By Andy McNamara / NLL.com Staff Writer
Photo by Graig Abel / Toronto Rock
Every offseason the National Lacrosse League draft produces six rounds of young prospects ready to test the league’s veterans. Nine teams already filled with elite level talent makes earning a roster spot in the NLL difficult for first year players.
However, there are always a select few that defy the odds and not only become starters, but immediately excel. Here are the top rookies heading into Week 4.
5. Ryan Keenan – Saskatchewan Rush
In a perfect world the first overall pick in this past NLL draft would be an instant difference maker. Ryan Keenan has had a good start to his career with 2G and 3A over two games, but typically a club would want more from someone taken number one.
That being said, a franchise that wins the championship typically doesn’t get the top draft pick. This Rush club is so deep and talented that Keenan simply won’t get the same touches as someone on a different team. There’s only one ball and names like Mark Matthews, Curtis Knight, Robert Church, Adam Jones, etc. are already established pros.
In the big picture this is a great problem for Saskatchewan and Keenan to have. The coach’s son can be brought along gradually without being forced into a heavy workload too soon. Keenan will no doubt be a star in the league, he’s just not the best rookie right now.
4. Dan Lomas – Rochester Knighthawks
It’s hard enough for first round draft choices to crack a lineup in the NLL, nevermind a second rounder. Dan Lomas’ soft hands combined with injuries and attrition to Rochester’s roster, allowed the Burlington, ON native the chance to seize an opportunity on the retooling Knighthawks.
Lomas was a strong value pick for the K-Hawks. His offensive flair was obvious at High Point University, making him the school’s career leader in goals and a two-time conference MVP.
After not dressing in the opener, Lomas helped pounce on New England in Week 2. He delivered five points, including a goal on the power play, as well as being third on the team in shots (9) and loose balls (7). Let’s see how the forward responds coming off of a bye week against the Rush in Saskatchewan.
3. Tom Schreiber – Toronto Rock
American Tom Schreiber was signed by the Rock as an unrestricted free agent back in October. It was an experiment of sorts by Toronto as he had never played indoor box lacrosse.
However, the club knew the skill was there as Schreiber is already an established field player. He was Major League Lacrosse’s (MLL) MVP in 2016 and set several school records at Princeton University.
The question was how would the transition be to the NLL? Schreiber answered by being tied for 20th in the league for points (8) and is already turning into one of Toronto’s best setup men. The 24-year old’s ability to create space and penetrate defenses is impressive for a newcomer.
2. Josh Currier – Rochester Knighthawks
The Knighthawks first draft selection (6th overall) this past September is paying off dividends already, especially on special teams. The shifty 5’11”, 164lbs forward buried three of his four tallies this season on the power play.
Head coach Mike Hasen isn’t afraid to give the green light to the youngsters as Currier tied fellow rookie Kyle Jackson for most shots on goal with 10 in the 15-8 romp over New England back on January 7th.
1. Kyle Jackson – Rochester Knighthawks
Yup, another Knighthawk in the power rankings. It’s nice to try and spread the love, but this Rochester rookie class is ridiculous. Kyle Jackson was drafted one spot after teammate Josh Currier at number seven and leads the youth movement. He’s already looking like a premier playmaker early on in 2017.
The speedy 5’9” attacker is tied for sixth in the league in assists (9) and 13th in total points (11). What’s incredible is that all that output came in the victory over the Black Wolves and eight points were with the man advantage.
The goose egg on the score sheet versus Toronto in the opening weekend can’t be overlooked, but Rochester as a whole bombed that night. This Michigan Wolverine alum still fired 15-shots in that contest and demonstrated resilience by coming back strong the next game.
Honorable Mention: Kieran McArdle – Toronto Rock
Andy McNamara has been a play-by-play commentator for the NLL on TSN, NLLTV.com, and world lacrosse tournaments since 2011. He’s also a sport talk host and anchor on TSN 1050 sports radio. Follow Andy on twitter @AndyMc81.