Draft day arrives and with it the hopes of every team in the National Lacrosse League swell. Everyone hopes they will land the player or players that will make the difference, that can help them get over the hump and win a Champions Cup. If you’re the Minnesota Swarm, you just keep loading the cupboards with good young players. If you’re the Philadelphia Wings, you take a very different approach, trading away a lot of high picks for immediate help and focusing your drafting efforts on Americans who can make the adjustment to box lacrosse along with a few select Canadians. Every team has their own strategy. This year, every team also has a host of options with each selection. This is one of the most difficult drafts to predict in years. At least, once you get past the first two picks, which are pretty much rock solid. In Mock Drafts 1.0 and 2.0 we forecast the first round, but now we’re going two rounds deep. Make the jump to see our final guess at how the first 18 selections of the 2013 NLL Entry Draft will play out.
1 Minnesota Swarm (from Buffalo): Logan Schuss, LF, New Westminster Salmonbellies and Ohio State
Schuss hasn’t done anything since Mock Draft 2.0 to change his status as the surest bet in this draft. He will face a lot of pressure trying to fill the shoes of Ryan Benesch, but for now all the talk will be about the promise that this talented lefty brings to the table for the Swarm. He finished the WLA season with 29 goals and 27 assists for 56 points, good for second on the Salmonbellies, despite playing only 12 games. He should fit right in with Minnesota.
2 Minnesota Swarm: Jason Noble, LD, Kitchener-Waterloo Kodiaks and Cornell
You just can’t pass up on someone who is such a good player and such a good person. Noble may already be the best defender on the Kodiaks and it won’t take long before he’s one of the best defenders on the Swarm. He’s the kind of smart, skilled and athletic defender who can step right in and have an impact, as he did in KW. Now Minnesota just has to work on getting the first pick again next year so they can grab his twin brother Jeremy.
3 Colorado Mammoth: Dillon Ward, G, Kitchener-Waterloo Kodiaks and Bellarmine
Everything points to the Mammoth deciding among three players. Besides Ward, they appear to be seriously considering righty forward Robert Church and transition player Cameron Flint, who is a Denver University grad. Church likely became the odd man out in that group when Colorado got Drew Westervelt in a trade with Philadelphia. Ward was a great prospect coming out of Orangeville, where he won the MVP award as he led the Northmen to last year’s Minto Cup. He played himself into an even better prospect with his performance this summer as a rookie with KW, where he put up numbers that were even better than starter Mike Poulin’s. He’s a solid blocking goalie with the agility of a field lacrosse goalie, which he also happens to play very well. Together with incumbent Tye Belanger, Ward could give the Mammoth a solid pair of goalies for the next decade.
4 Edmonton Rush (from Philadelphia): Cameron Flint, RT, University of Denver and Brampton Excelsiors
Church and Flint are both likely options here again. The deciding factor may be that the Rush already have quite a few righty forwards, but you can never have too many talented and athletic transition players, especially when you’re playing Head Coach Derek Keenan’s up-tempo style. Flint is about as athletic as they come and he has a solid box background. He should fit in nicely with Edmonton’s style. Flint can fly, has some offensive skill and works hard.
5 Minnesota Swarm (from Edmonton): Scott Jones, RF, Burnaby Lakers and UMBC
With Church sliding further than it originally looked like he’d be picked, the Swarm have a tough choice to make. In Jones, they get a big, talented righty to help out in the set offence. He can play alongside Kiel Matisz and give their opponents a huge pair of men to deal with on that side. Or they could let Matisz spend more time coming out the back door and transitioning up to offence. Either way, Jones would be a great addition for Minnesota.
6 Calgary Roughnecks: Robert Church, RF, Burnaby Lakers and Drexel
It just gets too hard to pass up on Church as he slips down the board. Despite some health and fitness issues, he’s an exceptionally talented player with a championship pedigree from the Coquitlam Adanacs juniors. Some observers suggest he could turn out to be the best player coming out of this draft. Righty forward isn’t really high on Calgary’s list of needs—especially with having drafted Joe Resetarits and Matthew Dinsdale last year. But the fact they took both of those players last year shows that they don’t mind creating competition in camp if they feel like the player is worth taking. Church has shown he can be a pretty big time scorer and playmaker, and he’s a western kid. All ingredients that make him make sense for Calgary.
7 Minnesota Swarm (from Toronto): Tor Reinholdt, LT, Langley Thunder and Limestone
Having taken Brock Sorensen last year and since we’re projecting Jason Noble at Number 2 this year, that’s a lot of young lefty transition talent for the Swarm. That may have them considering top righty tranny prospects Ethan O’Connor or Nick Diachenko, both of whom shone in the combine scrimmage Sunday. But shooting side isn’t as critical on the defensive end and Reinholdt is a dynamic player with the versatility to play wherever they need him. Once again, the Swarm will come out of the first round with a boatload of talent, youth and speed.
8 Vancouver Stealth: Cody Bremner, LF, Nanaimo Timbermen and Cornell
Bremner is a talented west coast kid who has shown in his seasons in the Western Lacrosse Association that he’s ready to play against men. He’s scored 54 goals and 74 assists for 128 points in 36 WLA contests. With Mitch Jones still not available for most of the year while he plays hockey at Northern Michigan, Bremner should be able to step right in and give the Stealth a boost in talent on the left hand side of the offence.
9 Toronto Rock (from Rochester via Colorado): Nick Diachenko, RT, Brooklin Redmen and Delaware
A tough call for the Rock between Diachenko and O’Connor. Both are talented, athletic players with lots of upside. Diachenko was a healthy scratch for some games with Brooklin this summer. That can affect different players differently. On his return to the lineup, Diachenko seemed to be more focused on playing sound defence and not letting himself scramble around. That positive adjustment could tip the scales in his favour. He also had a strong combine. He may have been the hardest working player in the scrimmage, showing that he has no intention of resting on his athletic laurels. Reminiscent of Kyle Belton in his drive and energy, and Toronto was thrilled with how their selection of Belton worked out last year.
10 Buffalo Bandits: Ethan O’Connor, RT, Brampton Excelsiors and Hobart
Speaking of thrilled, the Bandits should be that O’Connor is available for them with the first pick of the second round. He’s a quality player who showed steady improvement throughout his rookie season in MSL. Buffalo is putting together a group of defenders that will be very tough to play against. The size and toughness of guys like Billy Dee Smith, Rory Smith, David Brock and Steve Priolo means that O’Connor won’t necessarily have to worry about being an imposing physical force. That could free him up to bring some oomph to their transition game with his speed, stick skills and lacrosse IQ.
11 Edmonton Rush (from Minnesota): AJ Masson, LF, Oakville Rock and Vermont
Masson could help the Rush cope with the loss of Corey Small to a leg injury by stepping at forward and playing a smart complementary role. He can also play effectively in transition. Keenan saw enough of Masson when he was an Orangeville Northman playing against Keenan’s Whitby Warriors to know what he can do, and he won’t hold his Orangeville roots against Masson if he can help the Rush to win.
12 Philadelphia Wings (from Colorado): Riley Loewen, LF, Maple Ridge Burrards and Limestone
The Wings would like to add some goal-scoring and Loewen is the likeliest candidate still available to be able to bring them 25 or 30 in a season. He’s talented, team-oriented and coachable.
13 Edmonton Rush (from Philadelphia via Minnesota): Adrian Sorichetti, LT, Brooklin Redmen and Hofstra
Keenan coached Sorichetti and is a big fan of his athleticism. He’ll be thrilled to get a chance to draft him this late in the process, even though Sorichetti was a healthy scratch for most of Brooklin’s late regular season and playoff run. A concern with Sorichetti is how much he wants to play; despite his lack of time in box lacrosse recently he wasn’t at the Draft Combine, at which he could have showcased himself for GMs and coaches. He may have been busy with his modelling obligations on the west coast, but that would hardly alleviate questions about how committed he is to playing the NLL if it were the case.
14 Buffalo Bandits (from Edmonton): Nick Weiss, Peterborough Lakers
Expect Bandits GM Steve Dietrich to seriously consider either Cameron Mann or Mitch Wilde, a pair of D-first transition players with whom he’s familiar from his summer team in Kitchener-Waterloo. But Weiss reinforced at the combine scrimmage that he is a hard-nosed, aggressive defender. He also got a chance to show off his stick skills filling in on offence, even getting some power play time at the combine. He brings to the table a lot of what O’Connor does but with more edge to his game. And as I said earlier, you can never have too many good transition players.
15 Calgary Roughnecks: Jordan Houtby, RD, Brooklin Redmen and Detroit
Houtby showed a lot of poise as a rookie playing in the Redmen’s run to the MSL finals. He was effective one-on-one and in help defence. He’s aggressive without taking huge penalty minute numbers. Houtby should provide a nice boost to a Calgary defence that tied for the most goals against in the NLL last year.
16 Toronto Rock: Mitch Wilde, RT, Kitchener-Waterloo Kodiaks and Robert Morris
The Rock add another of the top performers from the combine. Wilde was second overall in the fitness and agility testing, an extremely impressive performance for such a big man (6′3”, 208 pounds). He played well in the scrimmage, playing solid physical defence and displaying some surprising stick skills when asked to play in the offensive zone.
17 Vancouver Stealth: Kevin Neufeld, LD, Coquitlam Adanacs and Robert Morris
Neufeld is a big body, listed at 6′5” and 240 pounds, and plays an accordingly physical game. With Tim Henderson deployed in the Army, the Stealth could use a tough defender to try to fill the gap he leaves. Neufeld has championship experience with Coquitlam, having won the Minto in 2010, and a year of Western Lacrosse Association play under his belt with the senior Adanacs.
18 Philadelphia Wings (from Rochester via Buffalo and Colorado): Reid Acton, RD, Six Nations Chiefs and Loyola
Acton isn’t American but he is living in New York City, so he’d be a logical prospect for the Wings. He’s big and aggressive and can move on the floor, all attributes that Philly prizes highly for their defensive system.
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