We last checked in on the National Lacrosse League’s rookie class back at the end of January and it’s time for an update as Week 12 approaches. There are two new additions to the power rankings along with some shuffling at the top.
5. (–) Mike Messenger – Saskatchewan Rush
Jumping into the top five rookies is defender Mike Messenger who was selected third overall in September’s draft. At its core the Rush franchise is built around a tough smothering defense and it seems like Messenger was made to play in Saskatchewan.
The Surrey, BC native uses his thick 6’2”, 230lbs frame to punish opponents and continues to show steady improvement. Rush play-by-play announcer John Fraser noted, “his teammates call him the ‘man child’ and the biggest thing to me is his physical presence. Can’t recall ever spotting him badly out of position and he just crushes guys when he gets the chance. Plus he’s great in transition.”
Messenger also provides some offensive touch with three goals, five assists and can fill in on faceoff duty when needed, having taken 41 draws.
4. (–) Kieran McArdle – Toronto Rock
Another newbie to these power rankings, Kieran McArdle is one half of Toronto’s “American Experiment” along with fellow Long Island, NY resident/teammate Tom Schreiber.
McArdle is a star in the field game, but hadn’t played indoor box lacrosse until training camp with the Rock this preseason. His quick study ability has shortened the learning curve and allowed the lefty to become a consistent scoring threat that can easily float between the first and second offensive units.
The 24-year-old’s mix of 10 goals and 12 helpers gives him a nice multi-dimensional game that defenses are forced to respect.
3. (2) Josh Currier – Rochester Knighthawks
The sixth overall pick’s scoring output has dipped over the past couple of outings and that drops him down one spot to third on my list. However, the quick and slippery Currier (5’11”, 164lbs) has been an important part of Rochester’s retooling lineup this season.
Despite some inconsistency, the Virginia Wesleyan alum remains aggressive in attempted scoring chances. Out of the Knighthawks 11 games Currier has nine or more shots in seven of them. As the rookie continues adjusting to the elite level of competition in the NLL those shots will start to find mesh more often.
2. (1) Kyle Jackson – Rochester Knighthawks
The second of consecutive first round selections for Rochester, Kyle Jackson has excelled in his debut NLL campaign. Tied for 24th in league scoring at 36-points, he’s been especially effective on the power play where nearly half of those points have come from.
Coming out of a mid-February slump, Jackson has bounced back with 11-points (5G, 6A) in his last three matchups. It’s no surprise that his resurgence has helped lead the Knighthawks to a 2-1 record over that stretch.
At only 23, the sky is the limit for this speedy lefty as the head of the Rochester youth movement.
1. (3) Tom Schreiber – Toronto Rock
I coined Tom Schreiber “Captain America” early on this season, and he has certainly looked like a superhero many times in 2017.
Everyone knew of the Major League Lacrosse (MLL) 2016 MVP’s incredible field LAX skills, but who could’ve predicted this type of first year transitioning to box having never played it before? Almost unbelievably, Schreiber is 10th in NLL scoring and leads the Rock with 52-points.
He’s already one of the premier set-up men in the East and is now often drawing double coverage as a threat to bury the ball from anywhere on the floor.
The former Princeton Tiger went off for four goals, three assists in Toronto’s win over Calgary this past Saturday, and my broadcast partner Brian Shanahan correctly stated, “you’d still like to see him shoot it even more!”
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