With just 1 game played on the opening weekend of the 2013 National Lacrosse League season, we’re not about to start our weekly rankings of the top rookies. We’ll wait to kick that off next Tuesday when we have a much more complete slate to check out. As it is, the Washington Stealth played 4 rookies in their 13-12 victory over the Rochester Knighthawks, who played 0 rooks on Saturday. So while we’ll wait until next Tuesday to kick it up a notch for the rookies, it’s not too early to take a quick look at the rookies who we’re very likely to hear more from as the season unfolds.
The new crop of youngsters isn’t coming into the season with as much hype as last year’s class, which arguably was the deepest and most talented in the history of the NLL. But that doesn’t mean this year’s class is weak sauce.
Top pick Mark Matthews has the size and skill to make an immediate impact, and that’s what the Edmonton Rush are counting on from the 6-foot-4 forward. No. 2 pick Brock Sorensen will have to wait to unleash his game as he begins the season on Minnestoa’s Physically Unable to Perform list. But the Swarm will still have the services of Kiel Matisz (No. 3 overall pick), Shayne Jackson (No. 4) and Alex Crepinsek (No. 10) as they look to keep the youth movement rolling.
Dhane Smith (No. 5) in Buffalo is being touted as an all-around player who could fill a few roles for the Bandits, who have a re-tooled roster following their disappointing 2012 season. No. 6 pick Joe Resetarits has a nice core of veterans in Calgary to learn from, but the talk there is that he’s already reaping the benefits of 2 MSL seasons in Brampton. Fellow rookie Matthew Dinsdale (No. 7) comes from solid stock in Coquitlam, where he was a leader for the powerhouse Junior Adanacs and will be playing for his former coach, Curt Malawsky, who starts his first season as coach of the Riggers.
Back in Edmonton, Matthews has been the focus of many a headline and rightly so, but Curtis Knight (No. 8 ) can’t be discounted as an immediate contributor. His versatility comes in handy for a crowded right side in Edmonton and coach Derek Keenan loves his “gamer” approach. And Colorado is high on the expectations for No. 9 overall pick Colton Clark, a 6-3 forward out of Nanaimo who will add plenty of juice from the right side.
After the first round of picks, we saw the work of defenders Tyler Garrison (No. 11) and Tim Henderson (No. 23) in Washington, while forwards Kevin Buchanan and Mitch McMichael (free agent) were on display with McMichael scoring a clutch unassisted goal in Saturday’s win over Rochester. At No. 48 overall, Buchanan is the lowest pick to make an active NLL roster. The Stealth also have free agent defenders Patrick O’Meara (6-5) and David Joyce (6-6) in the stable. With Garrison at 6-2 and Henderson at 6-3, the Stealth rookies are hardly small.
Jackson Decker for Calgary, at No. 17 overall, is being tagged a steal pick by some, and Hayden Smith (No. 13) and Carter Bender (No. 18) are also part of the youth movement in Buffalo.
The Philadelphia Wings have 7 rookies listed on their roster and 4 are free-agent signings. Will Harrington and Ethan Farrell are listed as forwards, while Brian Tueber and Chad Wiedmaier will help shore up the back end. Draft picks Michael Manley and CJ Costabile are former Duke teammates, while Rob Campbell was drafted by the Knighthawks (No. 26) but traded to the Wings in the deal that sent the Dawson brothers to Rochester.
There are plenty of names to track in the season upcoming and how well these rookies adapt to the quickness of the game and the system their team employs will go a long way in their success, or lack of it. There’s more to the game than all the stats and figures that pop out and we take that into consideration in our weekly rankings.
But we’ve talked up the rookies enough and there’s only 1 things left to do. Play the game. Something we’re sure all the new faces in the NLL are eager to do.Chavez is an avid lacrosse player in Rochester and a journalist for the Democrat and Chronicle as well as a longtime Inside Lacrosse contributor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to RochesterSports.com.
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