November 20, 2023By: Anna Taylor, Adam Levi & Jon Rapoport
15. Jake Boudreau, Saskatchewan
Boudreau being so high on this list might be a surprise to some, as the defenseman will only be entering his second year in the league in 2023-24. Compared to some of the legends on this list, he simply hasn’t had time to mature yet. But coming in as the 15th best defenseman in the NLL, as voted by League coaches and GMs, means that Boudreau’s upside is endless. Fans have a lot to look forward to from the 2021 seventh overall pick. The Brampton, ON native contributed six goals, seven assists, 94 loose balls and 12 caused turnovers as a rookie, and those numbers will only increase this season. – Anna Taylor
14. Jacob Ruest, Las Vegas
Ruest fit into his new role with the Las Vegas Desert Dogs like a glove. Ruest found himself doing more of the dirty work around the floor last year, and was able to support his teammates on the defensive end, much more than he previously had throughout his career – he’s been a forward most of his career. His hard work and dedication to the team has made him a favorite in the locker room and amongst the fans. Heading into his seventh season in the NLL at 30 years old, Ruest is a skilled, veteran leader in the game. – Adam Levi
13. Connor Kirst, Las Vegas
Connor Kirst is the oldest of five lacrosse-playing brothers include Vegas teammate Colin, with whom he also played at Rutgers, and Halifax’s Cole. He’s a big personality which suits the league’s newest team in an entire city filled with big personalities. Kirst spent his rookie season with Georgia, as a forward, before Las Vegas picked him seventh in the expansion draft and turned him into a defenseman – a high-scoring one, at that. Kirst scored 10 goals and added 11 assists from the back end last season, while contributing 102 loose balls and 21 caused turnovers. Kirst also excels on faceoffs, and has a 40% win average over his two season. – Anna Taylor
12. Mitch de Snoo, Toronto
To say that Toronto Rock defensive stalwart Mitch de Snoo is a well-rounded human being would be an enormous understatement. On the floor, the 2022 NLL Defensive Player of the Year fills up the stat sheet on an annual basis, posting eight goals, 12 assists and 185 loose balls in 2021-22, and adding 10 goals, 9 assists and 102 loose balls last season. After playing his first five seasons with archrival Buffalo, the 6’2, 220 lb. Oshawa, ON native enters year three in Hamilton as one of his team’s most important and beloved players.
Off the field, de Snoo is an absolute star. The 31-year-old earned a biomedical engineering degree from Philadelphia’s Drexel University. He followed that up by attaining a master’s degree in laboratory medicine and pathobiology from the University of Toronto, where he is now pursuing a MD/PhD at the university’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine. De Snoo’s MD/PhD work includes conducting research at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. – Jon Rapoport
11. Eli Gobrecht, San Diego
Gobrecht has grown into one of the most complete defenders in the NLL, despite his lack of box training in his youth. He is athletic and has a versatile skillset. Even though he was a late-bloomer in the box game (he began he NLL career at age 26), Gobrecht has proven that he can deliver anywhere on the floor. In each of the three seasons that he’s been in the league, Gobrecht has improved his season totals in loose ball recoveries, caused turnovers and face-offs taken – he was the secondary face-off man for the San Diego Seals last season, behind Danny Logan. Gobrecht has also found ways to contribute more on rare scoring opportunities. Gobrecht had surgery on his wrist last week and is expected to miss time playing time this season. – Adam Levi
10. Jeff Cornwall, Calgary
Longtime Rush defender Jeff Cornwall had a stellar 2022-23 season, his first with Calgary, where he added to an already formidable transition. And yes, Cornwall can run, but he adds even more on the defensive end. He was a good defender coming into the league as a rookie in 2012, and has developed into one of the league’s elite defenders through hard work. The three-time NLL championship winner contributed 15 regular season points and a further three goals in four playoff games to the Roughnecks’ campaign last season. Cornwall is the younger brother of Panther City defender Travis Cornwall. – Anna Taylor
9. Dan Coates, Rochester
Dan Coates might actually be getting better with age. Last season, the former Mammoth standout accounted for 109 loose balls and 23 caused turnovers, amid setting the defensive tone for the 10-8 Knighthawks. Entering his third season in Western New York, Coates will be a key factor in Rochester’s quest to inch closer to their rivals from Buffalo and Toronto.
In a unique geographical note, Coates has spent much of his lacrosse life within a 100-mile (160-kilometer) stretch of the United States and Canada, growing up in St. Catharines, ON, matriculating at Buffalo’s Canisius College, and currently taking the field down the road in Rochester. – Jon Rapoport
8. Steve Priolo, Buffalo
A small sampling of Buffalo Bandits’ teammates agree that their captain, Steve Priolo, has the best hair in the league. That his teammates can so easily poke fun at him speaks to the type of leader Priolo is in the dressing room. He’s serious about lacrosse, but knows exactly when to crack a joke to lighten the mood. He’s clever and wily and clearly a fan favorite.
Priolo has always been a Bandit, having played all 13 seasons of his career in Buffalo. He’s cracked the league’s top 10 lists in both penalty minutes (9th – 501 PIMS) and caused turnovers (4th – 235 CTOs). The man has gotta be part grizzly bear – he’s as tough on the floor as he is in everyday life, where he enjoys EVERY outdoor activity. Remember the summer he spent living in his van? – Anna Taylor
7. Latrell Harris, Toronto
Toronto Rock fan favorite Latrell Harris is a very unique style of NLL defenseman. While many of his backend counterparts rarely find their way into the scoring column, last season, the St. Catharines, ON native posted a highly-impressive 10 goals and 20 assists, on the way to being named Defensive Player of the Year. Harris turns defense into offense as well as anyone in box lacrosse.
Unfortunately, Harris tore his ACL while competing for the PLL’s Archers LC this summer, and will miss the entirety of the upcoming season. Toronto general manager Jamie Dawick explained Harris’ importance to the franchise: “The Latrell news is a blow for the team, a blow for him and everybody. You don’t replace defensive players of the year. We’re not going to be as good without Latrell in the lineup. It’s that simple.” – Jon Rapoport
6. Brett Mydske, Vancouver
Mydske is a true leader on and off the floor. He uses his size, strength and tenacity to play a gritty and determined brand of lacrosse. He is a proven winner (he’s a three-time NLL champion, who has appeared in five NLL Finals) and has continued to improve his game, even in the latter stages of his career – Mydske is heading into his 13th NLL season. Since joining the Vancouver Warriors during the COVID stoppage, Mydske has set career-highs across the board from points, loose ball recoveries, blocked shots and even record-low penalty minutes. – Adam Levi
5. Adam Wiedemann, Georgia
Wiedemann is a do-it-all, big-team-guy type of defensemen. Whether soaking up a shot to try and prevent a goal, scoring in transition, or scooping a bevy of loose balls throughout a game like his uncle Jim Veltman used to do, there are few things that the 27-year-old can’t do. His discipline on the backend has also kept him out of the penalty box for almost the entirety of his career. Last season, in Wiedemann’s fourth season in the NLL, he was the only player in the league to record 100+ loose ball recoveries, 30+ points, 15+ caused turnovers and 15+ blocked shots. – Adam Levi
4. Eli Salama, Calgary
Last season, the Roughnecks allowed 167 regular season goals, leading the West Conference by a large margin in that category. While reigning-MVP goaltender Christian Del Bianco receives much of the attention, defender Eli Salama serves as the number one deterrent when Calgary opponents make their charge to the net. Entering his fifth season, the 27-year-old Coquitlam product has procured 322 combined loose balls, including 116 in 2022-23, to go along with his 38 caused turnovers and 15 blocks, last season. The Roughnecks admiration for Salama is so high, the franchise has crowned him assistant captain.
The 6’2, 211 lb. enforcer was selected 12th overall out of RIT, one year after finishing NCAA runner-up with the Tigers. Salama earned an NLL championship during his rookie campaign, when he and his Calgary teammates swept the Buffalo Bandits, claiming the title for Alberta’s largest city. – Jon Rapoport
3. Brad Kri, Toronto
Brad Kri may be one of the toughest defensemen in the game, but he doesn’t often drop the gloves, with Billy Hostrawser also on the Rock’s defense. So Kri focuses on playing tough-nosed, hard defense by setting wicked picks and laying hard slashes and cross checks to antagonize opposing forwards. Kri was formerly a face-off man for the Rock before nagging knee injuries forced him to remain upright and settle back into a solid defending role, where he has been outstanding at causing turnovers, leading the team in that category for the last four seasons. – Anna Taylor
2. Kyle Rubisch, San Diego
Show me a defender with a more impressive body of work than Kyle Rubisch. I’ll wait.
Can’t find one? I didn’t think so. For 12 seasons, Rubisch has been a contender for Defensive Player of the Year, winning the award four consecutive seasons from 2012-2015. He’s strong, smart, agile and has just enough of a mean streak to keep opponents guessing. The Brampton, ON, native started his career in 2011 with the Boston Blazers before spending the next 11 years with the Edmonton/Saskatchewan Rush franchise, where he helped lead the team to three NLL Cup championships.
Now a member of the San Diego Seals, many fans were hoping Rubisch would sign with Toronto this offseason if only to reunite him with his old Saskatchewan/Brooklin Lacrosse Club bestie Chris Corbeil. The pair spent many years prowling the defensive end for those teams, and it’s still honestly weird to have them on opposing teams. – Anna Taylor
1. Graeme Hossack, Halifax
They may call him Cyborg but trust us, Halifax Thunderbirds titan Graeme Hossack is 100% human, which is what makes him all the more impressive. He is as good a defensive player as the NLL has ever seen. The Port Perry, Ontario native’s list of accomplishments includes three Defensive Player of the Year awards, four first-team All-NLL selections and 2016 All-Rookie honors. From the minute Hossack was selected second overall in the 2015 draft, players, fans and media alike have been drawn to his tenacity and fearlessness on the defensive side of the field. At 6’2, 240 lbs., the 31-year-old is a monster on the floor.
Last season, the Lindenwood University alum led the league with 49 caused turnovers, amid collecting 139 loose balls and blocking 18 shots. Back in 2021, Halifax locked Hossack up to a five-year deal, meaning he is likely to remain a signature member of the Thunderbirds for many years to come. – Jon Rapoport
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