Dirty Dozen: Comparing the debuts of No. 1 draft picks, an own-goal in Colorado, and a slick hidden-ball trick in Philadelphia

Mark Matthews, left, had a solid NLL debut, but how does it compare to other No. 1 draft picks? (Photo: Dale MacMillian)
Mark Matthews, left, had a solid NLL debut, but how does it compare to other No. 1 draft picks? (Photo: Dale MacMillian)

Mark Matthews took his first National Lacrosse League shot against the Toronto Rock just 44 seconds in, and buried it. Yeah, it was a power play goal. But there are certain burdens when you’re the No. 1 overall draft pick, the biggest of which is the expectation that you’ll produce. And that early goal helped relieve the pressure he no doubt felt leading up to the game. Matthews chalked up 3 goals and 2 assists for the Rush in his first game. The Rush lost that game, 10-9 on Sunday, but getting his feet wet in the NLL after so much hype and praise had to feel good for the big man out of Oshawa. So the natural progression is to wonder how he compares to the No. 1 draft picks before him.

One of the goals Matthews scored came on a beautiful overhand blast with a motion so smooth it looks like he was doing what he was born to do. And maybe he is. It’s just 1 game into his NLL career and with the way he piled up points in junior ball, fans are hoping there are many more years of Matthews to come.

But the 5-point game did get us to wondering how his debut game compared to other top picks in their first game. So we checked NLL.com as far back as the stats let us, and this is what we found, ranking the rooks top to bottom by most points in their first NLL game.

Name Team Goals Assists Points
Daryl Veltman Boston (2009 debut) 1 8 9
Kevin Crowley Philadelphia (2012) 3 5 8
Cody Jamieson Rochester (2011) 3 4 7
Mark Matthews Edmonton (2013) 3 2 5
Delby Powless Buffalo (2005) 0 4 4
Jordan Hall New York Titans (2008) 0 3 3
*Ryan Benesch San Jose Stealth (2007) 0 1 1

Brodie Merrill (2006, Portland) and Sid Smith (2010, Rochester) were No. 1 picks, but to be fair, aren’t exactly counted on for points so we didn’t include them in the rankings. For the record, though, Merrill had 9 loose balls in his first game and Smith had 6 in his debut.

*-Benesch was drafted by the Stealth but never played for the team. He was included in the infamous trade between the Stealth and the Toronto Rock that sent Colin Doyle to the Stealth for 3 seasons (2007, 2008 and 2009).

One of the dangers in researching fun stats like this is the never-ending vortex of possibilities. And this instance was no exception, because as we looked at Benesch’s numbers, we realized he was the last No. 1 overall pick to win Rookie of the Year honors.

But if you’re trying to predict the NLL’s next Rookie of the Year, stop looking at the top of the list. You’ll be better off looking a bit farther down the list, at the No. 3 slot. Five of the last 8 top rooks have been drafted No. 3 overall: Adam Jones (drafted in 2011), Curtis Dickson (2010), Rhys Duch (2008), Craig Point (2007), and Ryan Boyle (2004).

Kiel Matisz for top honors in 2103?

BALANCING ACT: Check out Tom Ryan’s read from Thursday, which breaks down how costs outside of salaries affect the thinking for NLL teams. Ryan offers some interesting perspective into what goes on in the front offices of teams considering personnel moves, and it goes way beyond the paycheck. The NLL is a tough business, as Ryan reminds us, and it’s not like people are rolling in money. It’s factors like these that help explain some of the NLL transactions we see that don’t seem to make sense. At least on the surface.

BAD BOUNCE: Had to feel for Colorado’s Mat McCleod early in Saturday’s game against the Washington Stealth. Trying to clear from deep in his own end late in the first quarter, McLeod ran in front of the goal where he was met by a check from Lewis Ratcliff. The ball came out, bounced back to surprised goalie Matt Roik and in for a very rare “own goal” in lacrosse. It gave Washington a 6-2 lead in its 17-13 win.

Nick Rose's helmet includes a tribute to his late father.
Nick Rose's helmet includes a tribute to his late father.

TRIBUTE: Last week, ILGear.com showcased the lid of Minnesota Swarm goalie Evan Kirk. This week, we’re treated to a moving tribute by Toronto’s Nick Rose, whose helmet features a nod to his late father, Tony. Killed in a car accident when Nick was 2 years old, an image of him during his playing days is part of the artwork for Nick’s helmet. If you missed the story over at ILGear, make the time to check it out. Especially if you’re a proud HornHead alum. You can find out why Nick wears No. 66, and you can see plenty of pictures of the helmet he’ll be wearing this NLL season.

NICE START, KID: Ethan Farrell out of Lynchburg College isn’t just a rookie, he’s an undrafted rookie. So what better way to prove your mettle than to go out and contribute 2 goals (on 3 shots) and 1 assist in your NLL debut? It came in Philly’s season-opening win and his first NLL goal, on a nifty dive across the crease, was the first goal of the game, and season, for the Wings. Looks like those 3 seasons with the Vermont Voyageurs have paid off well.

HERE WE GO AGAIN? The Bandits split their weekend, losing at Philadelphia and winning at home against Minnesota. Rough patches are to be expected with such a new lineup, but the eye-opener in both games was seeing goalie Anthony Cosmo getting the hook before halftime in both. Coach Darris Kilgour maintains Cos is the man in cage and said the defense was playing poorly in front of him. Whatever the problem was this past weekend, the back end for Buffalo would be wise to get on the same page this weekend. Nothing against the Wings or the Swarm, but if the Bandits are struggling with those units, what are they going to do against an offense that has the firepower of Rochester?

NICE TOUCH: It wasn’t easy to read about classy veteran Kaleb Toth calling it a career this year, but it was a nice move by the Calgary Roughnecks to make Niner the inaugural recipient of the “Forever A Roughneck” distinction. Nobody embodied the Riggers more than Toth during his time there, so if you’re in Calgary and will only be able to make 1 game this season, make sure it’s the March 2 game so you can help honor one of the game’s all-time greats.

PRAISE: Great move by the NLL and CLax to reach an agreement that allows players on NLL practice squads to play CLax ball. It’s a win-win situation as CLax can suit up some fantastic talent and those sticks can be game-ready if the NLL team needs it.

GOTCHA: Yeah, you saw the hidden ball trick John Tavares and Luke Wiles pulled off against the Wings on Friday night, but it’s worth seeing again. Both players showed their lacrosse savvy by staying behind the midfield line until the whistle started play. Then Wiles sold it perfectly to the point that all 4 Wings penalty killers AND goalie Brandon Miller were shifted to face Wiles. JT waltzed in and it was easy-peasy, even if the NLL said on Tuesday that the goal shouldn’t have counted.

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 bob.chavez@nllinsider.com or go to RochesterSports.com.

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