IL Indoor previews strong draft class, one of the deepest ever, for next year
As the colder months move in, the National Lacrosse League is heating up with teams now preparing for training camps and exhibition games before the 2015 season opens the weekend of January 2-3. The 2014 NLL Draft brought 55 rookies hopeful to make a roster into the mix, but what about next year’s highly-anticipated draft? NLL draft guru Stephen Stamp from IL Indoor has you covered.
“It’s a draft that coaches and general managers have been looking to for years,” Stamp writes. “The 2015 National Lacrosse League Entry Draft features an embarrassment of riches. While the 2014 draft saw a half dozen players who were certain first-round picks, 2015 has a half dozen who are legitimate candidates for first overall. There will be players taken in the second round next year who would be high first rounders in most years.
“With this year’s draft done and more than a month until training camps open, it’s a perfect time to take a first in-depth look at some of the talent that will be available in September of 2015 when the NLL’s teams reconvene for the next draft.”
The Likely First Rounders
Wesley Berg, RF, Coquitlam Adanacs (BCJALL) and University of Denver (NCAA)
Berg is so good that he played a regular role for Canada at the 2014 World Field Lacrosse Championships despite being only 21. He’s been on people’s radar for next year’s draft for years, thanks to the work he’s done in the BC junior league. Berg won a Minto Cup with the Adanacs in 2010 but really played a relatively minor role on the team that season as a rookie. Still, he posted 42 points in 14 regular season games. 2011, though, was the year he really shone. It was his only full summer season because of his commitments with Denver University and he made the most of it. Berg scored 60 goals and 54 assists in 20 games that season. Even with Marty Dinsdale, Robert Church and Ben MacIntosh ahead of him in the Adanacs pecking order, Berg was a standout in his 18-year-old year. Berg is a dynamic and supremely talented forward who appears to be ready to make an immediate impact in the pro league.
Randy Staats, RF, Syracuse University (NCAA)
While Berg was good early, Staats was turning heads even earlier in his career. He scored 48 points in the 2008 OLA Jr A playoffs with the Six Nations Arrows as a 15-year-old. The next summer, he fulfilled everyone’s expectations by scoring 39 goals and 56 assists for 95 points in his first full season of Jr A. Unfortunately for him and for fans of the game, that would be Staats last season until 2012. He missed two full seasons with major knee injuries. When he returned, it took a while to get his feel back for the game and to play with full confidence. He still scored 85 points in 17 games that regular season and added 49 in a 12-game playoff run. Staats is a remarkable shooter with a great feel for the game. His experience with Six Nations this summer—although it was also limited by a minor injury suffered at the field worlds that kept him out of the playoffs except for one game—should make it even easier for Staats to make the adjustment to playing in the NLL. Oh, and one more thing. Since everyone will be saying his name a lot in the coming years, let’s say it correctly. It’s pronounced “Stotts”, not “Stats”. And it will be called early in the 2015 NLL Entry Draft.
Lyle Thompson, RF, University at Albany (NCAA)
Like Berg and Staats, Thompson played at the 2014 world field lacrosse championships. Of course, if you follow the game even remotely you were already aware of that. He and his brother Miles and cousin Ty were sensations for the Iroquois Nationals. Lyle and Miles also shared the Tewaaraton Award this year, as well. Lyle isn’t just a field guy, though. He was also named the MVP of the 2014 Presidents Cup after leading Onondaga to the gold medal. He’s put up great numbers from his days with Akwesasne Jr A through his three years of Sr B lacrosse. He’s an unbelievably talented player who has produced in every league and tournament he’s played in. Lyle will be the last of the four Thompson brothers (after Hiana, Jeremy and Miles) to enter the National Lacrosse League, but he may just be the best of the lot.
Jesse King, LF, Ohio State University (NCAA)
Yet another young player who took part in this summer’s field worlds, King’s importance to Victoria was highlighted when he was unavailable for the 2014 Mann Cup while attending Ohio State. Victoria’s offense just didn’t have the same oomph without him in the lineup. King is big, strong and talented. He grabbed plenty of attention when he was able to suit up for a couple of games at the 2013 Mann Cup and posted a hat trick as a junior call up. He’s a good shooter and a great passer; he had 77 assists in the 2013 Jr A season and added 34 goals.
Reilly O’Connor, LF, Whitby Warriors (OLA Jr A) and Georgetown University (NCAA)
Perhaps the most clear-cut measure of just how good a draft we’re looking at is the fact that when the candidates for first overall pick are discussed, O’Connor’s name rarely comes up. In most year’s, he’d be a central part of that conversation. All he did in junior was become the first player since John Grant Jr. to score over 100 points in three straight seasons. He actually posted a fourth 100-point season if you want to include the 2013 playoffs, when he matched his regular-season total of 101 as he helped the Warriors to win their second Minto Cup in three years. O’Connor is an elite setup man: he totalled 79, 78 and a mind-boggling 91 assists in his last three years of junior lacrosse.
Graeme Hossack, LD, Lindenwood University (NCAA)
Hossack is the best shutdown defender in this draft; in fact, he’s probably the best shutdown defender coming into the NLL in several years. If Tutton is comparable to Corbeil, Hossack can be compared to Corbeil’s teammate in Brampton and Edmonton, three-time defensive player of the year Kyle Rubisch. That’s an extremely high standard and great expectations to put on a young player, but Hossack has the potential to be an elite defender. He was IL Indoor’s Canadian junior defender of the year in 2013, a year in which he dominated as he helped the Whitby Warriors to win the Minto Cup for the second time in his junior career. He was a first-team all-star defender in 2012 and ’13. Hossack is a tough, physical defender who, like Rubisch, plays the game hard without taking a lot of penalties. He has worked hard to achieve his success. Whitby and Edmonton coach Derek Keenan has said that Hossack wasn’t a star coming up through minor lacrosse, but worked and worked his way into becoming an important contributor with the Warriors after a couple of years playing Jr B with the Clarington Green Gaels. That work ethic will stand him in good stead as he graduates to the NLL.
For the complete list of top prospects for the 2015 NLL Draft including 10 more highly-touted up-and-comers, check out Stephen Stamp’s article on IL Indoor by clicking here.