expansion draft.
4 Saskatchewan Rush [from Vancouver, Corey Small trade]
Holden Garlent, LT, Brooklin LC & Canisius College
This is a difficult call. With Curtis Knight nabbed by Rochester in the expansion draft, the temptation will be there to take Clarke Petterson in this spot. That possibility is reinforced by the return to the lineup of Ryan Dilks and Jeff Cornwall in the defensive end. Still, the Rush looked thin on defence last year and it may just be easier to find a depth righty forward than a potentially game-changing transition player in free agency. Saskatchewan GM/HC Derek Keenan is familiar with what Garlent can do from coaching him with Brooklin in his breakout 2018 summer campaign. Garlent isn’t a bruiser but he shows sound defensive positioning and he stepped up his transition game this summer with 5 goals and 8 assists. He is a constant threat to pick off a pass and uses his blazing speed effectively.
5 Halifax Thunderbirds
Warren Jeffrey, RD, Brampton Excelsiors & University of Vermont
I had been thinking about Clarke Petterson to the Thunderbirds, but their right side already looks pretty full with Austin Shanks and Chris Boushy both coming off outstanding summers in the WLA and Mike Burke putting up another 50-point season in MSL (did you know that Burke is the second-leading scorer in MSL over the last five years?). Throw in the signing of Stephen Keogh and it just makes more sense for Halifax to go with a big, strong, athletic defender. I wrote earlier before that Jeffrey needed to limit his time in the penalty box to be an elite prospect; this summer he continued to play a tough, physical game while taking just three minor penalties. His stick skills translated better than expected to Major Series as well. He was a late arrival from school and had a bit of a slow start but by the latter half of the season Jeffrey had become Brampton’s best defender.
6 Colorado Mammoth
Clarke Petterson, RF, Brampton Excelsiors & Cornell University
The Mammoth have allowed fewer than 200 goals each of the last three seasons. During that time, only two other teams (Saskatchewan in 2018 and Buffalo in 2019) have achieved the feat even once. And Colorado didn’t lose anyone from the D in the expansion draft other than rookie Julian Garritano, who was shipped to Rochester to repatriate Chris Wardle. In those last three years, though, the Mammoth have been bottom three in goals for and last season scored just 181; nobody else other than Vancouver scored fewer than 208. That need meshes well with Petterson as the last forward available likely to have an immediate substantial impact. Petterson got better and better as the Excelsiors’ season progressed, looking more comfortable playing against men and using his speed in transition defence to help eliminate scoring opportunities. Interesting quirk: one year later, Petterson exactly matched Gibson’s rookie senior total of 47 points.
7 Calgary Roughnecks [from New England, Shawn Evans trade]
Liam LeClair, LD, Six Nations Arrows & University of Windsor
The Roughnecks would love to see Kellen Leclair return to their roster. Unfortunately, a heart condition precludes that from happening. The next best thing may well be to add his “little” brother. The quotation marks are necessary for the younger Leclair because Liam stands 6’3” and weighs 220 pounds. He uses his size to good effect, playing the same type of aggressive physical game that led Calgary to draft Kellen. Liam had another standout year with the Arrows and looked right at home in his handful of games with the MSL Chiefs. He has decent stick skills and is an imposing presence on defence.
8 Calgary [from San Diego, Wes Berg trade]
Keegan Bell, RF, Langley Thunder & Tusculum University
Bell is a former 36-goal scorer in Jr A and put up 33 points between Victoria and Langley as a WLA rookie. Those are pretty good scoring totals. The fact that Bell is 6’5” and 230 pounds will be enticing for pro teams. His blend of size and talent gives him the potential to be a solid depth forward in the NLL. With Wes Berg gone to San Diego (albeit after a season in which he didn’t play) and Rhys Duch suffering an injury that ended his summer season after just two games, the Roughnecks could use an addition to the right side. Jake Fox would be another good possibility, but with all else being relatively equal, it makes sense for Calgary to take the western player here. Another possibility would be to stick with the sibling theme and take Victoria Shamrocks righty Marshall King, the younger brother of Calgary lefty Jesse.
Trevor Smyth, LD, Oakville Rock & Rochester Institute of Technology
Fox is again a possibility, but Smyth was quietly a force for the Rock this summer. A year after being a defensive leader for the Oakville Titans, Smyth stepped up from Sr B to Sr A and didn’t skip a beat. He is a solid defender who doesn’t appear to make many mistakes. He was also one of the leading transition scorers in MSL this summer with his 9 goals and 6 assists. Early in the summer, I wrote that Smyth could rise to the second round with continued strong play. Given how good he looked through the rest of the MSL season, anywhere below the first round would be a big surprise.
10 New York [from Toronto via Saskatchewan, Jeff Cornwall trade]
Jake Fox, RF, Brooklin LC & Johns Hopkins University
Fox would be the thunder to Kew’s lightning as the first pair of entry draft picks in Riptide history. Fox finished second on BLC in scoring to 2018 first-round pick Connor Kearnan this summer. He is a banger with a team-first mentality. Foot speed may be an issue at the pro level, but Fox is a useful depth forward who will score some goals and isn’t afraid to do the dirty work to create space for his teammates.
11 Georgia Swarm
Ryan MacSpadyen, LT, Brooklin LC & Mercy College
MacSpadyen is a bit of a tossup because of his age. After entering school later than most players, he will turn 25 as the NLL season gets underway this year. The upside of that is that he has four years of MSL experience and should be ready to step right in and play effectively and confidently against men. The downside is that he is a couple of years closer to the 30-year mark where teams start to develop replacement plans for defenders. That makes him a logical choice for a team that is in a championship window and has multiple first-round picks. Hello, Georgia. MacSpadyen would fit in nicely with his speed and stick skills to give the Swarm transition game a boost. He isn’t quite as rugged as John Ranagan, lost to the expansion draft, but is probably better on the run.
12 Buffalo Bandits
Tyson Bomberry, RD, Six Nations Chiefs & Syracuse University
Bandits co-head coach Rich Kilgour also shares coaching duties with John Tavares in Six Nations, so he’s seen as much of Bomberry as anyone and will be able to figure whether he’d rather have Bomberry—who played just one regular season game for Six Nations but was a regular in the semi-final win over Oakville—or Kason Tarbell, who played 14 games in an impressive rookie season. Bomberry probably has higher upside, although Tarbell showed well in his extended audition this summer.
13 Georgia [from Calgary, 2017 draft picks trade]
Kason Tarbell, RD, Six Nations Chiefs & Cornell University
Tarbell is athletic and smart, he contributed 4 goals and 9 assists in transition this year and he has seems like the kind of quality character upon which Georgia places great emphasis.
14 Halifax [Compensatory pick, Matt Vinc signing]
Brent Noseworthy, LD, Brooklin LC & University of Michigan
The Thunderbirds continue to make their defence more difficult to play against with Noseworthy, who made huge strides in his rookie MSL season in his decision-making and ball handling. He is big and strong, faster than he may at first appear, and has the stick skills to push the ball up the floor.
15 Toronto Rock [Compensatory pick, Brodie Merrill signing]
Devyn Mayea, LD, Burlington Chiefs & Nipissing University
I originally had the Rock springing for Oakville product Matt Van Galen, a righty forward. But with the Dan Dawson signing, that need may be overtaken by the desire to add a big, accomplished defender to the mix. Mayea isn’t flashy but he plays a smart, solid game and uses his 6’4”, 210-pound frame to his advantage. He’s also good enough with the ball that he can help out with the odd goal in transition. Hailing from just down the road in Burlington, Mayea should be well known to Rock coaches and scouts.
16 Saskatchewan [Compensatory pick, Dan Dawson signing]
Justin Robinson, LT, Brooklin Lacrosse Club
I kept looking for a righty forward to give the Rush as a potential replacement for Curtis Knight, lost to Rochester in the expansion draft. King is a possibility, as is Oakville Rock/Titans Matt Van Galen. In the end, I just didn’t see one who brings enough value to overcome taking another lefty transition player from Brooklin in Robinson. While a bit undersized, Robinson doesn’t often get beaten physically by opposing forwards and he is a speedster who can use his anticipation and wheels to create scoring chances racing up the other way. His scoring tailed off a bit with 8 of his 12 points coming in his first six games, but Robinson’s defensive play grew more consistently sound and he still generated scoring chances when opportunities were there later in the season.
17 New England [Compensatory pick, Aaron Bold signing]
Aaron Forster, RT, Burnaby Lakers & New Jersey Institute of Technology
Many teams may not feel comfortable taking a shot on Forster, who was a much higher prospect entering the summer but missed the entire season when he broke his thumb in his first game with Burnaby. Forster could have used a summer of Sr A to prove his bona fides against men. I was in attendance at his only Sr A game, as a callup for the Oakville Rock two years ago, and what he showed there should translate well to the pro league. Black Wolves HC Glenn Clark and assistant Clem D’Orazio know Forster from his time with them on the Toronto Beaches and should have a higher comfort level than most teams about using a first rounder on the athletic and skilled Ottawa native.