Last week, the Prospect Tracker took at look at the early candidates for the top picks in the 2014 draft. We also put in a tease about the 2015 crop of players. Well, you don’t have to wait any longer as this week IL Indoor brings you the top players expected to be coming into the National Lacrosse League Entry Draft in 2015 to be rookies in the 2016 season. And while the 2013 draft was a good one and 2014 promises to be as well, neither has the depth of potential star power that the 2015 annual talent distribution exercise promises. There are easily 10 players who already look like solid first-round picks with two years left to prove themselves. That means that unless there’s expansion by the 2016 season, at least one of them won’t get to say he was a first-rounder. Make the jump to see a discussion of those 10 plus some other good players who’ll be available to be selected in two years.
Randy Staats, RF, Six Nations Arrows and Onondaga CC
Four years ago, a 16-year-old Staats would probably have been a first-round pick if he’d entered the draft. He put up 39 goals and 56 for 95 points, good for fourth in OLA Jr A, and was named the league’s most valuable player. Remember, he was 16! Then, disaster struck and struck again. Staats (pronounced like Stotts) missed back to back seasons with devastating knee injuries. He returned to the Arrows in 2012 and posted 85 points in 17 games and earned second team all-star status. This year, Staats missed a big chunk of games with yet more lower-body trouble, although this time it was a staph-like infection that took a chunk of flesh from just above his knee. Through all that, the willowy forward has kept a positive attitude and has never lost his talent. He’s once again a second-team forward, this time after scoring 71 points in just 12 games. Despite speculation every year that he is entering the draft, Staats remains commited to his education and will be heading to Syracuse in the fall.
Wesley Berg, RF, Coquitlam Adanacs and Denver U
Even with everything that Staats brings to the table, he still may not wind up being the first pick overall, because Berg is a dynamo of a player who should only get better over the next couple of years. The 2012 Minto Cup was the last time the Adanacs fearsome foursome got to play together: Matthew Dinsdale went in the 2012 draft, Robert Church will go this year and Ben McIntosh will be selected high in 2014. Dinsdale was a first rounder and Church and McIntosh likely will be as well. But Berg may be the best of the bunch. He’s athletic, he’s a great shooter with terrific hands and versatility. Like Staats, he showed his promise early, putting up 60 goals and 54 assists for 114 points in his 18-year-old season in 2011. What a consolation prize either of these two players will be for the team that just misses out on the first pick.
Reilly O’Connor, LF, Whitby Warriors and Georgetown
Similar in playing style to last year’s Stealth selection Mitch Jones, O’Connor is a tall lefty with spectacular floor vision. In the last two summers, O’Connor has led the OLA Jr A league in assists handily, totally 157 assists and 205 points over those two seasons. He can shoot some, too, as attested by the 48 goals he’s totalled the last two years. O’Connor has the ability to make the difficult pass but the wisdom to usually make the easy one.
Graeme Hossack, LD, Whitby Warriors and Lindenwood
Big hoss is a prototypical shut-down D man. He’s big, strong, quick and has just enough of a mean streak to be not fun to play against. He’s also displayed some new skill to his game this summer, scoring 7 goals and 12 assists for 19 points in 19 games. He’s lost the OLA Jr A’s defender of the year award the last two summers, to worthy opponents Jason Noble and Derek Searle, but he could easily have won either. A couple summers of MSL ball, where the Brooklin Redmen will surely snag him as a territorial protection, should help him be even more ready to step right into an NLL lineup and contribute.
Derek Searle, RD, Burlington Chiefs
Searle has leadership written all over him. He was the captain of the Six Nations Arrows last year. This year, he was acquired by the Burlington Chiefs and served as their captain. He’s listed at 6′3” and 215 pounds and he backs up his size with the nasty on-floor temperament than makes the best defenders so miserable to face. Like Hossack, Searle has added some offence to his game this year, scoring 4 goals and 18 points in 20 games. It’s too early to tell which of the big defenders will go higher in the draft, but nobody will be too disappointed to get either one.
Turner Evans, LF, Peterborough Lakers and Ohio State
Turner Evans is built a lot like his cousin Shawn Evans, the Calgary Roughnecks star and reigning NLL MVP. Turner has a wicked outside shot and creates lots of opportunities for his teammates. He’s not afraid to muck it up physically. Turner scored 98 points in just his second year in junior, in 2011. This summer he had an even better season in terms of points per game, scoring 28 goals and 58 assists for 86 points in just 16 games after returning from Ohio State. He added 15 goals and 36 assists for 51 points in 10 playoff games. He was named a first-team OLA Jr A all-star this summer.
Jacob Ruest, RF, Burlington Chiefs and Robert Morris
Ruest (pronounced roo-AY), scored 37, 39 and 38 goals in his three full seasons of Jr A. 2013 was his best overall season for points with 84. He’s a creative and gritty forward with a nose for the net. Ruest developed great chemistry with teammate Danny Lomas as the pair went on a terrific run down the stretch and into the playoffs this summer, and Ruest helps to make all of his running mates better.
Chad Tutton, RT, Whitby Warriors and North Carolina
Tutton is a big, solid, athletic player who is a typical Whitby Warriors product in that he can play effectively all over the floor. He’s at his best when he’s applying aggressive pressure defence then running the ball up the floor when it’s turned over. Tutton scored more than 20 goals three straight times and this summer posted 11 in just 7 games. He has the quickness to pressure the ball high in the defensive zone and recover to get back for interior defence. Plays a similar game to Minnesota’s 2012 second overall pick Brock Sorensen.
Daniel Craig, LF, Barrie Lakeshores
At 19, Craig already has back-to-back 34-plus goal seasons to his credit and has helped to turn the Lakeshores club around to a playoff team this year. He has a quick, accurate shot and handles the ball well. His quick feet allow him to find shooting lanes and he has sound floor vision.
Lyle Thompson, Caughnawaga Indians and Albany
Thompson gets plenty of attention for his role in the movie Crooked Arrows and he’s a legitimate player in the real world as well. He scored 35 goals and 53 assists for 88 points with the Indians of the Quebec Senior B Lacrosse League this summer as an affiliated player. Lyle may be the best of the Thompson brothers, including Jeremy and Jerome who have already played in the NLL. To catch a glimpse of what makes Lyle a special player, let’s turn back to the screen for a college goal that was captured in this video clip.
Those 10 players are the cream of the crop at this point, but there are plenty of other good players scheduled to be available in 2015. A few more come from Staats’ Six Nations Arrows club. Josh Johnson, Joseph Maracle, Jordan Durston and Brandon Montour are all talented players who get overshadowed by Staats and Johnny Powless but make big contributions to a team that is up 1-0 in the OLA Jr A finals and three wins away from a berth in the Minto Cup. Johnson tied Staats for second on the team with 71 points, Maracle added 47 and Durston 27. Johnson debuted in pro lacrosse with the Iroquois Ironmen of CLax and posted 30 points in 12 regular season games then was brilliant in the playoffs, putting up 18 points in 3 games as the Ironmen won the Creators Cup.
John St. John is another young player who gained some high-level experience in CLax. The lefty forward put up 14 goals and 16 assists for 30 points in 10 games with the Durham Turfdogs. As important as the points he posted, St. John showed a willingness to engage physically and an absolute refusal to back down despite being smaller in stature. St. John was traded to his hometown Whitby Warriors this summer. Mike Power is a hard-nosed defender from the Warriors who has some ability to transition the ball and can be a solid contributor to a defensive unit.
That is just a sampling from the depth of the 2015 NLL entry draft candidates. There are more players who have already established themselves as prospects to keep an eye on and there will be plenty who emerge over the course of the next two years.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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