National Lacrosse League Entry Draft: IL Indoor’s Hot 50 for 2011

Kevin Crowley will probably be the first player chosen in the 2011 NLL Entry Draft, and he's Number 1 in IL Indoor's Hot 50 for 2011. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)
Kevin Crowley will probably be the first player chosen in the 2011 NLL Entry Draft, and he's Number 1 in IL Indoor's Hot 50 for 2011. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)

Where last year’s National Lacrosse League entry draft had some high end offensive talent but was feted primarily for its defenders, the 2011 version of the annual talent distribution event is loaded with front door stars. Mix in some solid back door prospects and a sprinkling of transition talent and you’ve got as deep a draft as the league has seen in a while. There’ll be very good players available well into the second round.

With the league’s overall talent pool continuing to become more concentrated after another team folded, it’ll be harder than ever for young players to break in. But with the calibre of talent knocking at the door in this draft, some vets will be looking over their shoulders and hoping to hang on to their roster spots.

This IL Indoor Hot 50 for  2011 isn’t intended to predict the order players will be drafted in—team need and geography play huge roles in that. It’s just about who the best players available are.

It’s such a huge challenge to compare players from different areas, positions and disciplines. How do you determine the relative merits of a defender from Ontario Jr A versus a forward from the B.C. loop, a transition player from Quebec Senior B versus a long-pole middie who’s never played box but is clearly a great athlete? We give it our best shot here. As always, it’s sure to engender plenty of debate.

1 – Kevin Crowley – New Westminster Salmonbellies (WLA & BCJALL), Stony Brook University
He has it all. Size, shooting, passing, setting picks, lacrosse IQ. If he wasn’t carved in stone as the first pick in the draft before the WLA playoffs, he certainly was after being the best player for the three-time defending champion Bellies in the post-season. He showed poise, maturity and big-game chutzpah, and he scored 39 points in 10 games to lead all scorers. He’ll be good right away and for a long time.

2 – Stephen Keogh – Six Nations Chiefs & Barrie Lakeshores (MSL), Orangeville Northmen & Toronto Beaches (OLA Jr A), Syracuse University
He’s 6 inches shorter and about 25 pounds lighter than Crowley and that’s as much of a reason as any why he’ll go second rather than first. That would put him in Rochester with Shawn Evans, the NLL player to whom he may be the most similar. Keogh doesn’t have the moves that Evans does, but he’s a great shooter, a fiery competitor and he’ll stand up for himself and his teammates in any situation.

3 – Adam Jones – Orangeville Northmen (OLA Jr A), Canisius College
Two Minto Cup wins, MVP in one of them. Scored 99 points in 2009—in the playoffs alone! Jones was the top-ranked prospect a year ago before he hurt his knee. Not to take anything away from Crowley, who’s earned his top ranking, but Jones may still be number 1 if he’d stayed healthy. When he’ll be ready is still a question mark, but when he is ready he’ll remind people why scouts have been watching him for years.

4 – Jordan MacIntosh – Ajax Rock (MSL), Burlington Chiefs (OLA Jr A), Rochester Institute of Technology
MSL Rookie of the Year. IL Indoor MSL Transition Player of the Year. Scores. Loves to play defense. Moves the ball up the floor and knows what to do with it. Wins faceoffs. Gritty but clean (only one minor penalty in 14 regular season games). Character. Leadership. Makes sandwiches for the team on road trips. Okay, he doesn’t actually make sandwiches. But he probably would if you asked him. MacIntosh isn’t as splashy as the top three, but whoever gets him will love what he brings to their team.

5 – Johnny Powless – Six Nations Arrows (OLA Jr A)
If someone thinks the willowy offensive wizard has the physical and mental maturity to play in the NLL at age 18, he’ll be drafted very high. If not, he’ll slide a bit. Either way he has a bright future in the league because he’s extremely talented, he’s a terrific athlete and he loves to play lacrosse.

6 – Evan Kirk – Kitchener-Waterloo Kodiaks (MSL), KW Braves & Orangeville Northmen (OLA Jr A), Hobart College
The allure of Evan Kirk lies in games like the Kodiaks 11-8 win over Six Nations July 12. The Chiefs outshot KW 55-36 but could only score 5 even-strength goals. Kirk made 47 saves, 11 more than the Kodiaks had shots. He was brilliant, basically winning the game by himself. He can do that. Overall, his numbers have been average or below, but he’s played for a bad Kodiaks team and often looked terrific behind them. Someone will want to see how good he can be behind an NLL defense.

7 – Travis Cornwall – Coquitlam Adanacs (BCJALL)
Scored over 100 points in the regular season and led all players in post-season scoring, all while playing largely in transition. Cornwall may not play pro this year because he is very serious about his math studies at Simon Fraser University. Whether or not an NLL team can work him into the lineup in 2012, he should still be a high pick because he is one of the best two-way players in years.

8 – Dan Coates – Kitchener-Waterloo Kodiaks (MSL), St. Catherines Athletics (OLA Jr A), Canisius College
A three-year regular with KW, Coates is a mature and confident defender who has plenty of experience lining up against the NLL’s star shooters from his summer gig with the Kodiaks. He seldom stands out, which is usually a good thing for a D-man. Coates is best suited to heading straight for the bench when his team gains the ball, but he’s solid and smart and seldom gets burned one-on-one. He’s ready to help an NLL team immediately.

9 – Jeremy Thompson – St. Regis Braves (TNLL Sr B) & Onondaga Redmen (Can Am Sr B), Akwesasne Indians & Six Nations Arrows (OLA Jr A), Syracuse University, Onondaga Community College
Thompson honours the Creator’s Game by playing it with passion, speed and élan. He was MVP of the 2010 Presidents Cup and won the title this year with St. Regis. He has good numbers but his game is about more than numbers. His athleticism and maturity allow him to help a team by doing the small things right. That should translate into a solid contributor in the NLL.

10 – Jamie Lincoln – Langley Thunder (WLA) & Peterborough Lakers (MSL), Burnaby Lakers (BCJALL) & Brampton Excelsiors (OLA Jr A), Hofstra University
The conundrum that is Jamie Lincoln is highlighted by the first game of the 2010 MSL finals. Playing primarily a transition role for the Peterborough Lakers, Lincoln found himself alone in front of the Brampton net. Controlling his momentum adeptly, Lincoln threw so many fakes as Anthony Cosmo moved across the crease that the goalie eventually tumbled backwards. Lincoln’s goal into the vacated cage came on his only shot of the night. His huge talent is evident. Harnessing it consistently is what will determine how successful Lincoln is at the highest level.

11 – Jesse Gamble – Kitchener-Waterloo Kodiaks (MSL), Orangeville Northmen (OLA Jr A), Cornell University
He’s a complementary player with a good mid-range shot. Gamble has never been a star and he won’t be one in the NLL, but he can contribute to a winning effort. His game has grown with KW and this summer he led the team in goals with 27.

12 – Jeff Cornwall – Coquitlam Adanacs (BCJALL)
While his brother Travis is more likely to head up the floor, Jeff Cornwall is just as happy to knock opposing forwards down to it. He’s big and solid but doesn’t take a lot of unnecessary penalties. His championship experience with the Adanacs (two Minto Cup finals, winning one) will help him fit right in to the increasingly competitive NLL.

13 – Corbyn Tao – New Westminster Salmonbellies (WLA), Coquitlam Adanacs (BCJALL) & Six Nations Arrows (OLA Jr A), Robert Morris University
Really came into is own in his last year of junior, scoring 73 points including 32 goals for Coquitlam. Has scored 77 points in two WLA seasons. Tao didn’t travel east for the Mann Cup in 2010 and missed a chance to elevate his draft stock by having a sub-par 2011 WLA finals against Langley. But he’s a steady performer and should be a nice addition to a team needing right-handed depth up front.

14 – Trevor Moore – Burnaby Lakers (WLA), Coquitlam Adanacs (BCJALL), Robert Morris University
A teammate of Tao’s in Coquitlam and at RMU, Moore’s game is based on vision and feeding. He led the BC Junior A loop in assists with 66 in ‘09 and should earn plenty if he can translate his passing skills to the pros. He also showed a knack for putting the ball in the net in college, leading the nation with 50 goals last year. He’s a two-time All-American and the top scorer in RMU history.

15 – Greg Harnett – Orangeville Northmen (OLA Jr A)
He’s a physical defender with a high lacrosse IQ and the ability to push the ball up the floor. Harnett won two Minto Cups with the Northmen and his role gradually grew during his five years with the team. He’s a similar player to his brother Jon (Calgary Roughnecks) with more offensive upside off the break. A third-year student at Bishops University, Harnett can’t relocate now but is more than happy to work lacrosse trips into his academic schedule.

16 – Jordan McBride – New Westminster Salmonbellies (WLA & BCJALL), Stony Brook University
McBride will be 25 in October and has been playing Senior A ball with the Bellies for four years. He was a hot prospect in 2008 when he was second in WLA scoring with 74 points. Known primarily as a spot-up shooter, his numbers have dropped each year since, going from 4.1 points per game to 3.2, 3.1 and finally 2.6 this summer. He’ll be a fit for a team with good feeders who can set him up for his deadly outside shot.

17 – Joel White – Syracuse University
With Boston’s folding putting a premium on NLL-ready talent in this draft, it will be tough for field specialists to make the direct jump. If anyone can do it, it’s probably two-time Tewaarton Award finalist White. Playing with a long pole for the Orange, he became in his junior year the first defensive specialist to be named the nation’s top midfielder.

18 – David Earl – Notre Dame University
If White isn’t the first American taken in the draft, Earl probably will be. Earl’s an excellent athlete who can’t wait to hit the turf to give box lacrosse a try. His midfield skills should translate well to a transition role in the NLL. He brings a hockey mentality to the field, he’s an excellent one-on-one defender and he has a nose for loose balls.

19 – Kyle Davis – Brampton Excelsiors (OLA Jr A)
He posted pretty good numbers in junior as a complementary player and his stock got a boost when the Senior Excels decided to take him to Langley for the Mann Cup. More precisely, the boost came when he dressed for a game and looked decidedly comfortable playing with the big boys. Coach Mike Hasen has proved to be a pretty shrewd judge of talent, and his faith in Davis speaks volumes.

20 – Grant Catalino – Six Nations Arrows (OLA Jr A), University of Maryland
Big, talented and has some box experience. He would be a higher pick if he was more inclined to go to the heavy traffic areas to create shots for himself or teammates. As is, he’ll have a reasonable shot at cracking a lineup. His time with the Arrows will make a big difference in his move indoors.

21 – Tye Belanger – Peterborough Lakers & Brampton Excelsiors (OLA Jr A)
Showed his character after giving up an embarrassingly bad goal in playoffs against his old team. He was fabulous afterwards as the Lakers swept Brampton and pushed Orangeville to overtime of game 7. Belanger probably isn’t ready to play in the NLL yet, but he’s a smart goalie who plays the angles well so he should adjust to the pro game and become a solid option down the road. Named IL Indoor’s Junior Goalie of the Year.

22 – Jerome Thompson – Cornwall Island Redmen (Can Am Sr B) & St. Regis Braves (TNLL Sr B), Six Nations Arrows & Akwesasne Indians (OLA Jr A)
Not as heralded as his older brother Jeremy, Jerome has an excellent shot and plays a robust game. He’s an unselfish player who keeps outperforming bigger names. Confidence is critical for him; once he gets established in the NLL he should be a great team player and make a significant contribution to the franchise that winds up with him.

23 – Eric Benesch – Kitchener-Waterloo Kodiaks (MSL) & Braves (OLA Jr A) & St. Catharines Athletics (OLA Jr A), Mars Hill College
A cerebral player who has already coached with the Bulgarian national field team, Benesch isn’t a top-drawer talent but his work ethic and adaptability will allow him to contribute. Happy to help create opportunities for teammates, he’ll also pitch in with some timely goals.

24 – Thomas Guadagnolo – Six Nations Arrows (OLA Jr A), Syracuse University
His two full summers playing in Ontario make him much more ready to jump to the pro indoor ranks than field-only defenders. He’s also shown some know-how on the offensive end, ditching the long pole for a shooter stick to help out his high school’s power play. Guadagnolo has shown leadership and excellent communications skills, two traits that should help him earn a spot at the top level of the game.

25 – Steve Fryer – Coquitlam Adanacs (BCJALL) & Brampton Excelsiors (OLA Jr A)
After a strong career in Brampton, Fryer finished his junior days with a tour de force summer in Coquitlam. He was great in the regular season then allowed just 4.69 goals a game in the playoffs. Unfortunately for him, one of his worst games was in the decider of the Minto Cup, but that shouldn’t distract teams from seeing what a solid keeper Fryer is.

26 – Craig England – Orangeville Northmen (OLA Jr A)
A big body who can set hard picks for his teammates and also has the skill to contribute with his stick. England tied for fourth in scoring on the powerful Northmen squad this summer, so he’s comfortable playing a supporting role. As with all his Orangeville teammates, being coached by Matt Sawyer always helps prepare a player for the next level.

27 – Jeremy Boltus – Hamilton Nationals (MLL), U.S. Military Academy
An outstanding athlete who was named rookie of the year in Major League Lacrosse this summer. He’ll probably go later than 27th in the draft just because of the uncertainty over where he’ll be posted when he completes his field artillery training next fall. Boltus will take a while to adjust to the box game, but he’s got tons of skill: he was the top goal scorer the for the Nationals, besting some guys who are pretty good indoors, going by the names of Jamieson and Crowley.

28 – Frankie Scigliano – New Westminster Salmonbellies (BCJALL)
Scigliano had the best save percentage in the BC Junior loop and allowed less than 6 goals per game in the regular season. He’s a big presence in the net, listed at 6′4” and 290 pounds.

29 – Casey Jackson – Coquitlam Adanacs & Victoria Shamrocks (BCJALL)
Scored over 4 points per game in a partial regular season then was third in the league in playoff scoring. The 6′2” lefty is a lanky forward adept at setting goals up and burying them himself.

30 – Brendan Muise – Clarington Green Gaels & Mimico Mountaineers (OLA Jr B)
This is where level of play makes assessing potential so tricky. Muise average 68 points in four seasons with Mimico the absolutely ripped up the Junior B league this summer. He had 71 assists alone, but he’s a big time finisher, too, adding 43 goals. What could he have done in Junior A? It’s anyone’s guess. At this point, it’s NLL GMs guesses. Someone will take a shot on Muise’s huge talent. It’ll be up to him to prove he can produce against the best in the world.

31 – Jay Card – New Westminster Salmonbellies (BCJALL) & Orangeville Northmen (OLA Jr A & B)
Has shown glimpses of huge talent but just hasn’t played that much lacrosse the past few years. Bounced around a bit between teams and leagues. Card’s potential will earn him a shot, but it will be a quick one and he’ll need to make a positive first impression. If he does, his upside could be high.

32 – Micheal Berekoff – Delta Islanders (BCJALL)
Has shown steady progress in his three years of junior, putting up 41, 49 and 77 points. Berekoff is one of a group of talented BCJALL forwards with similar numbers. Where they go wind up going will depend in large part on how the team doing the picking sees a fit for their organization. Wherever he goes, Berekoff will make a push to earn a roster spot.

33 – Kyle Andrews – Brampton Excelsiors (OLA Jr A)
Andrews is a steady defender who was part of a solid team approach with the Excelsiors. Once again, each team will see this mid-round group of defenders from their own perspective. Andrews isn’t flashy but he’s reliable, the kind of defender you don’t notice, in a good way.

33 – Adam McGourty – Brampton Excelsiors (OLA Jr A)
Perhaps a bit grittier than Andrews, McGourty is another reliable stay at home type who will chip in with the occasional transition goal. He’s the kind of player you’re glad to have on the roster when you really need a defensive stop late in the game.

35 – Torrey Van Every – Six Nations Arrows (OLA Jr A) & Rebels (OLA Jr B)
In much the same situation as Muise except he stepped up to Junior A his final year and maintained his scoring pace, though not nearly at the level that Muise put up numbers. Van Every has been part of a successful program in Six Nations and will bring a good sense of the game to his attempts to crack the pros.

36 – Billy Bitter – Denver Outlaws (MLL), University of North Carolina
Seems like a hard guy not to like. A significant portion of his Outlaws bio is devoted to his volunteer and charity work, including serving at a soup kitchen in New York City. That would be nice but fairly meaningless to scouts if Bitter wasn’t also a two-time All-American with great hands who’ll also battle for loose balls. He can score. Now he just has to show that he can do it when the net is two feet shorter and two feet narrower.

37 – Connor Daly – Burlington Chiefs (OLA Jr A)
A five-year Chief who’ll muck it up and is also ready to take the ball up the floor. He’s a big strong kid willing to work hard to deny opponents scoring chances. His junior club made the playoffs each year he was there after missing out the season before.

38 – Tyler Walsh – St. Catharines Athletics (OLA Jr A)
Scored 47 goals in two solid seasons in Junior A, then exploded for 47 in a spectacular final summer in 2011. He was fourth in the OLA in goals and 11th in points playing with a middle-of-the-pack Athletics team.

39 – Mark Burnett – Ajax Rock (MSL), Whitby Warriors (OLA Jr A), Mars Hill College
Another in the string of solid mid-round defenders, Burnett has the experience of playing against many NLL stars in his two summers with Ajax. A bit undersized but he is tenacious and has sound footwork, making him effective at one-on-one and help defense.

40 – Brian Caulfield – Rochester Rattlers (MLL), University of Albany
Caulfield is a big, physical attack man who established himself as a big-time feeder at Albany. At 6′4”, 225 lbs he could play a Mat Giles-type role, forcing defenders to keep their heads up for him while they’re trying to cover the ball. He was an honourable mention All-American and has good stick skills.

41 – Brandon Niesink – St. Catharines Athletics (OLA Jr A)
Another stay-at-home defender, Niesink is big and plays a hard-nosed game. He played a major leadership role for the Athletics, wearing a letter his last three years including the Captain’s C this summer. His steady game is the kind you need to see to appreciate, so if he makes an NLL roster it’ll likely be by showing up under the radar at camp and plain working his way onto the team. Just the way he’d like to do it.

42 – Mark Negrin – New Westminster Salmonbellies (BCJALL)
Negrin put up 63 and 68 points the last two summers, scoring 34 goals each time. He’s a lefty who stepped up and led the Bellies in scoring this post-season, netting 12 goals and 11 assists in 12 games. His experience playing a complementary role is valuable, given that by the time we reach this point in the draft teams are looking for depth rather than expecting stars. His playoff performance, though, let’s folks know he can put the ball in the net himself when they need him to.

43 – Mike Mallory – Delta Islanders (BCJALL)
Has produced consistently for the Islanders, scoring over 80 points each of the past two seasons. Had a great stretch in Delta’s brief playoff run this year, notching 16 goals in just 6 games and adding 11 assists. It’s hard to stand out amongst the large pack of forwards entering the draft this year, but hitting the 40-goal mark like Mallory did last summer helps make your name jump off the page a bit.

44 – Pete Rennie – Peterborough Lakers (OLA Jr A)
It’s not hard to figure out what Rennie brings to the table from looking at his numbers. He totalled 0 goals and 3 asssists in 20 regular-season games this summer, but piled up 84 penalty minutes. He lets opponents know he’s there and specializes in getting them off their game. Not afraid to push the limits of the rules, he always seems to be in the thick of it when things get nasty. The kind of guy you hate to play against but like to know he has your back.

45 – Shawn Udema – Kitchener-Waterloo Braves (OLA Jr A)
Like we said above, any time you can hit the 40-goal mark in the summer, you’re doing something right. The 6′3” Udema was one of only eight players in the league to hit 40. He had tons of floor time with the Braves, who finished outside the playoffs, so to step up to the next level he’ll have to prove he can make efficient use of the touches he gets.

46 – Brian Karalunas – Villanova University
He’s a field guy all the way, so how will Karalunas manage the transition to the box game? Well, he was Dean’s List every semester at Villanova and his resume is filled with scholar-athlete honours, so he’s probably smart enough to figure it out. He was also recognized for his outstanding defensive play and is known for his character and leadership. The switch to indoor may not be easy for him, but he appears to be just the kind of player for whom the North American Lacrosse League could be a stepping stone to the top level of the sport.

47 – Mike Pires – Victoria Shamrocks (WLA & BCJALL)
Pires peaked at 49 points his first full year in the BCJALL, earning the league’s rookie of the year nod. He had a good first year in Senior ball, too, notching 18 goals and 16 assists for the Shamrocks. This summer was a down one for him with just 11 points in 10 contests and he only dressed for one game in Victoria’s first-round sweep by the Langley Thunder. He’ll have to show he has staying power to earn a spot in the NLL.

48 – Leif Mydske – New Westminster Salmonbellies (BCJALL)|
Mydske was one of five Bellies with more than 60 points this summer and he cracked 60 last year, too. Whether he’s ready to play in the pros yet isn’t clear, but he definitely has the talent to get a look and try to impress someone.

49 – Jovan Miller – Syracuse University
Miller is very athletic and grew into an increasingly large midfield role at Syracuse. He is justifiably proud of being the first African-American player at the school to be named an All-American since Jim Brown. But nobody in the NLL will care what colour he is, just whether he can help the guys in his colour jerseys get the ball in the net and keep the other colour jerseys from putting it in his. With no box experience it’ll be a tall order to jump straight to the NLL, but he’s a determined and dedicated athlete, so don’t expect him to give up on the goal if he decides it’s what he wants to do.

50 – Dan MacIsaac – Whitby Warriors & Tomahawks (OLA Jr A), Clarington Green Gaels & Markham Ironheads (OLA Jr B)
MacIsaac can shoot, he can dodge, he’s big enough to go through you, and he’s comfortable playing whatever role you want him to, to help the team. He sees himself playing in the Mark Steenhuis mold. If there’s one way to get some attention as a later-round pick, it’s to channel your inner Steenhuis. MacIsaac will try to do just that if he hears his name called Wednesday night at the National Lacrosse League draft.

Stamp is a TV sports announcer and lacrosse lover whose skill set made him a defender but who always dreamed of being a goal-scorer. He can be reached at stamplax@hotmail.com.

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