2012 was a strong year for defensive and transition players in the National Lacrosse League draft. While the first round was full of offensive guys aside from from Brock Sorensen and Alex Crepinsek going to Minnesota, there were plenty of D guys who went on to make immediate impacts in the NLL or likely will in the near future. While 2013 may not have the same depth out the back door, there are quite a few players in this draft that have GMs and coaches keeping a close eye on them. The Prospect Tracker has already talked about Jason Noble, Reid Acton and Jordan Houtby. Today we’ll look at some other defensive prospects who are turning heads with their play so far this season.
The Brampton Excelsiors have a pair of young transition players who are already taking leading roles with the club. Both Mark White (University of Southern Maine) and Ethan O’Connor (Hobart College) are rookies with the team (although White played 8 games with them last year as an affiliated player). Neither looks like a rookie for the most part, though. White has played in all nine of Brampton’s games this year and O’Connor has dressed for seven.
The two play fairly similar games. They’ve both proven to be pretty sturdy in their own end, notwithstanding the odd rookie mistake that is unavoidable when making the adjustment to Major Series Lacrosse. Where they have really shone, however, is in transitioning the ball to the offensive zone. Each has 2 goals; White has 4 assists and O’Connor 2. With veteran Chris Corbeil vacuuming up seemingly every loose ball in the Brampton end, it’s usually either White or O’Connor taking off for an outlet pass.
While they’ve each chipped in with some points, they’ve shown their real value by making good decisions about when to push the ball and when to curl back and wait for the offensive players to take the floor. That is a more difficult skill to develop than it may seem at first glance, and having it makes for reliable players who can be trusted not to turn the ball over. While it’s always hard to tell how individual teams will rate defensive players, it wouldn’t be a stretch to see either White or O’Connor taken in the second round of the draft, and O’Connor could even sneak up into the first.
Another youngster playing a similar role is Mike Woods (University of Albany) of the Oakville Rock, who is yet another righty defensive player who carries the ball up the floor frequently. Woods has 2 goals and an assist in five games with Oakville this summer. Woods hasn’t shown quite the same offensive flair as the Brampton pair, but like them he uses his speed often to hustle the ball out of the Rock zone. He also has decent size at 6′2 and 200 pounds. Woods projects as a depth player at the pro level and will probably go in the mid-to-late rounds this year.
Nick Weiss isn’t in MSL yet—he’s in his final year with the Peterborough Junior Lakers—but he has been gaining ground on some of the slightly older defenders in this draft, especially with his play of late. Weiss is a wiry but strong righty who’s not afraid to mix it up and keep opponents honest. He can also score, as evidenced by his 27 goals and 48 assists for 75 points in 50 career junior games.
Weiss had a bravura performance in a recent Lakers game against the league-leading Six Nations Arrows. He showed off excellent hustle and footwork in the defensive zone. Weiss also scored a goal and added a pair of assists, the first of which was an absolute beauty. Weiss had the ball along the boards near the Peterborough bench. Turner Evans was cutting towards the net but had a defender right on his back. Weiss ripped a pass that looked like a quarterback leading a wide receiver, throwing the ball to a spot where only Evans would be able to catch it.
In the third period, Weiss was ejected when he received a rough major and game misconduct when he came to the defence of himself and his teammates against an opponent who appeared to be taking liberties that went uncalled. While it’s not ideal to get tossed from games, that edge is an important part of his game and won’t turn pro scouts off in the least. Expect Weiss to be strongly considered by teams picking in the second round.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 email@example.com.
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