The 2023 National Lacrosse League entry draft, to be held September 16 at the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre in Oakville, has plenty of talent available to be selected by the league’s 15 teams. Let’s take a look at 50 of the top prospects whom teams will be considering as the draft approaches, and who could be the future stars of the NLL.
1 Dyson Williams, LF, Brooklin Lacrosse Club MSL & Duke
Williams is a good bet to be the best player to have come out of this draft when it is viewed 10 years from now. Whether or not that turns out to be the case, he certainly appears to be the most ready to make an impact immediately upon joining the NLL. That could be a while, since he is returning to Duke. It may also have been a while since he has played box lacrosse when he gets to the NLL; Williams did not play for BLC in Major Series Lacrosse this summer and is likely to play in the PLL next summer, after returning to Duke for the extra year of eligibility still available to players whose college careers were impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
But Williams showed in his rookie MSL season of 2022 that he was ready not just to play, but to excel, against men. Williams led the league in both goals (26) and points (45) in the 12-game regular season. In a league stocked with NLL talent, that is no mean feat. It will be a challenge for Williams, as it would be for anyone, to match the career that his father (Shawn Williams will be inducted into the NLL Hall of Fame on September 15) produced, but Dyson appears ready to make his own name.
2 Adam Poitras, LF, Brooklin Lacrosse Club MSL/Whitby Warriors Jr A & Loyola
There are several very good players who could appear second in this list. Poitras gets the nod because on top of his skill and leadership, he shows a knack for making players around him better. He is a strong finisher, as shown by the fact that he scored 77 goals between the regular season, playoffs and Minto Cup last year; he may be a better facilitator (Poitras produced 110 assists to go with those 77 goals). He is the kind of player who can run your offence, helping to draw contributions from everyone on the floor, while also having the ability to create chances for himself and make things happen without any help when necessary. It is a shame for teams trying to gauge his readiness to play at the highest levels that Poitras did not play with Brooklin in MSL this summer. Since he is returning to school, he could still have a chance to play a full summer of senior lacrosse in 2024 before he heads to an NLL camp.
3 Levi Anderson, LF/T, St. Albert Miners Sr B & St. Joseph’s
After a year in the WLA, Anderson returned to his native Alberta and posted the highest points per game average in the RMLL, scoring an average of 6.14 points in each of his seven regular season games. He then tied for the playoff scoring lead with teammate Mike Triolo, putting up 35 points each, as the Miners followed up a second-place regular season with a perfect 6-0 romp through the playoffs to earn a spot at the Presidents Cup. Now he has been the best player at the Prezzy, engendering a substantial rise up the rankings. His athleticism leads some observers to project Anderson playing transition in the NLL. His stats say he may just earn a shot playing up front, either right away (after he spends a grad year at St. Joe’s) or eventually.
4 Ryan Sheridan, RF, Nanaimo Timbermen WLA & Hofstra
As athletic and talented as anyone in this draft, Sheridan is also the first player in this list who is done at college and ready to enter the NLL upon being drafted. That could make him rise very high in the draft. What could make him slide a bit is the rawness of his game. Sheridan can make plays others could only dream about making; his effectiveness will really be maximized as he gradually develops the instincts to attempt the spectacular play only when it is necessary while employing more traditional skill sets in the majority of situations.
Sheridan put up huge numbers in 2019, when as an 18-year-old he scored 47 goals and 99 points with the Nanaimo Jr A Timbermen. He hasn’t played more than a baker’s dozen games in a season since and posted just 17 goals and 7 assists in his 13 games with the Sr A Timbermen this summer. He was a bit snake-bitten early in the summer, getting chances but just not having them drop; in the playoffs he was second on the team in scoring to WLA scoring champion and co-MVP Zach Manns.
5 Callum Jones, RD, Oakville Rock Sr B & Norwich
Jones was the OJLL defender of the year in 2018 and had another excellent year with the Burlington Chiefs (now Blaze) in ’19. In 2020, he headed to Northfield, Vermont to attend Division III Norwich University, a military college where he would suit up for both the hockey and lacrosse teams. Over the last few summers with Oakville, first in MSL then in the Ontario Sr B league, Jones continued to show the blend of physicality, athleticism and lacrosse IQ that made him one of the best young defenders in the game. He will immediately make playing a little less comfortable for forwards around the NLL. It helps Jones’ case that he had a solid summer with Oakville and is looking formidable at the President’s Cup.
6 Jake Stevens, RT, Brooklin Lacrosse Club MSL & Princeton
Landing on this list right in the wake of the OJLL’s top defender in 2018 is the player voted the league’s best transition player that same summer. Stevens is quick, skilled, tenacious and smart, the latter quality supported by his degree from Princeton. He is transferring to Syracuse for a grad year so won’t be available to an NLL team this season. Stevens has played a total of 20 regular season and playoff games over three summers with BLC, producing 12 goals and 31 points while playing reliable and opportunistic and defence.
7 Brock Haley, RF, Brooklin Lacrosse Club MSL/Whitby Warriors Jr A & Vermont
BLC was a competitive club in MSL this summer. Can you imagine how explosive they might have been had Williams, Poitras and Haley all suited up for them, as they were eligible to do? Poitras and Haley were two of BLC’s four players protected from the MSL draft this year as graduating juniors from the affiliated Whitby Warriors Jr A team (Williams was protected the year before). Haley is a natural goal scorer: he scored 74 in the regular season alone last summer, then added another 45 between the OJLL playoffs and the Minto Cup as Whitby won that title. Like Poitras, Haley opted not to play in MSL this summer. Given that his 2020 and ’21 box seasons were curtailed to nine games combined by the pandemic, this summer would have been a huge chance for Haley to continue to develop and to showcase his talent against the highest level of competition available. Not having done so makes it harder for teams to know what they will have on their hands if they draft Haley, who is heading back to Vermont for another school year, but they will know that his pure goal-scoring ability will give him a chance to make a large impact.
Brock Haley (Photo: Ontario Lacrosse Association)
8 Ben MacDonnell, LD, Brooklin Lacrosse Club MSL
MacDonnell is big, athletic and skilled. He played a leading role in defence and transition as one of the Whitby Warriors’ veterans last year, helping them win the Minto Cup. He then stepped up to the Arena Lacrosse League and earned All-Rookie First team defender honours with the Oshawa Outlaws this year before being one of the best rookies in MSL as a regular with BLC. The way he has adapted quickly and effectively at every level suggests he is ready to make the leap to the NLL and step into a regular role, as well.
9 Matthew Wright, Peterborough Lakers MSL & North Carolina
Wright has not played a ton of box lacrosse over the last five years, but he has done enough to show that he uses his size (6’1”, 210 pounds) effectively, has the speed to excel in today’s NLL, and has the skill to contribute in transition as well as on defence. Wright won a gold medal with Canada at the IIJL World Juniors in 2018, just a few days after his 17th birthday. Three years later he was named to the All-World Team as he helped Canada East win another gold medal. Wright, now 22, has already graduated from North Carolina and is headed to Syracuse for a grad year. He won’t join an NLL team for another year, but he should be worth waiting for.
Bennett Smith (Photo: Ontario Lacrosse Association)
10 Bennett Smith, LD, Victoria Shamrocks WLA & Queens (NC)
Smith transitioned pretty seamlessly from the Rocky Mountain League, where he helped lead the Edmonton Miners so close to the 2022 Minto Cup, to Sr A in BC. He scored almost a point per game for the Shamrocks while using his size and strength to handle the increased pressure facing a defender at the senior level. Adding to his appeal for many teams will be the fact that he is done college and ready to play in the NLL.
Eccleston has the size to play a grinding role combined with the skill that allowed him to score 29 goals and 70 points in 15 games with the Lakers this summer. He is returning to school for a grad transfer year at St. Joseph’s.
12 Payton Cormier, LF, Brooklin Lacrosse Club MSL & Virginia
Cormier is viewed as a much higher prospect than this by many people. An elite goal scorer in field lacrosse, Cormier has absolutely shone at Virginia, where he will return for a fifth year. He is the sixth of the first 11 players on this list who is property of BLC. Imagine if at some point they can manage to get all that talent on the floor alongside the already burgeoning young squad. As for Cormier, staying healthy has been an issue and not being able to has impacted his development. If he can do so, he could turn out to be a steal if he lasts into the second half of the first round. If someone takes a shot at him in the top five and he has continuing injury issues, they could second guess the pick.
13 Matt Abbott, RD, Langley Thunder WLA & Queens (NC)
Abbott has shown steady improvement from Jr B to Jr A and into playing solidly for Langley in the WLA. He has renounced his final year of NCAA eligibility and is ready to start playing in the NLL.
14 Zack Young, RD, Brooklin Lacrosse Club MSL & North Carolina
Young is a former first overall selection from the OJLL draft of graduating midget players. Yet another BLC player, Young is not flashy but plays consistently strong, reliable defence.
15 Andrew Vradenburg, RD, Burlington Blaze Jr A, Canada WJLC, Six Nations Snipers ALL
Fresh off captaining the Blaze to the team’s first Minto Cup title, Vradenburg leads by example with steady, resolute defending. He also won a gold medal with Canada at the 2022 IIJL World Juniors and scored 14 points in 13 games with the Six Nations Snipers in the Arena Lacrosse League this year.
16 Jacob Hickey, LT, Toronto Beaches Jr A & Western
The Beaches are becoming a factory for developing NLL talent and Hickey is their latest product. He is 6’4” and adding strength to his already sturdy frame. Hickey can play effectively at either end of the floor, having scored 35 goals and 86 points over the last two seasons with Toronto.
17 Connor O’Toole, G, Brampton Excelsiors Jr A & Brock
O’Toole had an excellent year with Brampton, leading a team that didn’t match up well with playoff squads on paper to the brink of a postseason berth. He also has a great pedigree; his father Paddy is a Hall of Famer.
18 Kaleb Benedict, RF, Orangeville Northmen Jr A
Benedict was considering heading to college until quite recently, but now he is ready to head to the NLL. He tended to get overlooked because the Northmen this season were so full of high-calibre talent. In the playoffs, he led the Northmen and was second in the league in assists, and he was third in the league in scoring behind Burlington stars Braedon Saris and Alex Marinier.
19 Justin Sykes, LF, Mimico Mountaineers Jr A & Hofstra
Sykes is another player who has been limited by injuries but shows a high upside if he is able to get and remain healthy.
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