With training camps in full swing and the 2022-23 season drawing ever closer NLL.com takes a look at rookies to watch around the league, from can’t-misses and sure-things to darkhorses and sleeper picks taken in the 2021 and 2022 entry drafts.
Panther City Lacrosse Club’s can’t-miss kids:
- Jonathan Donville, 2021 first overall, OJLL Orangeville, NCAA Cornell/Maryland
- Mathieu Gauthier, 2022 ninth overall, RMLL Edmonton
Donville comes to the NLL as a complete package and will step into the Panther City lineup immediately, while Gauthier will need some seasoning to help his jump to the pros.
“When you are able to infuse a guy like Jonathan in your lineup on the offensive side, not only are you better because of what he can do individually, but as a whole our group gets better because of the way he plays the game,” PCLC head coach Tracey Kelusky says of Donville, who has a championship pedigree including the 2019 Minto Cup (where he was the MVP) and 2022 NCAA title. “He makes everyone better.”
According to PCLC General Manager Bob Hamley, Donville will slot in on the right side as the team’s No. 1 option (alongside last year’s standout rookie Patrick Dodds) and will likely be running the power play. “He is a guy who can shoot the ball from outside and he can get inside, he is a great passer and has a high IQ,” says Hamley. “He is a field general/point guard for us, the guy that is going to be handling the ball.”
Gautier, a breakout star at the 2022 Minto, will add some grit to the Panther City lineup.
“The thing we identified last year was that we want to be harder to play against and Gauthier is a guy that certainly is going to bang bodies,” Kelusky says of the left-hander. “He is looking to free up his teammates and create space for his teammates. The ball is in and out of his stick. We are excited about what he can bring to the table at the next level.”
But as Hamley notes, “Mathieu is young. We drafted him based on the thought he has a very bright future. We believe in him and we are going to be patient with him, but we expect coming into camp that he is going to be able to get into the lineup.”
“I think the biggest challenge for anyone is translating their skill set that they have and have had at a previous high level, whether it be junior A or college, and then being able to do the exact same thing at the pro level,” says Kelusky. “That is the hurdle that you face being a pro.”
The Georgia Swarm’s sure-things:
- Ryan Lanchbury, 2021 second overall, OJLL Burlington, NCAA Richmond
- Brett Dobson, 2022 11th overall, OJLL Whitby, NCAA St. Bonaventure
Swarm head coach Eddie Comeau sees righty Lanchbury creating a buzz as an important part of Georgia’s offence this season.
“There is a learning curve for most offensive players coming into the league, but we feel that with Ryan’s skill set he can contribute right away,” says Comeau. “His vision and ability to carry the ball will help relieve some pressure on Lyle Thompson. His passing ability will complement our off-ball game and should help us find our left shots when they are open.”
Goalie Dobson will be competing for the backup role as veteran Craig Wende takes over as starter for the retired Mike Poulin.
“The jump to the NLL as a goaltender might be the hardest position to make that transition,” Comeau says. “Brett will need to get comfortable with angles and the bigger nets. Studying the shooters and learning while not in the games will be huge for Brett to get himself ready to step in. We expect him to not only learn from Wende, but to push him and be ready when called upon.”
The Albany FireWolves’ well-travelled youngster:
- Jackson Reid, 2021 second round 28th overall, OJLL Kitchener-Waterloo/Six Nations, NCAA Ohio State
Originally drafted by Halifax, Reid has already seen a lot of NLL action without setting foot on the floor yet as a pro. This past offseason Reid was traded to Panther City in the Randy Staats deal. Less than a month later Reid was sent to Albany in the Anthony Malcolm trade.
FireWolves head coach/GM Glenn Clark acquired the righty for his two-way versatility.
“His athleticism is what stands out,” says Clark. “It’s usually tough for a young guy to play D as a first-year player [after] he’s been offensively slotted in college. He can play D and run transition, but has the ability to potentially be a very good player on O. Very good athlete that we think has a good upside in the NLL.”
The Saskatchewan Rush’s fresh frosh class:
- Jake Boudreau, 2021 seventh overall, OJLL Brampton, NCAA Robert Morris
- Ryan Barnable, 2021 eighth overall, OJLL Whitby, NCAA RIT
- Austin Madronic, 2022 sixth overall, BCJALL Victoria, NCAA Harvard
- Isaac Ngyou, 2022 second round 40th overall, BCJALL Langley (no NCAA)
According to Rush head coach/associate GM Jimmy Quinlan, all four freshmen fit into the Rush’s plans and will bring new blood and energy into the lineup this season.
“The strongest aspect of these guys’ game is their athleticism and versatility,” says Quinlan. “They are exceptional, dynamic young athletes.”
“Boudreau, Barnable and Ngyou are all young left-handed defenders that we see fitting into our back-end group. Having lost [veteran defenders] Jeff Cornwall and Chris Corbeil this past offseason we will be looking for those guys to come in and contribute. Our job is going to prepare and acclimate them with our systems so that they simply have to be themselves and play their game.
“We are envisioning that Madronic will come in and contribute on our right-handed side offensively. He is an offensive threat that is more than capable in the defensive end and between the lines.”
Family ties and NLL bloodlines:
- Halifax Thunderbirds: Wake:Riat Bowhunter, 2022 12th overall, OJLL Six Nations, NCAA Jacksonville
- San Diego Seals: Jake Govett, 2022 22nd overall, NCBS San Diego, NCAA Delaware
- Toronto Rock: Josh Dawick, 2022 second round 28th overall, OJLL Toronto/Whitby, NCAA Denver
- Rochester Knighthawks: Austin Hasen, 2022 first round 18th overall, MSL Peterborough Lakers, NCAA Belmont Abbey College
Lefty Bowhunter is the son of Thunderbirds Owner/GM Curt Styres (and cousin of Halifax captain Cody Jamieson), lefty Govett is son of Seals president and former NLL player Steve Govett and righty Dawick is son of Rock Owner/GM Jamie Dawick.
“He is a 6-feet-2 inches tall so he is a big body who can play off-ball to make room in the two-man game for Jamieson, Benesch, Fannell and Theede,” Styres says of lefty BowHunter. “Being taller, he can see the floor very well and is an accurate passer so can find the lanes.”
Seals head coach/GM Patrick Merrill likes the younger Govett’s size, shot, IQ and off-ball play.
“Adjusting to the speed and physicality of the NLL is always a big step for any rookie,” says Merrill. “Patience with a young player’s development is important. We are excited to see Jake compete for a spot over the course of training camp.”
Rock head coach Matt Sawyer on Dawick: “Josh has many strengths, but the first thing that jumps out is his lacrosse IQ. He will compete for a spot on our roster. [But] like any young lacrosse player making the jump to the NLL, he needs to continue to improve the details of his game.”
Another name was called during the draft who may be familiar to NLL fans. Austin Hasen will join his dad, Mike, in Rochester. The younger Hasen played this past summer with the Mann Cup champion, Peterborough Lakers, recording 10 points in five games played, also coached by Mike.