NLL DRAFT DAY 2002
By Ted Montour
Last Saturday, September 21, National Lacrosse League General Managers and Coaches gathered in Toronto to conduct the annual entry draft. Before that, however, came an important piece of business that I am sure Commissioner Jim Jennings and the Governors do not want to become an annual event, a dispersal draft of players from the Montreal Express. Last season's NLL expansion franchise, although compiling an 8 - 8 record and drawing respectably in the Molson Centre, has suspended operations while team president Brad Watters looks for a buyer.
Ontario's Patrick Merrill is the 1st pick in the 2002 Entry Draft
DISPERSAL DRAFT RESULTS
While there was considerable trade activity right up to the first selection, the dispersal picks themselves generated few surprises, but two big winners, preceded by one opportunist --- the Washington / Colorado club had previously announced the signing of unrestricted free agent and top Montreal goal-scorer (46) Ted Dowling.
The Calgary Roughnecks refused all trade offers, and selected Express Captain and leading scorer Tracy Kelusky (44 goals and 50 assists, 94 points, 6th in the League). Calgary management had talked with Kelusky prior to the draft, and expressed confidence that they could persuade him to move west. Considering that Kelusky played Major box this summer in Coquitlam, British Columbia, Calgary is not really that much of an adjustment for him. Look for Kelusky to lead the Roughnecks to respectability this season. They also grabbed up defender and draw-man par excellence Brad MacArthur (a former 1st-round draft pick of the Rochester Knighthawks) to open the second round.
Only six NLL players won more than 150 face-offs last season AND won more than they lost; Brad MacArthur had the best overall win percentage, 65.4%, 7 points better than the Wings' Peter Jacobs. One wonders why, for example, Terry Sanderson did not take MacArthur with him to Ottawa, especially since last year's leading Rebel draw-man, Rory Graham, was traded away; could it possibly be because MacArthur plays for the Brooklin Redmen, OLA Major arch-rivals of Sanderson's Mann Cup champion Brampton Excelsiors?
The Ottawa Rebel had six selections, including four in the first round, taking Bruce Codd 2nd , Jason Crosbie 4th , Matt Giles 5th , and Eric Pacey 7th; they then selected defenders Shawn Zettel (an original Rebel) 14th and Shawn Parnell 16th . Crosbie was subsequently packaged with Rebel second-leading point getter Chris Konopliff (28+45=73) in a trade with the Bandits which brought Marc Landriault and Kevin Howard to Ottawa.
The Rebel thus garnered seven players from the dispersal draft, five of whom played for Sanderson in Montreal (Codd and Pacey also played for "Turk" in Brampton), but gave up their top two scorers from last season - Mike Benedict Jr. and Konopliff combined for 63 goals and 155 points. In addition, with the release of Ottawa natives Pat Collins and Jason Tassé to make room for the Express airlift, the Rebel have sacrificed almost all of the local talent on the roster. The colourful Benedict, in particular, was an instant crowd favorite with his creative ball-handling and "archer's" goal-scoring celebration, and with a strong following from his nearby Akwesasne Mohawk Territory home, he will be missed at the box office. I had presumed that the trade of Mike Jr. had incidentally accommodated his iron-working in New Jersey, however his father, clearly disappointed, told me at the Iroquois Nation's Cup that his son is now living at home and not commuting to work in the Garden State.
This entry draft was considered by many G.M.'s and coaches to be a richer and deeper crop than last year, in which Rookie of the Year Blaine Manning (Calgary/Toronto) and All-Rookie Team-mate Gavin Prout (New York) were really the only first-round "locks" for immediate success. There were some later-round gems, notably the Landsharks trio of All-Rookie goal-tender Mike Miron (OLA Jr. A Orillia Kings, 2nd round), All-Rookie attacker Kasey Beirnes (OLA Jr. B Elora Mohawks, 3rd round) and Kyle Jamieson (OLA Jr. A Six Nations Arrows, 4th round). The Ravens got 4th rounder Mike Law of U.-Denver into the line-up around mid-season, when his family business brought him to Vancouver, and he shone instantly.
The 2002 first round was dominated by Canadian box lacrosse players, their U.S. alma maters notwithstanding. The top seven, and eleven of thirteen, cut their teeth in either British Columbia's or Ontario's junior leagues.
Orangeville, Ontario's Patrick Merrill, a former Jr. A Northman under coach Lindsay Sanderson, plays major lacrosse for the Coquitlam Adanacs, 2001 Mann Cup winners. A strong two-way player, starting mid-fielder for the Mercyhurst Lakers of Erie, Pennsylvania, he should fit in well with Toronto Rock Coach Les Bartley's transition game, and he knows his way to the net. He joins fellow Lakers Bruce Alexander (Ravens) and Ted Jenner (Knighthawks) in the NLL.
Alberta's Jon Harasym came East to play for the Northmen as well, and was subsequently drafted by Terry Sanderson's OLA Major Brampton Excelsiors. His 9 goals and 36 assists, combined with a 3-and-3 post-season, helped put a Mann Cup ring on his hand this summer. His best game as an attacker for the University of Maryland - Baltimore County came last season, when his 3 goals and 3 assists helped the Retrievers upset Army.
Defender Billy Dee Smith was one big reason that the St. Catharines Jr. A Athletics won the Minto Cup in 2001, and made it to the finals again this past summer (losing to the Burnaby Lakers). He is known for his in-your-face play and slobber-knocking hits, plus he has some touch (21 goals and 32 assists including play-offs). Bandits fans who have missed the combination of ferocity and finesse epitomized by new Head Coach Darris Kilgour, during his playing days, should enjoy watching Billy Dee.
Travis Gillespie and Nick Carlson followed in the footsteps of Ottawa Rebel former first-round draft pick Jake Lawson, from British Columbia's Junior A League to Gaffney, South Carolina's Limestone College, where they too won NCAA Division II national championships. They were both members of Canada's 1999 U-19 squad, and Gillespie was selected Captain. Defender Gillespie joins the youth movement in Columbus, While Division II Attackman and Player of the Year Carlson should help fill the offensive vacuum left by the departure of Roy Colsey, the Saints' all-time goals and points leader. It should be exciting for New York fans to watch Carlson and last year's NLL All-Rookie attacker Gavin Prout together.
Peter Veltman was drafted out of minor lacrosse by Lindsay Sanderson's Northmen before the 1999 OLA Junior A season, and was second in team scoring as a rookie, to new Rebel Bruce Codd. He was the Northmen's top point-getter the next two seasons, and third last summer with 16 goals and 25 assists (having missed 7 regular-season games). He has more going for him than just the caché of the family name, and given his history with Ottawa's G.M., should get every opportunity to crack the Rebel line-up.
Rory Glaves is another rugged St. Catharines product, Jr. A Defender of the Year and recipient of the Gus McCauley Trophy, in fact, though not as offensively gifted as Smith. He would be welcomed to the Landsharks' dressing-room by fellow former "A" Kyle Arbuckle. Glaves is reported to be mulling over a scholarship offer from Canisius College head coach Randy Mearns (who, incidentally, will miss the Bandits season to rehab a surgically repaired, chronically separated shoulder).
Josh Coffman was the first U.S.-born player taken, fresh from a national championship with Syracuse, where he was the "two" in the one-two All-American attack punch of the Orangemen, along with Tewaaraton Trophy winner Michael Powell. Coffman was also a key member of the World Championship-winning Team U.S.A. in Perth, Western Australia. The Carthage, N.Y. native also has the distinction of being an All-American at both attack and midfield. While the Pepsi Arena in Albany is not exactly the Carrier Dome, the Attack certainly hope that Josh will make himself at home, and start getting on the end of set-ups from Josh Sanderson.
Chad Culp is another grad of the Orangeville system, a speedy, slashing forward (22 goals, 40 assists) who lead the Northmen in scoring this past season, ahead of Bryan Kazarian (Albany Attack, 1st round in 2001) and Peter Veltman. He distributes the ball well, which should be refreshing for the New York Saints' attack.
The Toronto Rock selected Brian Croswell from the OLA Jr. A Peterborough Lakers, an organization that has sent many talented players to the pro ranks over the years. He contributed 17 goals and 19 assists in the last regular season, while accumulating 57 minutes in penalties, and scored 14 more goals in 10 play-off games.
The Rochester Knighthawks looked to the Onondaga Nation for their first pick, selecting Peter Benedict from the Jr. Redhawks. He is a pure scorer with size and strength, and a dizzying array of moves inside. While not the speediest, his footwork and first step are superior. Benedict is the two-time OLA Junior B points and goal-scoring champ (58 goals, 45 assists in 2002, 69 goals, 50 assists in 2001). I've seen a lot of Peter the last several seasons, and if he reports to camp fit, and with some mentoring from the likes of Marshall Abrams, Dewey Jacobs and Cory Bomberry, he should make the Knighthawks' roster. He can fill it up.
The Columbus Landsharks continued their policy of drafting quality Ohio-born players with their selection of Steve Dusseau, the only other American to go in the opening round. The Columbus native (Upper Arlington H.S.) capped an All-American, record-setting career at Georgetown University with a 13-goal, 3-assist performance with Team U.S.A. in Perth.
The Toronto Rock wound things up by taking the only goal-tender chosen in the first round, John McLellan of the Toronto Beaches Jr. A club. McLellan was a big reason why the Beach-boys surged to second place overall on the OLA Junior A circuit this season, before losing the Ontario final series to St. Catharines. He faces a daunting task, trying to crack a Rock line-up that already includes Bob Watson, Anthony Cosmo and "J" Preece.
Later Round Keepers
Mike Longboat, St Catharines Athletics (Bandits, 4th round, 42nd overall) - Mike has a powerful outside shot and moves well off the ball, the kind of player John Tavares finds open.
Louis Alfred, Orillia Kings (Bandits, 5th round, 55th overall) - Alfred is a former OLA Jr. B scoring star from Kanawake Mohawk Territory outside Montreal, who finished his junior career with the Kings, tallying 10 goals and 6 assists in just five games.
Jeremy Richardson, Edmonton Miners / Alberta Jr. B (Roughnecks, 3rd round,37th overall) - Richardson is a big kid with scoring touch, a rare combination at almost any level of box lacrosse. Chosen for the 2002 Founders Cup All-Star team, he had 7 goals and 11 assists in three games.
Ryan Soliday, Syracuse Orangemen (Colorado, 2nd round, 21st overall - Soliday is a strong-shooting middie with size at 6'3", 210 pounds, and has a good shot at making an aging Colorado squad.
Tom Kessler, Hofstra Pride (Storm, 2nd round, 16th overall) - Attackman Kessler is a scorer going to a team desperately in need of scoring; if he can't learn the box game from the likes of Jim Brady, Mike Benedict, Cam Bomberry and Roy Colsey, nobody can.
Mike Daley, Six Nations Chiefs OLA Major (Rebel, 6th round, 31st overall) - Daley, a former star with the Burlington Jr. A Chiefs, is a gamer who had 10 goals and 23 assists in just 13 games for Six Nations, playing with NLL pro's like Cory and Cam Bomberry and Dallas Squire.
John Glatzel, Syracuse Orangemen (Knighthawks, 3rd round, 32nd overall) - Another Syracuse All-American, and Captain of the Orangemen, Defenceman of the Year Glatzel anchored the Team U.S.A. defence in Perth. He brings youth and savvy to the K'hawks defensive corps.
Dus Nanticoke, Six Nations Arrows (Landsharks, 6th round, 64th overall) - If Nanticoke is even as big as he is listed, 5'4" and 155 pounds, then 150 of those pounds have to be heart. Dus is fearless, and quick as a spider, rarely taking a solid hit, even by box lacrosse standards. He has a deceptive shot, can get inside, and his ball-ragging on the PK is a treat to watch. If he gets half a chance, he could play his way into the NLL, if not with Columbus, then somewhere else. He would be an instant crowd favorite.
DID YOU SEE THOSE JERSEYS?
Carc's sporting the new REBEL/STX Uniforms!
October 3, 2002